Desktop computers have all of comforts of a full-sized keyboard, mouse, and big monitor. Don t try to slip one into a backpack or brief case, however, when you re on the move.
You can do that easily with a light-weight laptop or notebook computer. With a laptop, you need only one computer for home, office, school, a vacation cottage or anywhere else you can imagine.
However, many people don t like the downsized features that come with all but top-of-of-the line desktop-replacement laptops. Those include a downsized keyboard, a touchpad pointing device instead of a mouse, and a smaller monitor.
I ve been using a wonderful solution to that comfort-or-portability dilemma at work. It is a computer docking station that transforms an ultra-light laptop into a full-sized desktop.
A docking station is a platform or frame into which you install a laptop computer. The laptop slides into the docking station and plugs into a master connector. That one connection gives the docking station full access to the computer.
You don t have to connect or disconnect a power cord or Internet cable, for instance, every time you dock and undock the laptop.
Docking stations also contain outlets for connecting a full-size keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, printer, and other devices. Some have built-in CD and DVD drives, enhanced sound systems, and other features.
Once inserted in a docking station with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, a laptop essentially becomes a desktop. Undock, and you ve got a portable computer with all the files ready to go.
Some people own one laptop computer, but have docking stations at home, in the office, in a dorm room at college, on a vacation home or boat. It s just like owning several desktop computers.
Different kinds of docking ports are available in local stories and online outlets.
Basic models cost under $100. Prices can soar, especially if you have to buy a new monitor, keyboard, speakers, and mouse to use with the docking station.
Many old monitors, keyboards, speakers, and mice will work just fine with a new docking station. Keep that in mind when you re trying to decide what to do with old computer gear. Why not plan on re-purposing the gear? Store the old equipment in case you do decide on a laptop and docking station in the future.
The old gear may seem clunky. However, it may be perfect for a second or third docking station in a rarely used location like a summer cottage.
Pay special attention to security if you decide on the docking station solution. I mean the physical security of the hardware. Both the laptop and the docking station can be inviting targets for thieves.
Don t make yourself an easy target. Secure the docking station to a desk. For the laptop, buy a security cable a lockable steel cable that connects to a slot in the computer s case.
Keep the cable locked whenever you are away from the desk.
Michael Woods is a free-lance writer.
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