Top 10 Laptop Essentials

On the Road: Take It With You

If you plan to leave the house frequently with your laptop, consider a wheeled bag. Depending on how heavy your notebook is, carrying a portable computer in a shoulder-strap bag or backpack can be hard on your body. Also, make sure the bag has plenty of compartments for all your accessories.

A terrific place to shop online for bags is EBags. You can browse by price, brand, material (such as leather), and more. Plus, EBags has a 30-day satisfaction-guaranteed return policy.

I'm particularly fond of the Travelon 14-inch Carry-On with View Thru Panels ($110 at EBags). While it's not technically a laptop bag, it can accommodate most portable computers (except perhaps the big, 17-inch screen giants). Best of all, it rolls easily down airplane aisles, fits under most coach seats for easy access, and has plenty of compartments, including one for a water bottle.

For reviews of laptop bags, go to "Mobile Computing: Hands-On Guide to Notebook Bags."

USB Thumb Drive

Small USB drives are flash memory cards that connect to your computer through its USB port. The devices are usually not much bigger than a key and can store 128MB, 256MB, and more of data. And because they're instantly recognized by Windows XP computers, you don't have to install drivers to use them. All of this makes them essential for quick, easy, on-the-go backup or file exchange.

One standout in particular is Forward Solutions' Migo. In addition to serving as a 256MB file storage device, the Migo ($200) can also store your Outlook e-mail and personal computer settings (such as desktop wallpaper and Internet Explorer favorites). Plug it into another computer, log in, and it's as if you're using your own PC. That's particularly handy for anyone who works on one computer at home and another at the office.

Airplane Power Adapter

Increasingly, airlines are offering power outlets for laptops in coach, business, and first-class cabins. The ports require special adapters, however, and one adapter doesn't necessarily fit all laptops. Airline power adapters usually cost $100 or more, so they're not cheap. Still, if you plan to work often during long flights, an airline power adapter is money well spent.

My favorite is IGo's Juice ($120), a combination AC and automobile notebook power adapter, which can be outfitted with power cables to charge your PDA, cell phone, and laptop from either an airplane or automobile.

For detailed information about the ins and outs of power ports in the sky, see "Mobile Computing: Power Outlets on Airplanes."

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