A List of Home Office Tech Essentials

Once you’ve gotten all the basics of a home office (desk, chair, etc) sorted out it’s time to look at the other technical essentials you might need.

Now, we’re not going to get into any detail about buying a computer for your home office because we’ve already covered that topic.

Instead, we’re going to look at the various devices, adapters and office gadgets available to you.

No two home office setups are the same, so take this list of tech essentials as suggestions but not something etched in stone.

Let’s get going.

External hard drive

Yes, your laptop or desktop has almost-endless gigabytes of storage space. But one of the main benefits of an external drive is that you’re not keeping all your eggs in one basket.

Which means not keeping all your data in one place.

And with external hard drives now cheaper than they’ve ever been before, you can get a teraybte of fast (USB 3.0) storage space for well under $100.

Just stick to established brands like Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba and Lacie.

Lesser known hard drives might be fine, but they’ll probably crash when you least expect it.

Wi-Fi extender

Working from home with slow or intermittent Internet access is painful.

If your home office is located a dozen feet from your modem/router then you probably won’t have an issue with signal strength. But most home offices are tucked away in the corner of a spare room, or in the garage or attic of a home.

In situations like that all you need is a Wi-Fi extender from Netgear or TP-Link to boost your signal strength while also supplying you with an Ethernet port that you can hook straight into.

Again, stick to brand names you recognize, and pay attention to reviews.

Noise-cancelling headphones

Even if you live alone there will still be times when you need to drown out background noise – neighbors mowing their lawn, a barking dog, or whatever.

A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can be worth their weight in gold, providing way more aural isolation than those tiny earbuds ever could.

Personally, I prefer over-the-ear models because they do actually cancel all background noise when listening to music or a podcast, whereas on-ear models tend to have noise “leaks”.

You can get a good pair of Sony or Phillips headphones for about $50, or around $250 for Bose or Sennheiser ear candy.

Dual Screens

One of the single biggest productivity hacks you can implement is to set yourself up with dual screens. Yes, you can get away with working on just your laptop, but all that alt-tabbing between screens is a nuisance.

The thing about a dual-screen setup is that it doesn’t need to cost the Earth, but do pay a little more to get screens that are height and tilt adjustable.

ViewSonic VX2252  monitors seem to be particularly popular right now with visitors to this site.

But please make sure that whatever you buy has VESA mounts on the back.

I’ll explain why in a second.

Monitor mounts

One of the main arguments I hear against dual screens is that they eat up a lot of desktop real estate.

While this is true, there’s a way around that – monitor mounts.

These monitor stands clamp to your desk, and you attack the screens directly to them, freeing up several feet of desk space.

And the really neat part is that you can get “static” dual-screen stands for about $50 or gas-lift models for about $90.

So they’re not expensive, and you configure your monitors to the exact height, tilt and pitch that works for you.

This is a main component of my next upgrade to my home office.

Keyboard and mouse

A crappy keyboard and mouse can lead to levels of frustration that make you want to turn green and Hulk-Smash everything in sight.

Or you might finally get sick and tired of pecking away at your laptop’s keyboard.

Either way, the time will come for a new keyboard and mouse.

Let’s keep this simple – don’t go for a fancy ergonomic design and stick with either Logitech or Microsoft keyboard and mice combos.

One thing to watch out for is the mouse size with cheaper packages – like the Logitech MK270 mouse feels tiny and I don’t have huge hands.

The mouse with the Logitech MK345 package is far more comfy to use.

Should you go wired or wireless with your mouse and keyboard setup?

I’ve already covered the whole wired vs. wireless debate in another post.

It’s a personal preference thing.

Mousepad with wrist support

Ergonomics are great in theory, but how many of you maintain a perfect posture while using your keyboard and mouse?

I thought so…

You can save putting lots of additional stress on your joints by investing in a high-quality mousepad that has a built-in wrist rest.

Now, I’ve tried a few cheaper  versions of these, but the gel support always goes pancake-flat after just a few months.

The Fellowes Crystal gel mousepad I’m currently using is just way, way superior in terms of comfort and durability.

Yes, I paid around $15 for it but it’s been worth every cent.

Webcam

Most laptop webcams are beyond awful, which is why they’re never used by YouTubers or anyonee who takes video quality seriously.

Part of the problem is they’re fixed to the top bezel of your screen so you’re left working with a seriously limited number of angles.

So if you’re going to be doing a lot of video calls or conferences invest in something worthwhile.

I use, own and love my Logitech C920, but I have used both Creative Livecams, and Microsoft Lifecams in the past.

Just bear in mind that a $20 webcam will offer $20 worth of video quality – there’s no freebies here.

Document shredder

When you work in an office somebody else takes care of the paper recycling.

But when you’re working from a home office you are the recycling company, and you’ll probably be surprised at just how much paper you have to deal with.

And to do that in a secure way.

Which is why you need a document shredder, and ideally a cross-cut model because that turns your junk documents into confetti.

What’s cool about the latest models is they can even shred credit cards and staples!

Oh, and don’t buy a cheap/no-name document shredder online – their motors burn out in no time, and that’s speaking from experience.

USB flash drives

Why would you need a USB flash drive if you already have an external drive?

Good question.

For me it’s because I keep multiple copies of important documents because I’ve had two hard drives fail within 24 hours of each other.

But I also have various other uses for them like booting different operating systems, storing files for my media player, etc.

What type of USB flash drive should you buy?

Corsair and a minimum of 32GB, but ideally 64GB or above.

All those other (cheaper) brands work just fine, but they tend to have one of two problems:

  1. High failure rate – I’ve lost count of how many cheap flash drives have failed on me.
  2. Slow data transfer rates – every other brand besides Corsair has been pitiful

I own several Corsair USB flash drives and not one of them has failed even though some of them are over 10 years old.

Powered USB hub

3 or 4 USB ports seems like loads…until you plug in your mouse, keyboard, webcam, WI-FI dongle, phone, etc.

All of a sudden you’re having to juggle between what devices you want to keep connected.

And that happens even if you have a desktop PC – it’s not just a problem for laptop owners.

The simple answer is to get yourself a powered USB hub.

How many ports should your USB hub have?

I’d suggest at least 4 – believe me, you’ll find uses for those spare USB ports.

Should your USB hub be USB 2.0 or 3.0?

If your computer has a USB port with a blue connector then get USB 3.0 hub, and if not then get a USB 2.0 hub.

Brand names don’t really matter here – just look for a hub with decent reviews.

A basic printer

Will you need to print documents while working from home?

Probably.

How much of that you’ll do will depend on what you do for a living.

Either way, you’ll need a printer.

We can keep this part mercifully short for you.

If you’re not going to print tons of document or paperwork, then a HP or Canon inkjet printer/scanner will meet your needs.

But if you need to print a lot of documents or contracts, then look at a small office laser printer instead.

That’s simply because a laser printer will have a lower cost-per-page for high volume printing.

Do you need a color laser printer?

Probably not, but if you have the budget for one , then go for it.

In terms of what laser printer brands to buy, I can recommend Canon, Brother or HP.

Just pay really careful attention to the cost of consumables for both – some cheap inkjet and laser printers make up for that initial “discount” by pillaging your bank balance to pay for ludicrously expensive consumables later on.

Desk Riser

Sitting down all day at a desk is bad for you.

It’s bad for your posture, and it can lead to all kinds of physiological problems.

In a 9-5 you have assigned lunch breaks and meetings that force you to stand up and move around.

You don’t get that at home.

So a quick way to get around that problem is to install a desk riser – a simplified version of a standing desk.

A desk riser can be me mechanical or user electric motors.

Either way, they offer a great way for you to stand up and get your blood flowing.

A side benefit of using one is that when you’re standing you tend to be more focused on what you’re actually working on.

What are the Benefits of An External Hard Drive?

In the modern world, our computers are our lifelines. We use them for everything from streaming Netflix and Hulu to paying bills to keeping track of essential documents and working remotely.

In short, if your computer crashes, you’re out of luck.

Rather than stress about the fact that your computer could crash at any moment, you could back up your files instead.

Some people prefer to use Cloud-based storage—uploading files through the internet to an external server—while others feel safer with external hard drives.

Unlike Cloud-based storage, external drives are physical devices.

You can use them to access your files whenever you want, including during any Internet outages.

Plus, you’re not trusting your data to some third party that could quite easily suffer from a data breach, compromising your data in the process.

Why Do You Need an External Hard Drive?

If you’re an academic, digital creative, or you rely on your computer for programs, apps, and storage, you know the importance of having convenient access to your files at a moment’s notice.

If your computer gets lost, is in the shop, broken, or riddled with viruses, can you do your job?

If the answer is no, an external drive is an investment you’ll never regret.

In the case of computers that are getting on in their years, one of the biggest benefits of an external hard drive lots of additional storage without any fiddling around inside the case.

You can transfer all those big (or old) files from your internal hard drive, and plonk them on an external storage device instead.

Most people have no much clutter they have on their internal drives.

External hard drives also have tons of convenience by way of portability.

If you need to transfer files from one computer to another or travel without your PC, external hard drives plug into any computer and give you instant access to your files wherever you go.

You can also store a copy of all your valuable files in another physical location, like a deposit box, for example.

Basically, if you value your personal data then you need an external storage solution of some kind.

Are External Hard Drives Faster Than Internal Drives?

The short answer to this is “Nope”, simply because any external device on a PC will be connected via a USB port.

A typical and relatively modern internal drive transfers data at around 3.0Gbps (gigabits per second).

Then compare this to a device connected to a USB 2.0 port transferring data at 60MBps (megabytes per second) and you’ll see that an internal drive runs at roughly 8x the speed of any external hard drives.

Even USB 3.0 connections top out at 5Gbps vs. a SATA III powering along at 6Gbps, and it’s highly unlikely that your USB 3.0 connection can sustain that level of file transfer for more than short bursts.

Owning an external drive won’t make your computer run faster.

But it does allow you to own a portable, affordable and secure way of storing your data – and data transfer speeds are improving all the time.

Benefits of an External Hard Drive

Just in case you’re not already convinced, let’s take a point-by-point overview of why owning external hard drives is a good idea.  So…what are the benefits of an external hard drive, or drives?

Affordable storage

You can get a high-quality 2TB external hard drive for about $70 online right now. In terms of value the cost roughly the same as internal hard drives, so there’s no reason not to own one. You get a whole lot of portable storage for very little money.

Portability

You can carry several terabytes of data around in your jacket pocket or backpack, and then simply plug your drive in whenever you need to access it. Do try use a hard drive storage case though when doing this – it save the drive taking unnecessary knocks.

Backups

If your main computer is a desktop or you don’t want to risk loss, damage or theft, external drives offers a discreet and portable option for traveling with your files. It won’t weigh you down, and you probably won’t even notice it until you need it.

Ease of Use

If you know how to use a flash drive, you can use an external hard drive. Just plug it into your computer with a USB cord and your computer should recognize it without prompting. Because of this simple connection, transferring files to and from your external hard drive is efficient and convenient.

Emergency Boot drive

You can use a number of methods to boot your computer from an external drive if your main drive crashes. This is a more technical way to use an external hard drive, but it’s an absolute benefit of owning an external drive.

Security

External hard drives protect your files and sensitive documents from phishing, theft, and viruses. Because your files are isolated on a separate device, if anything happens to your computer, you keep that access.

Preparedness

There’s no substitute for being prepared. If you have an external hard drive, you are prepared for the worst before it happens.

Scalability

If you want more storage space, you simply add more external hard drives to your stack, and you never need to remove the case of your PC.

Disadvantages of External Hard Drive Storage

It might seem like there’s no excuse to go without an external hard drive, but there’s a downside to everything.

Physically frail

If you drop or knock over an external drive, you’re going to break it. And there’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching terabytes of information go sailing off your desk and onto a floor. I’ve been there. The same goes for spilling water on one.

Theft

It’s far easier for somebody to steal your external drives than it is for them to steal an entire computer. That portability can be a distinct disadvantage around kleptomaniacs.

Wear and Tear

How long do external hard drives last?

Well, external hard drives can and will eventually stop working, and the more you access data on one the shorter its lifespan will be.

They can also overheat pretty quickly, so don’t expose them to direct heat sources like strong sunlight or sitting on top of a heater.

Cabling and power

By their very nature, external hard drives have to be connected to your computer via a USB cable. And then some of these hard drives need a separate power supply, which means more clutter on your desk.

Summing things up

And that brings us to the end of our look at the pros and cons of owning an external hard drive.

I’m a fan and have been for years, so hopefully you understand the benefits too.

Just be aware that, as with most technology, you get what you pay for.

You should research your external hard drive options and not choose based on price alone.

If you buy a cheap external hard drive and export your life’s work only to find it crashes in less than a year, it’s as bad as not having one at all.

A reliable external hard drive offers years of flexibility, portability, and dependability.So always buy a brand name you can trust.