Saving on Hardware
Many computer manufacturers offer discounts to students. Sometimes this is through a specific agreement with your university, other times it just required a .edu email address. Try searching for your preferred computer manufacturer and “academic discounts”, or follow the links below:
Most major manufacturers release coupon codes frequently. A quick search for “HP discount codes” reveals codes for as much as $400 off of laptops. Some manufacturers don’t let you combine an academic discount with a coupon code, so you need to do your research to see which is cheaper. When I bought my laptop, non-academic coupons saved me more than an academic discount would have.
Refurbished computers are those which were sent back to the manufacturer, and can’t be sold as new. In most cases though, they are still in perfect condition – the customer bought the wrong model, it didn’t quite meet their requirements, etc. Refurb computers typically come with at least the standard warranty, if not a longer one, and are typically much cheaper.
Saving on Software
I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate: never buy software upgrades with your computer! I guarantee you can find it cheaper elsewhere. Opportunities for free and reduced software are abundant.
Alternatives to Windows
If you’ve used Linux before, or want to give it a try, look for computer vendors which offer models without Windows pre-installed. Computer makers pay extra for Windows licenses, and pass that cost on to you. Some people have been successful in getting refunds for the bundles Windows license even, though it usually takes far more effort than it’s worth – I tried, and gave up after two hours on the phone with HP. Before going the Linux route though, make sure that any programs you’ll be required to run for your classes are supported, or that there are alternatives on Linux. Alternatives.to is a useful website, but professors may not be flexible. Some Windows software will run in WINE, but again, check ahead of time.
Microsoft Office and Windows
If you want to upgrade from the Home edition of Windows which comes with most PCs, want to run bootcamp on your Mac, or need Microsoft Office, check out the Microsoft Student Store. These discounts require that you verify your affiliation with an educational organization, either by providing a .edu email address or by providing proof of enrollment, such as a transcript, via email.
Engineering, computer science, and business students should check if their school has an MSDNAA subscription. Programs with a subscription provide most Microsoft software to students for free, including multiple versions of Windows, Visual Studio, Visio, and assorted less-used software including Windows versions back to MS DOS. Microsoft Office is not usually included with an MSDNAA subscription though.
Some campus bookstores will have additional software discounts, such as Office for Windows and Mac, iWork, and more. These prices vary by institution, but at some schools, can be cheaper than even Microsoft’s online student store.
Adobe Creative Suite
If you’re studying graphic design, art, photography, or other majors that need software like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Premier, Adobe has massive student discounts available. Creative Suite products are discounted by hundreds of dollars for students, although the software is still pricey, and free/open source alternatives are worth considering.
Some PCs come with an option to “upgrade” to a longer subscription. Why buy antivirus though when Microsoft – and other companies – provide it free? Don’t spend money on an antivirus program. Microsoft Security Essentials is free for all Windows users, and works well. Your university may also have a site license for enterprise-level antivirus, which may be optional or required.
A computer is an important investment, but it doesn’t have to be exceedingly expensive. Looking for deals takes a bit of extra time, but can save you serious money.