What accessories do I need for a macbook?
July 10, 2008 6:52 PM   Subscribe

First-time laptop buyer: What accessories do I need?

I'm buying a MacBook in a few months, my very first laptop, and I'm trying to figure out what kind of accessories and peripherals I will need. I know I need a wireless router and a wireless mouse, but what else should I be thinking about/budgeting for? I'll be using it at home 90% of the time, but I'll also be using it occasionally at research libraries and on vacation. I already have a backpack with a built-in laptop sleeve.

Is there anything else a lifetime desktop-user needs to know about owning a laptop?
posted by donajo to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe an external hard drive, for backup or just storage, depending on your usage. But if you already have a desktop computer, then you can easily repurpose that into a storage server for free instead.
posted by tracert at 7:15 PM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: I find a second power brick to be invaluable. I can keep one in my laptop bag, and one hooked up on my desk, and I don't have to unplug everything just to leave the house.
posted by smackfu at 7:17 PM on July 10, 2008

Apple's Airport Express is a nice wireless router, FYI. Not everyone needs a wireless mouse, especially after enabling gestures and right-click on the MacBook's trackpad: I would spend the money on a 2nd power cable - one permanently at your desk, the other one in your bag.
An external hard drive for backups (or even better, a clone of your entire HD).
posted by bartleby at 7:17 PM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: stupid preview. ok then, USB hub for when you've got too many accessories to use at once.
posted by bartleby at 7:19 PM on July 10, 2008

I've found having a second power adapter is pretty useful - the worst possible scenario with a laptop is taking it with you on a trip only to realize you left the power adapter at home. I keep one in my laptop bag and leave the other at my desk.
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:20 PM on July 10, 2008

Thirding the extra power adapter. Having one with a nice long cord, and possibly a small multi-plug splitter as well, is handy for airports and other places where nearby outlets are in short supply. When I was dating someone seriously, I even thought of having three -- one for home, one for the backpack, and one for his house.

I like my AirPort Express for hooking up iTunes through my stereo. It's great.

No real need for the wireless mouse. I thought I'd really want one, but I'm used to the trackpad now.

Instead of a laptop sleeve (I have a nice padded laptop backpack too), I really love my Speck case. I don't have to pull it out/unvelcro the separate case all the time, it protects the puter even when I'm using it, and I have a pretty pretty computer that doesn't look like anyone else's.

Question for everyone else: what kind of external hard drive would you recommend? I've never had one (shhh).
posted by Madamina at 7:34 PM on July 10, 2008

Definitely a USB hub. My mac book only has 2 usb ports, but I like to have a good three or four things connected to it at any given time.
posted by All.star at 7:37 PM on July 10, 2008

nthing the extra power adapter and external drive.

Also, Applecare and a keyboard cover. I am happy with the cover I got from this place.
posted by hooray at 7:46 PM on July 10, 2008

Extra power adapter (nth time--seriously--buy it now) -- you never know when you'll lose your main one -- A nice sleeve/bag to keep her pretty -- and Applecare.
posted by SirStan at 7:55 PM on July 10, 2008

RAM! Buy the stock configuration from Apple, and make sure to upgrade to 4GB for ultra-cheap through any of the several online vendors out there.

Airport Express!
posted by mahoganyslide at 8:17 PM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: Wow, I've never even thought about wanting an extra adapter, but good idea! Ps, keep tabs on your adapter- unless your power outlet is on your left, your cord will bend- don't let it bend right next to the computer since it'll wear down!

So, you will also want to keep your laptop clean and working correctly. Leaving it open all day will make it very dusty; crumbs and spills mess up not just the keyboard but the whole computer. You may want a key vaccuum, compressed air, wipes, keyboard protector (iskin?), etc.

Maybe a laptop pad/desk if it gets too hot?

posted by acidic at 8:22 PM on July 10, 2008

Agreed on the extra power adapter.

I bought a wireless mouse when I got my macbook and I think I've only used it once. The trackpad is awesome, so unless you plan to do something really fiddly (like graphics work), don't bother with the mouse.

My most-used accessory is a USB memory stick adapter (or USB to whatever-memory-card-format-your-camera-uses). It's tiny, cheap and useful. You can get some insane ones that will accept almost any flash card format known to man, which is pretty handy to have stowed in your laptop bag.
posted by Joh at 9:27 PM on July 10, 2008

If you're going to be using it 90% of the time as your home computer, in one place, consider getting a dock with a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse for it. This lets you keep the power adapter, USB hub etc in the laptop bag.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:06 PM on July 10, 2008

I have no less than 4 power adapters for one of my notebooks. One in the bag for travel, one under the couch in the living room, one at the desk in the office, and one at work. That's probably the extreme example, but even having two can be a good thing, and more useful than a spare battery imho.

Oh, I don't know what your experience has been with wireless mice and keyboards, but I've been very happy with the bluetooth mouse and keyboard for my macbook pro... less wires = less clutter.
posted by furtive at 10:12 PM on July 10, 2008

Depending on what you expect to do with the laptop when you are in the libraries, you may want to pick up the miniVGA to VGA adaptor so you can attach your laptop to external monitors and projectors. Definitely the extra adaptor, and I highly recommend the external hard drive for Time Machine. (I prefer Firewire ones to USB ones - I find them faster, and you won't have too much else plugged into the Firewire port). I suggest carrying around an ethernet cable when you travel - sometimes hotels have internet at the wall, but not wireless. I also purchased APeelz for my MacBook. (just the wrist guards - I have a case outside, and this SkinStyler on the trackpad.

Finally, as for security, you may want to buy a laptop lock (I don't have one) or contemplate some encryption tools for the data on the Mac - depending on how sensitive it is. I use this USB dongle.

posted by birdsquared at 10:19 PM on July 10, 2008

Dissent! I have had a succession of big and small laptops and I find that, even though I crave certain accessories (external optical mouse, USB joystick, etc.), I actually spend 99.9% of my time with the laptops using them accessoryless. I'd just get the MacBook, use it for a few weeks, and then see if you actually feel like you need anything else.
posted by mindsound at 10:31 PM on July 10, 2008

A bag's about it.
posted by Netzapper at 11:20 PM on July 10, 2008

A cheap notebook-sized laser or optical mouse is worth the tiny investment (you can find them in the $5-$10 range). Not everyone takes to the trackpad easily, particularly for extended use. Personally I'd throw my laptop out the window if I had to use it mouse-lsss.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:29 AM on July 11, 2008

Agree about the mouse but any external mouse will do - doesn't have to be a notebook specific one. If you are going to spend several hours/day on it I'd invest into proper workstation set up at home to make sure you're not putting undue strain on your neck and back. This could be as simple as a notebook station that your laptop slots into and an external keyboard and mouse and needn't be very costly.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:00 AM on July 11, 2008

If it's a white MacBook in your future, pick up some Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

The finish of the plastics seem to attract skin oils and dirt far worse than the white plastic iBooks. I have to clean my keyboard, trackpad and wrist rests every few weeks. My only real caveat with the machine, in fact.
posted by porn in the woods at 12:43 PM on July 11, 2008

batteries if you want extra juice. usb hub because laptops usually have 3 or less.

As far as protection goes look at invisible sheild which will sheild the laptop itself from elements and your nasty finger.. fingerprints.
posted by radsqd at 1:12 PM on July 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! An extra power supply is definitely on my list!
posted by donajo at 2:05 PM on July 11, 2008

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