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Back to university - why a computer is a student's most important possession

September 25, 2019

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Back to university - why a computer is a student's most important possession

By Bryan Barton, Product Marketing Manager, Micron

It might seem like an exaggeration to say that a computer is a student’s most important possession. After all, most universities, colleges, and even schools offer computer labs, ensuring that students can access course materials and means to complete homework. But most students would say that owning their own computers – and using them daily for notetaking, homework, school projects, and a multitude of personal and entertainment purposes – is essential to success in modern education.

That’s not exaggerating. That’s the reality of student life.

With students depending on their computers more each year, keeping those machines not only running, but operating smoothly, becomes vital. Fortunately, a couple of simple and low-cost hardware upgrades can boost new computer performance or reinvigorate older machines: adding memory (DRAM), or solid state drives (SSDs).

Here’s a few ways students can make their computers faster, more durable, and more reliable, helping them with work and leisure.

The efficient student

Memory processes every command entered into a computer. Having abundant DRAM speeds up everything you do. That includes simple tasks, such as entering text or data into a document or spreadsheet, as well as more demanding functions, such as gaming or streaming music. Getting by without enough memory can slow computer performance to a crawl, adding time, frustration, and even system crashes.

So, how much memory do students need?

Students using computers for only basic functions, like web browsing, typing papers, using social media, etc., can get by on 4GB, though they risk encountering problems in a year or two. Running 8GB to 16GB will suit most users’ purposes and keep systems performing at a high level for the foreseeable future. Gamers and students working toward degrees in creative fields using multimedia or design software might consider going all the way up to 64GB memory, if their system will support it.

The "hard drive ate my homework" student

A ruined drive – and losing the homework, project drafts and media it stores – is devastating. Many students pack laptops virtually everywhere, which means a lot of chances for drops, collisions, spills, and myriad misfortunes.

Students can safeguard themselves against such tragedy by upgrading from hard drives (HDDs) to solid state drives (SSDs). In HDDs, a mechanical arm accesses data from a spinning platter. All those moving parts are susceptible to failure if dropped. On the other hand, SSDs have no moving parts and have been proven to absorb more impact than HDDs without failing, making SSDs an affordable protection against disaster.

The creative student

The modern economy requires a modern workforce. Many of the technology and creativity-driven jobs that companies need to fill – and that often pay well – require mastery of software that needs ample memory and storage. For example, many students studying video editing will use Adobe Premier Pro during their coursework. The program, commonly used in video-related fields, requires 8GB of DRAM, though Adobe recommends at least 16GB for high-definition media and 32GB for 4K media. Simply put, any student learning Premier Pro will have to have enough memory to avoid being constantly mired by slow performance and system reboots.

The same is true for students pursuing degrees in photography, software development, design, architecture, and many other fields. Those students will need hardware solutions to keep their systems up to speed. One fix: installing high-performance gaming DRAM, which is ideal for running memory-intensive programs, playing games or anything else.

The archive student

Not surprisingly, those same programs generate huge files. Students will quickly run out of drive space as they progress in their classes, forcing them to delete older projects to clear space on their drive for their current work. That process gets tiresome, and students might want to use those older files – or even earlier versions of a current project – when preparing portfolios or backtracking to tweak a draft.

Fortunately, storage has become more and more affordable in recent years, and SSDs are a cost-effective way for students to upgrade to 500GB, 1TB or even 2TB of drive space. In addition, SSDs are much faster than HDDs when opening large files and booting up, giving students in tech and creative fields another reason to upgrade.

The work/life balance student

Many students rely on their computers even when they’re relaxing. That likely includes video, music, and game streaming services and websites, as well as the social media platforms students use to stay in touch with family or friends. Those programs do not require huge amounts of memory or storage, but they perform much better with up-to-date browsers and operating systems that work more smoothly with upgraded hardware.

When it comes to entertainment, the biggest advantage offered by increasing DRAM becomes apparent when multitasking. Students using several programs, while streaming and using a multitude of open browser tabs, will experience choppy media if their memory can’t handle the task load. Upgrading to at least 8GB will keep everything running smoothly.

The gamer student

Few students will see more of a performance boost after adding DRAM than gamers. Games are becoming increasingly DRAM hungry, requiring at least 4GB or 8GB and carrying developer recommendations of at least 16GB to maximise graphics and enhance gameplay.

Those games also chew up storage, with several anticipated PC titles expected to require 80GB or more, meaning gamers without drive space will have to delete older games and save files to make room for the new. Upgrading with an SSD will make sure you have enough space for all your games. Also, switching from HDDs to SSDs means gamers will wait through shorter or non-existent load screens each time they boot up the game or access a level or save file.

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