Hardware, software and networking guide

Setting Up Your Home Computer

Hardware Devices

Laptop Computer

Plugget.uk requires that pupils on the course to have a laptop with a detachable touch screen, stylus and windows operating system.

Preferred Option: Microsoft Surface

We recommends that you use a Microsoft Surface / Surface Pro in your studies; this is because:

  • It has a touch screen, mouse, keyboard and stylus
  • Many teachers require you to handwrite notes into your One Note exercise book
  • The screen is detachable so the device can lay flat on the desk in lessons
  • The teachers on the course principally Microsoft products and so they will be able to offer support when using this platform.

Alternative Devices

The Microsoft Surface maybe a little beyond everyone's available budget as such we do not stipulate that pupils have this exact piece of hardware. If you do decide to move away from a surface the replacement device must meet the requirements listed above. The following devices are good substitute alternatives:

  • Surface Go
  • Lenovo Idea Pad
  • Lenovo Yoga Book
  • Asus Transformer

Second-hand devices

There is a range of places that you can buy refitted machines which is better for your budget; it lowers the impact to you, if the device should be lost or damaged and it does not contribute to the problem of e-waste caused by mass consumption of mobile technology.

Cex.com is based in most towns in the UK and also delivers online. They offer a two-year warrantee on all products sold.

Learners with an Apple Mac

It is not viewed as necessary for pupils that have already bought a non-windows computer to replace this device. We have tried to make the pieces of software that we use as interoperable as possible. We feel that the environmental and social impact of purchasing a new device out-weighs the school’s need for consistency. This being said should you choose to replace your device in the time that you are in school it would be greatly appreciated if you do so in a manner that conforms to the specification above.

Desktop computer

While certainly not a requirement, it will be a benefit to learners if they also have a desktop environment set up at home. Ideally, this is away from their sleeping area but it is understandable if this is not possible. There are two ways to achieve this:

  • By a cheap windows tower PC and monitor
  • Use a docking device like the Surface Dock, monitor mouse and keyboard

There are various reasons why this is beneficial to learning at home:

  • A multi-screen environment boosts productivity;
  • Keyboards and mice are better for posture and reduce RSI;
  • You can purchase a range of peripherals such as cameras, microphones, digital instruments to give your child new opportunities to be creative at home.

Software Packages

As well as purchasing the correct hardware pupils should ensure that they have installed the following software packages on their home computer.

Web Browsers

This course is delivered entirely on the web. As such ensuring that you have a widely compatible and up to date web browser is essential. Learners should have Google Chrome on all their devices as it is viewed to have the best support for our online tools across a range of devices. This can be downloaded from: https://www.google.co.uk/chrome/

Adobe Reader

Many of the exam papers at secondary school are released as pdf devices as such learners should download the free PDF reader onto the device. https://get.adobe.com/uk/reader/

Home Network

While working from home network connectivity issues can get in the way of education. As such it is important that you ensure that your child is able have a reliable connection to the internet.

Connect via Ethernet first

Ethernet to USB adapter If you are able to connect your computer directly to the router using an Ethernet cable is preferable. If you are using a laptop without an Ethernet port you can still connect to a wired network by using an Ethernet adapter (left).

Ethernet over power adaptor If your router is too far from you computer desk then you can use a power-line adapter kit which lets you send data over your power cables. These cost less than £50 and allow you to extend your wired network. The computer can be plugged into the power socket device with an Ethernet cable and will not need any configuration. Some of these devices also come with a Wi-Fi extender.

Wired networks are preferred as they provide better security; the signal remains strong as you move away from the home router and they have a faster transmission speed.

Improving Your Wi-Fi

As well as having a wired connection to the computer desk you should also try to extend your wireless network to cover all parts of your house. The following steps can be taken to improve Wi-Fi connectivity:

  • Set your router to transmit on an appropriate frequency: 5GHz will give you a greater number of channels and speed over a shorter distance; 2.4GHz works better when you have thick walls or need to transmit over a greater range.
  • You may be trying to transmit on the same channel as your neighbor. You can manually change this channel in the router settings.
  • Try repositioning your router in a more central part of your home.
  • Upgrade your router so it supports the 802.11ax wireless standard (current as of 2020) and potentially has a greater range.
  • Use a wireless extender plug to stretch the network to more remote areas in your home.

Your internet service provider should be able to support you with improving your internet connection. Be mindful, however, less scrupulous providers will often try to charge you monthly for extending your Wi-Fi when it is as simple as spending £50-£100 on some new kit or just reconfiguring your existing router.

Staying Safe Online

You should take responsibility for your own internet usage and safety.  The following resources should be engaged with before starting the course:

Last modified: Wednesday, 22 April 2020, 10:56 PM