Microsoft Family Safety is more or less just what the name implies: It’s Microsoft’s family safety and parental controls app that you can use to manage your kid’s screen time and device usage.
To use the service, you need to install the Microsoft Family Safety app on each mobile device you want to manage, and every family member you want to track needs a Microsoft account.
What to know about Microsoft Family Safety
Once configured, Microsoft Family Safety monitors the screen time and time spent with specific games and apps on phones, tablets, and Xbox. Parents can do more than just monitor usage as well: You can turn on screen time limits and schedules, and filter specific apps and web browsing. The app also tracks locations using mobile device GPS, so you can see where your family members are.
Most of these features are free, though some premium features are only available if you have a subscription to Microsoft 365 Family, most notably location alerts and drive safety features.
How to get started with Microsoft Family Safety
To use Microsoft Family Safety, you’ll need to install the app on each of your family member’s devices. You can install Microsoft Family Safety for Android or for iOS. Start by installing it on your mobile device as a parent and sign in to your Microsoft account.
Unless you’ve already created a family group, you’ll initially be the only member of your family. Tap “Add a family member” and enter their email address associated with their Microsoft account. If your child doesn’t yet have a Microsoft account, tap “Create a child account” and follow the instructions to create one for them. They will get an invitation to join your family group; if needed, help them accept the invitation and get started with Family Safety.
Be sure to install the Microsoft Family Safety app on each of your kids’ devices, signing them into their own Microsoft accounts.
Using the map and tracking your family’s location
Microsoft Family Safety displays the location of your family members on a map, as long as you’ve enabled that feature in Settings.
To see the map, start Microsoft Family Safety and tap “Map” at the top of the screen. You should see pins for each family member.
If you want to, you can add saved locations to the map, which Microsoft calls “places.” When someone goes to that location, you’ll see it displayed on the family member’s card on the home page, so you can tell at a glance where they are.
Secure Boot is a feature found in the startup software for your computer that’s designed to ensure your computer starts safely and securely by preventing unauthorized software like malware from taking control of your PC at boot-up.
If you’re using Windows 10 and a modern PC with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, the low-level software that enables your computer to boot), then you’re automatically afforded protection from illicit software attempting to take control of your computer when it starts up.
How Secure Boot works
Before Secure Boot, the computer’s BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) would hand off control of the PC to any bootloader that was located in the right location on the hard drive. There was no way for the BIOS to validate or authenticate the software, so anything could boot the PC – Windows, other operating systems like Linux, and even malware.
That’s no longer the case. Secure Boot is a feature in UEFI, which has replaced the BIOS on the vast majority of PCs in use today. While the BIOS was commonly used in computers from the first PC until the 2000s, today virtually all PCs use UEFI. You may have seen the UEFI interface if you had to access the startup menu by pressing a keyboard shortcut (usually F1 or F2) when the computer is first turned on.
Secure Boot establishes what programmers refer to as a “trust relationship” between the UEFI and the operating system that it launches at boot time. To do this, the launch software is signed with pairs of public/private security keys. The operating system’s private key is “whitelisted” by UEFI. If UEFI has approved the key, the software (like Windows 10) can launch.
Windows 10 ships with a certificate that’s stored in UEFI; this serves as the key that allows it to boot. Likewise, other reputable operating systems (like Linux) can also acquire a key and register with UEFI, allowing them to boot securely as well.
Conversely, if malware tries to install a bootloader on your PC to take over at startup, it will not have a signed key, and UEFI will not allow it to launch.
There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a new laptop, but making sure you’re buying at the right time can make a difference.
A laptop should generally last between three and five years, depending on your usage and the quality of the product. Many laptops come with a one-year warranty, while other companies offer additional years of coverage with paid plans. Of course, these laptops should continue to work even after the warranties expire, especially if they are well protected and treated properly.
Our team has years of experience covering and researching laptops and has figured out the best times to get great deals. Below, we break down the best times to shop for a laptop and what to look for when choosing one.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
The end of July through the middle of August is one of the best time periods of the year for laptop deals. Students of all ages are getting ready to go back to school, and this is the time when retailers try their best to cater to their needs.
Outlets like Staples, B&H, and Best Buy have online and in-store back-to-school deals, while Amazon —as well as individual manufacturers such as HP and Lenovo — have discounts on their websites.
Apple also jumps into the fray during this time of year, usually offering to throw in a free pair of headphones or Airpods with a qualifying student purchase. However, Apple does not tend to lower their already-discounted student pricing, instead opting to entice buyers with their extra offerings.
This means that it is sometimes possible to find more heavily discounted Apple laptops at other retailers, especially if you are willing to look at the previous years’ model.
Apple’s refurbished store also offers compelling discounts on older and sometimes even recent MacBook models. Check out some of the best deals in Apple’s refurbished store here.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The holiday shopping season is a great time to get deals on lots of different tech products, and laptops are no exception.
Retailers offer deals throughout this period and compete with each other to get the most sales. This means that they often adjust pricing on-the-fly to respond in realtime to competitors. Some stores also offer a price match guarantee, which means they will match the price of a competitor that’s selling the product for less.
Price tracking browser extensions like Honey and CamelCamelCamel can be especially useful during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These sites can track a product’s price history on Amazon so that you can see if a deal is really as good as it claims to be.
Those looking for a deal on a particular laptop model can try to avoid the time crunch and stock issues associated with holiday deals by setting an alert or keeping a browser page open to make sure you know exactly when the product goes on sale.
Amazon Prime Day
The Prime Day shopping event is full of deep discounts on the vast array of products available on Amazon, including laptops and other tech devices.
Amazon usually announces the date of Prime Day only a few weeks before the event, though it has historically been held during the second week of July. Last year’s Prime Day occured in October and was an exception. Its usual placement in July makes it a great time to kick off some of the back-to-school deals that otherwise arrive a little later in the month.
Once again, this is a great time to use a price tracker to make sure the deals you are seeing actually represent a big discount. It’s a good idea to check out the pricing of laptops during Prime Day even if you are not planning to immediately jump on a deal, as they can give you an idea of what to expect during the imminent back-to-school rush.
The laptop release cycle
When shopping for a laptop, it’s also helpful to have a sense of when new models are released. Many manufacturers like Lenovo, HP, Acer, and Dell debut new laptops at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in early January.
These new releases typically start to hit the retail shelves by February through April, which means that there are some steep discounts on the previous year’s models. The Computex show in June is another time of year when laptop makers like Asus and MSI unveil new devices.
Apple, Microsoft, and Google don’t typically announce major products at these trade shows and instead hold their own events to reveal new laptops.
Apple’s MacBook launch cycle varies greatly from year to year. But in recent years, it’s launched laptops in the spring, summer, and fall. during March and May, the summer in July, and the fall in October and November. Microsoft and Google tend to announce new products, including their respective Surface and Pixelbook laptops, in October.
Buying a laptop around the time that new ones are announced has its pros and cons. For those who don’t need the latest and greatest tech, it can be a great time to score discounts on older models as retailers clear out inventory to account for new releases.
But at the same time, it’s best to at least wait to learn more about what the newest model has to offer so that you can make a more informed buying decision.
How to buy a laptop
Choosing the right laptop often depends on individual needs. Here are some aspects to keep in mind when picking your next computer.
Operating System: A laptop’s operating system (OS) is its interface and software platform.. The most popular operating system is Microsoft Windows 10, which is found on essentially any new laptop that isn’t a MacBook or a Chromebook.
Apple’s computers run on its macOS software, which allows for tighter integration across other Apple products and services.
Chrome OS is the newest operating system on the market, but it’s already extremely popular. Chrome OS is a minimal operating system designed to work best with an internet connection. And of course, since it’s Google’s software, it comes with all of the search giant’s popular apps like Gmail and Google Docs built in.
Chrome OS loses a lot of its appeal without an internet connection, but you can download files for offline use and install apps from the Google Play Store.
Specs: The internal hardware of the laptop is often called the “specs” of the computer and will dictate how well the device performs various tasks. The processor (CPU) dictates the raw power of the device, while the memory (RAM) allows the computer to complete multiple tasks at once.
A graphics card (GPU) allows the computer to effectively render video and 3-D graphics. Many computers have an integrated GPU, which shares RAM with the overall system. Dedicated graphics cards come with their own RAM, which adds to the computer’s ability to process complex tasks.
Displays are measured in pixel density, with full 1080p being the standard. Some laptops offer 4K displays for even more clarity, while others offer brighter screens and enhanced color accuracy.
All of the components of the computer work together to determine the laptop’s battery life. For example, a dedicated graphics card needs more power than an integrated one, and a 4K display will also draw more power than a 1080p screen.
Both of these features could result in lower overall battery life. But it’s not just the hardware alone; battery life is all about how efficiently the system can handle the way everything works together. In general, it’s a good idea to look for a laptop that offers at least a full 8-hours on a single charge.
Size: Laptop sizes are determined by measuring the screen diagonally. These days, most laptops come in 13-inch and 15-inch varieties, though you might be able to find a 17-inch model once in a while. Laptops with 13-inch screens are usually considered to be the most portable, but they sometimes lack the power of bigger models.
It’s no secret that smartphones have assumed some of the duties of our laptops over the past decade. And in turn, laptops have increasingly evolved to become more like the devices we carry in our pockets.
While laptops have had smartphone-like features such as touchscreens and cellular connectivity for years, 2021 feels like another big step in that direction, both in terms of software and hardware. The latest evidence came this week on March 9, when Google announced a slew of new features for the software that powers Chromebook laptops.
One of the biggest new additions is a feature called Phone Hub, which as its name suggests makes it easier to keep track of your Android phone directly from your laptop. You can locate your phone, view and respond to text messages, and check your Android device’s battery life, all on your Chromebook.
It’s far from being the first tool designed to help you manage your phone through your laptop. Microsoft offers an app for connecting Android phones to Windows 10 PCs, and Apple’s macOS platform has long offered interoperable features designed to work nicely with the iPhone, such as Handoff.
But the fact that phone-centric features like this new hub are the centerpiece of Google’s latest Chrome update says a lot about how major tech firms are thinking about the direction in which laptops are headed. This, along with other recent industry developments, indicates that the future of the laptop is all about making notebooks either behave more like our smartphones or get better at connecting us to our phones.
Take the new laptops announced at the annual CES tech show in January, for example. Support for 5G connectivity was seemingly in nearly every laptop, including new models from Lenovo and HP among others.
Laptops with cellular support have been around for nearly 10 years, but it hasn’t really been a major selling point since Wi-Fi networks are so prevalent and it’s easy to just use your phone as a hotspot. But in 2021, laptop makers are clearly preparing for a future in which that might change, especially now that many people may be working outside of a traditional office setting permanently.
Apple’s M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro also show how laptops are evolving to become more like our smartphones. Apple’s new chip is based on the same basic architecture as the processors inside the iPhone, resulting in longer battery life, faster responsiveness, and iPhone app compatibility.
In other words, it’s making the Mac feel a lot more like your iPhone. Apple’s latest software update for Mac devices also introduces a new interface that more closely resembles the iPhone’s operating system.
It’s not just Apple. PC makers have been launching laptops powered by chips based on the same basic architecture as the processors inside mobile devices for years. We saw more of these laptops at CES too, including the HP Elite Folio and Lenovo IdeaPad 5G, both of which run on the Snapdragon 8cx processor from Qualcomm, the company that creates the chips inside just about every major smartphone.
Qualcomm’s goal with this chip is to bring all-day battery life, portability, and support for high resolution cameras to laptops. If that sounds familiar, it’s because your smartphone already does these things much better than your laptop can.
Many of these products and developments were in place long before the pandemic started. But COVID-19 has only highlighted the ways in which laptops fall short in comparison to smartphones, perhaps accelerating a shift that was already inevitable.
The advent of Wi-Fi was a great thing. It has granted easier internet access in harder-to-reach areas, made connecting new devices a breeze – and not to mention, reduced the amount of cables on our floors.
However, if you’re looking for the fastest and most consistent connection possible, you should still stick with an Ethernet cable. It’s less convenient, but boasts all sorts of advantages.
Ethernet is almost always faster than Wi-Fi
If you want a fast connection, you should consider connecting as many of your devices as possible to Ethernet. This is because Ethernet is nearly always faster than a Wi-Fi connection from the same router.
It’s true that radio waves are incredibly fast. But an Ethernet cable lets your devices send and receive data almost instantaneously. This is especially true if you have a fiber-optic connection.
This also means that it doesn’t matter how close or far you are from your router. As long as your Ethernet cable reaches, you’ll see little to no loss in speed.
You can compare Wi-Fi and Ethernet speeds by running a quick speed test using both connections. You’ll almost certainly find the Ethernet connection to be faster.
Our own quick test showed an Ethernet download speed almost double that of Wi-Fi.
Ethernet is more stable than a Wi-Fi signal
To use an analogy, an Ethernet cable is to Wi-Fi what a landline is to a cell phone. Rather than transmitting the signal wirelessly, an Ethernet cable carries your data via a cable electronically.
In short, this means that the data is less likely to get lost or degrade along the way. You also don’t have to worry about the signal being blocked or slowed down by nearby electronics or barriers.
Unless your Ethernet cable physically breaks, there’s not much that can disrupt it, short of a power outage.
Ethernet connections are likely more secure than Wi-Fi
Although a clever Wi-Fi network name like “FBI Surveillance Van” might dissuade some neighbors from trying to hack your network, you’re still more secure with an Ethernet connection.
Any Wi-Fi password can be hacked with enough effort, and since Wi-Fi signals pass through the open air, they can be intercepted. But to gain access to an Ethernet connection, you need to have the cable and the router. There’s no way to hack into Ethernet without a physical connection.
Best Buy is running a huge sale on laptops that discounts select models by hundreds of dollars. Tons of different laptops are now discounted at Best Buy – from top-of-the-line Lenovo Yogas to midrange Microsoft Surface Laptops and even affordable Chromebooks. That means there’s a laptop available for every budget in this sale, which runs through March 14.
Among the most noteworthy of these deals is a $400 discount on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. This configuration boasts an AMD Ryzen 5 processor, a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), 8GB of memory (RAM), and a 15-inch HD (2496 x 1664) display.
We called the Surface Laptop 3 the best Microsoft laptop and loved the AMD processor, the long battery life, and the excellent keyboard. We wished it had more ports and some top-firing speakers, and also found it to be a little on the pricey side. But this discount helps to address that latter concern. Overall, it’s a great pick for those looking to stream Netflix, attend online classes, and perform any other task that a general purpose computer should be equipped to handle.
Best Buy’s sale also includes compelling discounts on the HP Spectre x360, Lenovo Yoga 9i, and Chromebooks from HP and Asus among others.
Here are some more sweet laptop deals happening right now:
Surface Laptop 3 (medium)Spectre x360 Laptop (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)Yoga 9i (medium)Prestige 14EVO012 (medium)Yoga 7i (medium)Surface Pro 7 (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)x360 14c Chromebook (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)C433TA Chromebook (medium)Product Card (medium)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Lenovo)Chromebook Duet (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)
A laptop charger is essential to have on hand, and replacing one is a pain (and can be expensive.) There are a few simple tips to follow when it comes to extending your laptop charger’s life.
Laptop chargers have two parts: a transformer and a power cord. The transformer is the brick that converts the current from your power outlet from AC to DC, and the power cord connects the charger to the outlet.
Over time, transformers can overheat, which can cause internal damage. Simultaneously, any section of your power cord can wear away and expose the wires inside.
How to care for your laptop charger and power cord
Maintaining your laptop charger’s integrity will help ensure you can safely charge your laptop with it. Here are six ways to do it.
Avoid tightly wrapping your laptop power cord
While it may be tempting to wrap your laptop power cord in a tight pattern to keep it organized, doing so can shorten the life of your charger. This practice puts repetitive stress on the thin copper conductors inside power cords and can cause them to break.
To avoid this, loop your laptop power cord loosely to avoid crimping the wires and if you can wrap it a different way each time to avoid repetitive stress on the same section.
Use a power strip
But not just any power strip––make sure it has a built-in surge protector. In addition to offering convenience (allowing you to plug in multiple devices with only one outlet), power strips with surge protectors can protect your laptop, phone, and other electronic devices from power surges that can damage your device.
Ensure the transformer has room to breathe
The transformer can get hot during the charging process. To avoid overheating while your laptop is charging, make sure it’s placed somewhere with plenty of airflows (e.g., not wedged in a couch cushion), especially if you know you’ll be plugged in for an extended period.
Avoid contact with sharp edges
Exposed wires are a big no-no, and extended contact with sharp surfaces like table edges can wear away the rubber protecting the wires in your laptop power cord.
Whether you often move your power cord from one place to another or have a designated charging hub, ensure your setup doesn’t expose these delicate wires to sharp edges.
Keep your power cord away from water
Water and electronic devices don’t mix, so it’s essential to avoid situations where your laptop power cord could be accidentally exposed to water as this can cause electrocution, damage to your laptop, or both. This means not charging your laptop in or near your kitchen or bathroom.
If your laptop charger comes into contact with water, disconnect it from the outlet at once and move it away. Thoroughly dry the charger and make sure it is completely dry before deciding whether to use it again.
Use different cords to avoid overuse during transport or storage
Of course, this means you’ll have a backup when one breaks down. But opting to have two in your possession is about more than being proactive. It can help reduce the wear and tear of both — and will likely improve their life span.
Reserve a cord specifically for travel, and leave your other charger in your living room or bedroom. Only use the travel cord while you’re on-the-go and the living or bedroom cord while you’re working in the house and in those rooms.
This will help you avoid pulling, stretching, and wrapping your cords as frequently.
Laptop bags are one of the trickiest accessories to get right. We all want something that is stylish and easy to carry, but also durable enough to withstand a long commute.
Some people prefer to stuff their laptop in large, fashionable bags, but we recommend finding something that at least has a dedicated laptop compartment. Luckily, there are plenty of attractive and protective options available.
The new generation of laptop carriers runs the gamut from techy styles with tons of extras to fashionable tote bags in luxurious leather. We love all different kinds of bags and have included a mix on this list to suit a variety of worker’s needs.
We are currently in the process of testing a whole new batch of bags to see if they stack up to the ones already on this list. For now, the following four bags reign supreme.
The Ryan Laptop Bag from Dagne Dover is super functional, complete with the brand’s signature interior compartment system, and very cute.
Pros: Tons of compartments, detachable key fob, convertible straps, water resistant Cons: Expensive
Laptop bags that actually look like laptop bags can be cute. The everyday-bag masters over at Dagne Dover have proved it with the design of the Ryan Laptop Bag, which is both stylish and very practical.
It’s very similar to the brand’s best-selling Signature Tote, with a more durable, tech-friendly exterior made of water-resistant neoprene. The interior contains Dagne Dover’s signature compartment system. There’s a laptop sleeve, a key ring, several card slots, and mesh pockets to organize your workday essentials. A zippered exterior pocket allows you to stash items you reach for on the go, like your subway card, passport, and cell phone.
The Ryan is available in both Medium ($135, carries most 13-inch laptops) and Large ($155, carries most 15-inch laptops) sizes and can be worn as a crossbody or shoulder bag.
“I wish the Dagne Dover Ryan Laptop Bag had existed while I was in college, because it would’ve actually held up to all the heavy study materials and the laptop I carried around campus,” Insider Picks reporter Connie Chen wrote in a previous review.
If you are a teacher or member of the military, you are eligible for a 20% discount on any Dagne Dover purchases you make. Simply fill out this form using your official education or military email address and the company will give you an exclusive code to use at checkout.
The best affordable laptop bag
With nearly 1,000 5-star customer reviews on Amazon, the Ytonet 17-Inch Laptop Bag is a relative bargain that will not let you down.
Pros: Affordable, has a lot of compartments, expandable, water resistant
Cons: Not the most stylish
You truly do not need to spend a ton of money in order to find a good quality laptop bag you’ll actually want to carry every day. Sure, the Ytonet 17-Inch Laptop Bag is not the most stylish option on the market. But it’s not hideous, and it is practical and affordable.
This sleek, structured rectangular bag contains a multitude of compartments to hold everything you could possibly need for one workday (or a full week of them). Seriously, there’s an individual pocket for a cell phone, laptop, tablet, passport, pen, umbrella, water bottle, and even clothing!
You can pack for a short business trip using just this one bag. There’s even an expandable zipper to give you more room, effectively turning your laptop bag into a duffle. The bag has a 4.6-star rating based on nearly 1,300 Amazon customer reviews and has been praised by Travel + Leisure.
Pros: Lots of interior pockets, fits 13-inch or 15-inch backpack, high-quality materials
Dagne Dover really knows what its doing as far as work bags go. The Signature Tote is very similar to the more utilitarian in appearance Ryan Laptop Bag we chose as our top pick, only it doesn’t look like a laptop bag at all.
If style is a top priority for you, you can’t go wrong here. The Signature Tote is made of coated canvas with leather trim. It has a classic and simple silhouette that won’t go out of style or clash with anything in your closet.
Dagne Dover’s founder and CEO Melissa Mash sums up our feelings about the tote best: “It’s no longer good enough to just be ‘arm candy’. Nowadays we expect the services and products we use to multitask, to be data-driven, and to work harder,” Mash told Insider Reviews’ director of content strategy Ellen Hoffman in a previous interview. “Dagne Dover is the only brand in the handbag market that does so while continuing to be stylish and organized.”
This bag comes in a bunch of colors and four sizes, but the Classic ($245) and Legend ($265) styles are the only ones large enough to fit a laptop. Inside both models is a padded compartment large enough to conceal a 13-inch or 15-inch laptop, respectively, three pen loops, a phone/MetroCard pocket, a detachable key leash, and a neoprene water bottle holder.
If you are a teacher or member of the military, you are eligible for a 20% discount on any Dagne Dover purchases you make when you fill out this form using your official education or military email address. The company will give you a special discount code to use at checkout.
Pros: Water resistant, stylish, comes in two sizes, easy to carry, optional key leash
Our affordable pick is a great option for travel but if you’re looking for an upgrade, the O.G 2 Overnight Bag from Lo & Sons should be on your radar. Its predecessor comes highly recommended by Insider Reviews editors.
Not only are the overnight bags super cute, with a water-resistant nylon exterior available in a variety of chic, understated colors, they’re extremely functional for overnight trips or use as an airplane personal item. One of the more unique features is the adjustable back panel that slides over a rolling luggage handle for easy transport as you move from security to your gate. You can choose from two sizes: medium ($378.00) and large ($398.00).
Carry the bag top-handle or use the attachable messenger strap and toss it over your shoulder. A series of pockets, including a padded laptop sleeve and a side pocket for shoes, make organization easy. Lo & Sons says the internal laptop sleeve for both sizes of the bag fits up to 13-inch laptops. Some 14-inch and 15-inch laptops can fit inside of the main compartment of the bags, but do not fit inside of the padded laptop compartment.
“With all of the smart features, I’ve found I’m able to fit just about everything I need for a weekend away in this one bag,” writes Insider Reviews reporter Remi Rosmarin of the previous model. Travel experts at Huffington Post and Good Housekeeping are also big fans.
Better yet, the O.G. 2 linked here has a dedicated laptop sleeve, and it has been reinforced for stability when fully packed up.
Other women’s laptop bags we look forward to testing
Everlane oversize Caryall: This large catch-all bag has a dedicated laptop compartment and comes from the maker of our much loved – but now discontinued – Everlane Form bag.
Cuyana Tall Structured Leather Tote: Cuyana is known for its sustainable and ethically-sourced bags. This tote features a dedicated laptop compartment and is made from Italian leather from a woman-owned factory.
Bellroy System Messenger bag: This laptop bag is for travelers on-the go. It has a padded laptop pouch and lots of pockets – including ones that pop out and back in when not in use. The bag’s luggage slip also fits over travel luggage handles.
Go Dash Dot Puffle bag: This fun bag is Go Dash Dot’s take on the classic duffle bag. It can be worn on the shoulder or as a cross body. It has a dedicated laptop compartment, as well as an interior zipper that can release a shoe compartment for more depth.
EaseGave laptop bag for women: This stylish and affordable bag has a dedicated padded laptop pouch with a reinforced bottom and comes in 13 different colors.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is setting up a home office with the right tools, but once you’ve got everything in place, it’s easier to get your work done.
Even if you don’t have a ton of space or a dedicated room to turn into a home office, you can still have a comfortable and productive work-from-home setup. All you need is a table, chair, and a few key pieces of tech.
We’ve compiled this handy list of the best work-from-home tech to help you increase your productivity. The main tech essentials everyone needs to work remotely are reliable internet and a laptop, but we also recommend getting a monitor so you have a bigger screen to work from as well as a decent keyboard and mouse. With these gadgets, you’ll feel much more comfortable working than you would if you had to squint over your small laptop screen all day.
Beyond those main tech gadgets, you may also want to get a few more accessories, so we’ve added others that are enjoyable to have, including everything from headphones and speakers to webcams and smart speakers.
Logitech’s MX Master Wireless Mouse is our top pick for the best computer mouse for good reason. It has an ergonomic design that’s comfortable to use for hours on end and you can customize the functions of its buttons and the speed of the scroll wheel. I’ve been using this mouse to work for several months now, and it’s helped limit the amount of wrist and hand fatigue I feel at the end of the day. It’s also wireless, so it’s an excellent mouse to have in your home office setup. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
The Logitech MX Vertical looks odd, and feels even stranger when you put your hand on it. But after a few days, using it becomes second nature, and it’s noticeably more comfortable than normal mice, especially if you use computers all day. I had an MX Vertical I left at BI’s NYC office before the pandemic, and I ventured back into the city from the safety of my suburban home during the pandemic to get it back for my home setup. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter
I initially wanted a larger, thick mouse pad for PC gaming, but I’d find it difficult to be productive without the Steelseries QCK Heavy mousepad. Indeed, it’s about twice as thick and twice as large as a standard cheap office mousepad, the cloth feels premium and smooth, and it’s washable. It gives you a lot more room to swing your mouse around comfortably, and it makes a surprisingly positive impact on your comfort without needing to spend very much. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter
When I first started working from home, I used a towel as a desk pad to protect my table from wear and tear. After a few months of that, I started looking into desk pads and found this one by Grovemade. It’s made of natural linoleum with a cork backing to give it some cushion and prevent it from sliding around on the desk. You can also get it in wool or leather, but both of those options are more expensive. sizes range from small ($40+) to extra large ($90+).
I got a large linoleum desk pad in the blue color, and it makes my desk look great while also protecting it from stains, scratches, and other dangers. It cleans up easily, too with the swipe of a damp washcloth or a paper towel. The desk pad works as a mouse pad, too, if you don’t want to get both.
I also got a desk organizer from Grovemade to keep my pens, sticky notes, and other desk accessories in order. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
I got a laptop stand about nine months into quarantine after using books and boxes and all sorts of odd things to hold up my laptop during video calls. This laptop stand from Twelve South is sturdy, matches my MacBook Pro’s design, and keeps my laptop at the perfect height for video calls. It also helps prevent my laptop from overheating, thanks to its open bottom, which facilitates air and circulation. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
I’ve been using Logitech’s K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard in the office for almost a full year. I like its compact design and I find the keys responsive for typing. I never use the numberpad on giant keyboards, so I prefer this no-frills option. It’s wireless, too, so my small home office setup doesn’t look cluttered by a bunch of cables. For about $30, it’s an excellent affordable option. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
If you plan to be desk-bound, an ergonomic keyboard is essential, and my favorite is the new Logitech Ergo K860. I have used many ergonomic keyboards for the past 25 years, and none have worked as well as this one. I like the elevated wrist support that keeps my hands and arms in proper typing position. The split keyboard does take some getting used to, but after a day, I found myself typing away with minimal typos. The keys are well positioned and require very little travel distance, which means less strain on your hands and wrists. It’s wireless, so you can easily move it, and it supports up to three Bluetooth devices — I love the ability to switch between my MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad quickly. Since I started using this keyboard regularly, it has lessened my wrist pain. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor
I used the Durgod Taurus K310 mechanical keyboard for typing, and I absolutely love it. It has a classic mechanical look and feel, and it’s a dream to type on. I have the “Cherry MX Silent Red” switches on mine, which means it’s very quiet for a mechanical keyboard, which are typically loud. It has the Windows logo on the Command key, but it’s equally compatible with MacOS devices, too. I like having the number pad on my keyboards, but it’s also available in a smaller option without the number pad called the Taurus K320. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter
If you have limited space to work from home or you need to pack up your setup and take it with you, a foldable Bluetooth keyboard may be the answer. I’ve been using this full-size model from Plugable when I’m working from home unexpectedly. At the end of the day, I can easily fold it up and hide it away to regain access to my dining table. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
To limit wrist fatigue, I’ve been using Kensington’s ErgoSoft Wrist Rest. It’s essentially a small gel-filled wrist pad that you can position exactly where you need it. The sticky underside keeps it from shifting around on the table, but it’s ideal to have the option to angle it or remove it as needed throughout the workday. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
A micro-bead mouse wrist rest to keep you RSI free
I have a confession to make: I’ve been using the same Imak ErgoBeads wrist rest featured here for an undetermined amount of years. I’ve washed it regularly, of course, but let’s just say it’s not something I would let go of as a hand-me-down. This thing is the definition of computing comfort, in my opinion, and there are bundles that include a wrist rest for your keyboard. There’s something about beads that perfectly contour to your wrist and feel like a down pillow underneath it. Don’t make this tough time even worse with a repeated stress injury — trust me, I know from experience. — Joe Osborne, Senior Tech Editor
Look, there’s enough to worry about much less a debilitating work injury preventing you from getting your work done. That’s why we’re recommending the 3M Precise Mouse Pad, because it’s cheap, effective, and will keep your mouse hand comfortable with a wrist rest. Also, its tracking surface is designed for modern optical mice, so you’re basically covered from every angle for less than $20. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor
My Echo Dot has become an essential desktop companion whenever I work from home. The affordable Alexa device is our top pick for best budget smart speaker, and it packs all of the same digital assistant features found on Amazon’s more expensive Echo products into a compact, budget-friendly package. Sound quality can’t compete with genuine stereo speakers, but the Echo Dot gets the job done for casual background listening while I work. It’s also a convenient tool for setting alarms and reminders, getting quick answers to questions, and receiving news and weather updates. And best of all? Its reliable voice control means you never have to step away from your keyboard. — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor
I like to have a clock nearby when I’m working from home, because I am wont to lose track of time entirely. I also like to have music playing in the background. To address both of those needs, I set up the Google Nest Hub on my desk. Not only does it always show me the time, but it can also play music, do math for me, and answer any random questions I have while working. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
Although you can get fancy 4K, curved monitors for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, there are also plenty of decent displays for $200 or less. This 27-inch Dell FreeSync Monitor has a full HD IPS LED screen that should be both big enough and high-res enough for most people’s needs. It uses Dell’s ComfortView tech to limit reflections, blue light, and other distractions. It’s the monitor I have setup for working from home. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
I had the pleasure of testing out LG’s 34WK650-W 34″ 21:9 monitor for a few months and it completely opened my eyes up to the benefits of an UltraWide display in a home office. Typically, I work with a 24-inch 16:10 Dell UltraSharp monitor, and it performs very well for most needs. There are times, however, when there’s just not enough real estate available on the screen for all the applications I have open. With the UltraWide design of the LG 34WK650-W, however, it’s basically like having two monitors in one. Organizing different windows around your screen is a breeze, allowing you to multitask like a pro. The monitor also packs in several advanced display features, like HDR and FreeSync, which make it a fine fit for entertainment and gaming when you’re not working. — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor
A laptop that can be your WFH warrior for a long time
While many might scoff at $649 for a Chromebook, hold that thought until you take a peek at the Google Pixelbook Go’s 1080p display, its excellent keyboard, sharp 1080p webcam, and spacious trackpad. For a combination of WFH-ready features such as these within similar aluminum-clad laptops, expect to pay at least $300 more. If you want to save even more, we’d suggest the Acer Chromebook 15, a $325 15-inch laptop with a 1080p screen and just enough performance and space to get you through this stint of working from home. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor
Generally speaking, we recommend the Three Posts Lamantia Computer Desk as the best desk for its drawer space, dashing looks, and decent $220 price. However, those looking to save as much cash as possible without working on a box should take a look at the $107 Zipcode Design Folkston Desk. Finally, our favorite standing desk is the Fully Jarvis Electric Adjustable Height, which adjusts electronically to save your back. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor
Whether you’re burning the midnight oil or just need extra illumination, this TaoTronics LED desk lamp can add some much needed light. The brightness is adjustable to suit your workspace, and it has a built-in Qi-wireless charger for recharging your phone. For more desk lamp options, check out our guide. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor
It’s entirely too easy to spend a fortune on an office chair, so while we can personally recommend the Knoll ReGeneration as it’s the New York City Insider office’s chair of choice, it’s also more than $800 for individual pricing. So, may we suggest the far more approachable Space Seating Professional AirGrid? It’s a fraction of the price at $175, and offers many similar comfort features. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor
If you expect to be holding internal (and outgoing) video meetings for quite some time, and you aren’t going for the above recommended laptop, then pick up the Logitech C920. This is a 1080p webcam with an excellent stand for laptops, monitors, and tripods. While this is a plug-and-play option, it’s also equipped with enhanced controls and filters for power users. That’s a lot of webcam for just under $50. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor
It never ceases to amaze me how many devices I need to plug in at my desk. I got this 12-outlet power strip and surge protector to help streamline all the cables I needed to plug in at my desk. It has room for my laptop charger, phone charger, router charger, smart display, my printer, my monitor, and more with room to spare. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor
If you have a work laptop or even a personal one released within the last two years, chances are that it has one or more USB-C ports. Naturally, chances are if you have a USB-C laptop you have plenty more gadgets and accessories that use traditional USB or some other more legacy form of connection. That’s where the Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter V2 comes in with several ports and passthrough charging. It’s also $80 generally, so something like the HooToo 6-in-1 USB-C Adapter could do just as well for less than half as much. For anyone still rocking straight USB ports, we suggest the Anker 10 Port 60W Data Hub for $43. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor
Though working from home likely gives you the freedom to pump up the volume on your speakers, headphones can still come in handy in many home offices — especially noise-cancelling models like the Bose 700s. Perfect for tuning out potential distractions around the house, or intruding sounds from outside, the Bose 700s feature some of the best noise cancellation tech on the market. They’re especially well-suited for use during important work calls since the mics can isolate your voice from background noises. The Bose 700s are also our pick for the most comfortable noise-cancelling headphones, so you can wear them throughout the workday without any problems. — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor
A worthy alternative to Bose’s noise-cancelling headphones
The Bose 700 are featured in this guide as ideal home office noise cancelling headsets. But I’d urge anyone to take a look at the Sony WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones. They’re slightly more comfortable than the Bose, in my opinion, and their customizable sound means I enjoy my music more than I do with the Bose, too. Noise cancelling is about as good, and they’re $50 cheaper than the Bose, too. Plus, they dramatically reduce ambient noise for better phone calls, and there’s no need to switch between your computer and your phone, as they can connect to both devices at the same time. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter
Logitech is known for its reliable desktop speaker models, and the company’s Z313 are our top pick when it comes to budget computer speakers. The system includes compact left and right speakers, along with a dedicated subwoofer for extra bass while listening to music throughout the workday. Though far from high-end, audio performance is solid for such an inexpensive system, making them a very affordable upgrade from integrated speakers on your monitor or laptop. — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor
If you have separate computers for work and home, an easy file sharing solution is to store on a portable hard drive, like Seagate’s BarraCuda Fast SSD. In my previous years of testing hard drives, Seagate’s are some of the more reliable ones I’ve used. This particular unit uses solid-state memory, which allows for fast read and write speeds (it can be used for gaming and productivity), and you can toss it inside a bag and not worry about damage to moving parts. The BarraCuda Fast SSD supports USB-C for fast transfer speeds of up to 540MB per second, but it’s also compatible with older USB ports, albeit slower. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor
Unless it’s a quick call, I’m not a fan of using headsets or putting a phone against my ear for long hours. I also don’t like terrible sounding speakers on my phone or laptop. The solution I’ve been using is the PowerConf Bluetooth Speakerphone from Anker. Yes, it’s designed for group conferences, and it’s portable, so you can take it on the road. But I like the sound quality it produces and that it has six microphones, so it can pick up my voice clearly regardless of where I am in the room. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor
Whether you need to print, scan, copy, or even fax, the Canon Pixma TR4520 is an affordable all-in-one that does all those things. It’s small enough that it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it has high-end features like two-sided printing and an automatic document feeder for multi-page scanning. For more affordable printer options, check out our guide. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor
It’s a place where Apple sells some of its devices for a nice little discount. And, not all of them are older models. Some refurbished devices are current-generation – or very recent, at least.
I was amazed by the quality of my refurbished 2016 MacBook Pro that I bought in 2017. It was flawless and showed no signs that it had already been used. In my mind, my refurbished MacBook Pro came from Apple, not the previous owner.
I personally haven’t bought other refurbished products from Apple yet, but if they’re anything like my refurbished MacBook Pro, they’re absolutely worth considering if you’re not trying to spend full price for brand-new devices.
Apple’s refurbished devices come with the same warranty as if you bought a brand-new model, and all the original accessories that come with new models are also included with refurbished units.
Below, you’ll find that I’ve listed the cheapest refurbished options for each device, but you’ll also find more options that potentially have the specs you want in Apple’s refurbished store.
Check out the best refurbished devices you can buy from Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store:
Even though Apple’s line of M1 MacBook Pros were only released in November 2020, refurbished models are already starting to appear. Going for $1,099 refurbished, this M1 13-inch MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage comes in $200 cheaper than a brand new model.