Ask Ed

It’s been a little while since I’ve answered a question directly in this column—too long in fact. I just want to remind everyone that if you have technology issues, whether they are computer or electricity related, please drop me a line and I will do my best to get you an answer. You can also visit and leave a comment. Those come directly to the ICL staff, so you’ll be sure to get a response. That said, let’s get on with this month’s Q & A.

Echu from Egyptian Electric in Steeleville asks, “I am thinking about purchasing a laptop, but almost every model available in stores now is made in China. In your opinion, do you think it is worthwhile to purchase a customized laptop? The customized ones seem very pricey!”

That’s a great question. 

For last month’s column I finished up a series on purchasing a new computer, but spoke primarily about desktops. Customized laptops are certainly a harder issue than customized desktops. After all, with a laptop nearly all of the parts are already integrated, because they have to be. Otherwise, how would they all fit within the case? 

And, you’re right. Customizing one of them can get pretty pricey. That said, there are a few things you can do to get the price down a bit and still get something better than the standard off-the-shelf computer. 

Let me start by giving you an analogy:

Imagine you’re going to the grocery store to buy fresh fruit. You get there and start picking out your fruit, but how do you know which is the freshest? Which is the newest one on the shelf? They all look the same, right? 

  It’s the same with buying off-the-shelf computers. You really don’t have any idea how long a particular model has been in production, or how long it’s been sitting on the store shelf, back storeroom, truck, etc.

  So, how do you avoid that? Buy one that has at least one part built to order!

  The good news is that you can do that with most laptop manufacturers these days. You can actually order directly, and throw in some customization while ordering. Keep in mind that you’re probably going to have to wait two weeks or so for actual delivery when you order using this method, but the end result will be a computer that’s usually much “fresher.” And, because you buy directly from the manufacturer, the warranty support is usually very good.

  I don’t advocate one brand over another, but I can tell you that I’ve had success ordering from several different vendors. At the end of this column, I’ll list a few of their sites so you can check them out and decide which is best for you. Just make sure that whichever you choose, you don’t take their base model. Change at least one item in the configuration when you order. That will ensure they have to build the machine, rather than just taking one off the shelf.

Of course, there are many others (including Apple) but I think those three should give you a good idea of what to look for in a laptop. Personally, I’d recommend looking at something with a touchscreen if you’re going to get a new Windows 8 laptop. I love mine! I couldn’t imagine using Windows 8 without a touchscreen. But, that’s a story for another time. 

Here are the promised links.

Toshiba direct:

HP direct:

Lenovo direct:

6 Responses to “Ask Ed”

  1. Jane Miller

    You’ve told us HOW to obtain a laptop that isn’t “stale”, but my question is, WHY is it preferable to get a laptop that hasn’t been sitting in the storeroom? What difference does it make and why is it worth the extra cost to customize?

    • Ed VanHoose


      Good point! Basically, it boils down to the speed at which hardware is refreshed on the market. I’m sure you’ve heard/read how quickly technology becomes obsolete. My main point is that if you purchase a computer a year old, you’re already buying old technology. In fact, sometimes it’s already completely outdated because “a year old” is more like two when you buy off-the-shelf. So, spending $50 to $100 more on your computer to get something much “fresher” is indeed much preferable.

  2. jim fetzner

    I have an HP computer that runs XP and my problem is that the computer lockes up and I have to restart it to get it going again. This happens several times a day. Can you help me?

    • Ed VanHoose


      Let me start by saying that computer lock ups can happen for a variety of reasons. There could be software issues causing the lock ups, or it could be something to do with hardware. I will give you a few things to check, but you may need someone to actually take a look at the computer. It may be that the computer simply needs cleaned. You can purchase canned air from lots of places (including most Walmarts) and then use it to blow out all the dust that gets caked inside. Be sure to pay special attention to the fans inside. In particular, the processor fan and/or video card fan can cause lock ups when they get caked with dust. Also, check to make sure you RAM is seated properly. Sometimes, especially if the computer has moved recently, RAM chips can become slightly unseated. Simply pushing gently down on them will usually fix the problem. You should hear and feel a slight click when they go back in place.

      Again, let me say that if you are not comfortable with the instructions above, seek out an IT professional in your area. You definitely don’t want to run the risk of damaging your computer.

  3. Brett Richeson

    I have a technology question. I used to download songs from Walmart and put them on a CD and was able to play them in my truck (2001 Dodge Dakota) but Walmart got out of the music download business. Now I download MP3s from Amazon. I recently burned an entire album onto a CD but it will not play in my truck. I don’t know what the difference is and what I can do to make the CD play in my truck. Please keep in mind that I am not that computer savvy. Thanks for any help you can give me or point me in the right direction for an answer to my problem.

    Brett Richeson
    Robinson, IL
    Member of Norris Electric Coop

    • Ed VanHoose


      Are you using Amazon’s Audible service? If so, it’s possible that the DRM is preventing you from playback.