7 tech tips to get ready for back to school

In anticipation of the new beginnings that the new school year usually brings, this post outlines seven tips to ready popular consumer electronic devices (PCs, laptops, tablet computers or smartphones) for the upcoming year.

School backpack lima by by movimientobase (flickr)In the northern hemisphere, this weekend is likely to be the last of the summer holidays. In many countries, students will start returning to school on Monday to begin the new academic year. Hence the end of August is often a time when the fun and relaxation of the summer holidays are put aside, and new and returning students, along with their families, ready themselves to return to school or work.

From a tech/ICT perspective, the end of the holidays is also an opportune time to prep devices, or at the very least perform a ‘spring-clean’ on them. For those of you who will be returning to school or work, or have school-aged children under your care, and are using PCs, laptops, tablet computers or smartphones, below are seven tips to ready those devices for the exciting year that lies ahead.

1.  Back up device.  This is an activity that is rarely done, but can be a lifesaver when something goes terribly wrong with your device, or it must be reformatted. It is recommended that at the very least, you back up essential data, especially your contacts, favourite web links, along with important files or information you cannot afford to lose.

2.  Optimise device.  With the summer holidays being a time to be footloose and fancy-free, you may have downloaded a number of fun, new applications (apps) to your device that might not necessarily have much value now that you are returning to work. Additionally all of those extra files and programmes may be slowing down your device. To improve speed and responsiveness, consider doing the following:

  • delete frivolous or unused files and apps.
  • depending on the amount of storage available, especially on smartphones and tablets, transfer files or documents that might important to keep but are occupying unnecessary space, to other devices where space might not be as limited
  • depending on the Operating System (OS), defragment the device’s hard drive or storage.

3.  Update software.  As part of the re-optimisation process, it is also a good idea to check that the remaining software on your device, including the device OS, is up to date.  The software updates that vendors release from time-to-time usually patch known vulnerabilities. Hence they tend to make the programmes more stable and improve overall performance and user experience.

4.  Install useful apps.  Having deleted some of the less-than-useful apps that might have been on your device, it might be worthwhile to determine whether there might be some more productive ones that could be installed. These might range from scheduling and ‘to-do’ apps, to those that could help you with specific subjects (Geography, or Calculus 101, any one?).

5.  Reset passwords.  In using the end of the summer holidays to wipe the slate clean, also consider resetting passwords, especially on devices that are being used by school-aged children, as it is likely that their friends also know their passwords. Again, as we have advised in earlier posts, passwords should:

  • be longer than 8 characters
  • not consist of dictionary words, personal information, and obvious sequences, such as parts of the alphabet or numbers, and
  • include a combination upper and lowercase letters, numbers, as well as with special characters (such as punctuation and symbols) if allowed.

6.  Invest in select accessories.  For electronic devices, some of the accessories available can enhance the user experience; are practical; and can also protect the device. In prepping for back to school or work, it might be prudent to invest in, for example:

  • carrying cases, especially for laptops, tablets and smartphones
  • hands-free devices, to encourage safety, especially whilst driving
  • extra chargers, which can be kept at work, in the vehicle, or in your bag.

7.  Have a pep talk.  Finally, this point is particularly applicable to parents and children, where the latter might have had some latitude in how they used PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, etc., during the holidays. With the school right around the corner, parents/guardians have an opportunity to (re-)establish the ground rules with their children for use of the electronic devices to which they have access, especially outside of the home. Ultimately, the goal should be to provide enough guidance so that children should be able use the devices responsibly in circumstances where there might be little direct supervision.


Image credit:  movimientobase / flickr