Back to school season is nearly here. If you want to get your work done both in and out of the classroom, you’re going to need one of the best laptops for college students. In addition, you’ll also need some laptop accessories to help you get the most out of your device. That’s where we come in to help.
Below, we’ve listed nine of the most essential accessories for your laptop. This includes items like carrying cases, chargers, external storage and more. We made sure to select affordable products that won’t break the bank but which are still of high quality.
For other back to school products you may want to consider, check out our ultimate back to school buying guide.
Without further ado, here are the nine best laptop accessories for back to school.
Laptop screen privacy filter
The main reason to purchase a laptop is so you can work from anywhere. While getting out of the dorm room is necessary, you may not want people peeping over your shoulder to see what you’re doing. If you plan to use your laptop outdoors, you’ll need a reliable screen privacy screen.
Since laptops come with a wide range of screen sizes, you’ll need to find a privacy filter that fits your specific display. Companies like SightPro have highly rated filters for 13-inch MacBooks while 3M offers filters of varying sizes for almost all laptops. It can be hard to choose the best screen privacy filter so we suggest looking at user reviews to help you out.
External hard drive
If most of your school work involves writing, then you may be able to get away with a laptop with as little as 256GB of storage – especially if you save your work on cloud services like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. However, if you’re working on video or audio projects, then you’re going to need extra storage, even if your laptop has 1TB or more.
This is why the best external hard drives are a crucial accessory for your laptop. An external hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD) makes it easy to transfer large files between your laptop and external storage. Another great thing about external drives is that you can find ones small enough to easily carry around in your backpack.
One of our recommendations is the WD My Book. It offers hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption and WD Backup software, and it gives you 4TB of HDD space for about $100. Plus, capacities up to 18TB are available.
Let’s face it, college dorms and campuses can get downright loud. Even the library isn’t completely devoid of noise. If you want to work in silence, it’s worth investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
The best noise-canceling headphones let you almost entirely turn the world off around you. They may also have ambient noise settings when you want to hear your environment.
We recommend the Sony WH-1000XM5. It has two processors controlling eight microphones, whereas the XM4 before it had just one processor controlling four, and the result, in our testing, is near-seamless ANC (ambient noise cancellation). But Sony's overall quality would make the XM5 our #1 option even if that weren't the case.
Though laptops allow you to work from anywhere, they aren’t always great for your back since you’re generally hunched over when using them. If you want to maintain good posture, then a laptop stand is an essential item. Laptop stands also help keep your device cool since they elevate it off whatever surface you’ve placed it on.
The Soundance Laptop Stand is a highly-rated product on Amazon. It’s suitable for 10- to 16-inch laptops and elevates your machine by six inches. Since it’s made of aluminum, the frame is sturdy and durable. On top of that, the product can be pulled apart and reassembled in case you need to take it on a trip.
If you plan to do a lot of work outside then it’s important to ensure your laptop is protected in case it’s ever lost or stolen. To that end investing in a reliable laptop lock is a wise move.
The Kensington K64637WW ClickSafe Keyed Laptop Lock is a relatively affordable product that’s favorably reviewed on Amazon. This lock has a carbon steel cable that prevents someone from cutting it. Its durable lock is built to withstand blunt force and is resistant to lockpicking.
You obviously need a backpack for school but you'll want one that's suited for carrying a laptop in addition to your books. There are quite a few “tech” backpacks out there that are meant to carry electronics and electronic peripherals. This is what you’ll want to keep your items, electronic or otherwise, safe.
The Matein Travel Laptop Backpack is a product that you always see pop up on Amazon. That’s because this bag can hold up to a 15.6-inch laptop and has plenty of compartments for whatever else you’re carrying. One neat feature is a built-in USB charger outside and a built-in charging cable inside the backpack, which lets you easily charge electronics while you’re on the move. The backpack is also water resistant and made of durable polyester fabric.
Laptop carrying sleeve
Even if you mostly carry your laptop around in a bookbag, it’s still worth purchasing a carrying sleeve for it. Not only does a carrying sleeve keep your laptop protected against dust and debris when you’re not using it, but it also keeps it from getting scratched by whatever items you have in your bookbag.
The Incase Designs Slim carrying sleeve is marketed for laptops like the best MacBooks but can hold any 13-inch laptop. Not only is this sleeve slim and stylish but its soft padding and fur-lined interior should protect your laptop against bumps and scratches.
Even if your laptop has long-lasting all-day battery life, you’re still going to want to have a portable charger handy in case you’re running out of battery. There are thousands of chargers out there, but generally speaking, you want one with at least 10,000mAh and with plenty of ports.
We recommend the INIU 20W 20000 mAh power bank. Not only does it have a 20,000mAh capacity, but it also has two USB-A and one USB-C port. Even some of the best portable chargers and power banks fail to have a USB-C port, but the latter is necessary for many modern-day devices.
Many modern laptops like the MacBook Air M2 and Dell XPS Plus don’t tend to have an abundance of ports. This isn’t good if you want to use additional wired devices like keyboards, mice, external hard drives or even chargers. You’ll need a USB-C hub to ensure you have extra ports when you need them.
The EZQuest USB-C Multimedia Hub is an overall great product to consider. This device has a 100W power delivery and a bunch of ports. This includes three USB-A ports, along with a USB-C, HDMI and Ethernet ports. There are also SDHC and Micro SDHC card readers. In addition, this USB-C hub is small and light enough to carry in a backpack.
Those are our top recommendations! With a few accessories like these in your backpack, you'll be prepared for whatever the school year throws at you.
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Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.