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March 27, 2024 5 minutes to read ∙ 1100 words

Ask Techie: Should I Buy My New Laptop from Amazon or the Manufacturer?

Welcome to the latest installment of our monthly Q&A column, where a panel of experts answers your questions about using technology in your law practice.

This month, we answer readers’ questions about whether you should buy your new laptop from Amazon or the manufacturer and how to protect yourself when clicking on links to PDF files you find online or in emails.

Q: Should I Buy My New Laptop from Amazon or the Manufacturer?

I’m looking to buy a new laptop, and I found one I like that I can buy on Amazon. Should I buy it there or through the manufacturer?

A: If you are deciding whether to make your next laptop purchase through Amazon or directly from the manufacturer, there are several things to consider:

Buying from Amazon

  • Faster delivery. The laptops you purchase on Amazon are often pre-built and can be delivered faster.
  • Warranty issues. Some manufacturers offer limited or no warranty for products sold through third-party retailers such as Amazon. (HP is one such manufacturer.) This is one of the biggest reasons to purchase directly from the manufacturer. If you choose to buy from Amazon, it is important to verify whether the laptop comes with a manufacturer’s warranty and whether it is honored in your region. If it does not have a warranty, Amazon will usually offer a warranty that you should add to your purchase.
  • Returns and refunds. Amazon typically offers a straightforward returns policy, but the process might be more complicated or less favorable than what you’d get from buying directly from the manufacturer.
  • Customer support. Issues or questions regarding the product may require dealing with Amazon’s customer service first, which can sometimes lead to delays or complications if the issue needs to be escalated to the manufacturer.
  • Variety and bundles. Amazon may offer a wider variety of models, configurations, or bundles than a manufacturer’s site. However, these bundles might not always align with what’s officially supported or recommended by the manufacturer. Some of the upgrades you can add to your laptop might not be supported by the hardware and can lead to system failure. This is another reason you should consider purchasing directly from the manufacturer.
  • Marketplace risks. When buying from Amazon, especially from third-party sellers, there’s a risk of receiving counterfeit or used products misrepresented as new. It’s crucial to check the seller’s ratings and reviews.
  • Pricing. Prices can be competitive on Amazon due to various sellers, discounts, and offers. However, you should compare this with the manufacturer’s prices, as they sometimes offer special deals or educational discounts (such as the ABA member discounts with Dell) not available through third-party sellers.

Buying from the Manufacturer

  • Direct support and warranty. Buying directly ensures that you receive the full manufacturer’s warranty and support, which can be more straightforward and reliable. This is the biggest benefit of buying direct.
  • Customization options. Manufacturers often offer customization options for your laptop that may not be available through Amazon, allowing you to choose specific components, software, and services. The manufacturer is also more aware of the limits of customizing your system and can help you avoid overloading and damaging your hardware.
  • Exclusive deals. Manufacturers may offer exclusive deals, bundles, or products that are only available through their website.
  • Software and updates. Buying directly can sometimes ensure that you receive the laptop with the latest software updates or exclusive software offers.
  • Financing options. Manufacturers often provide financing options or payment plans that might not be available through Amazon, making the purchase more accessible for some customers.
  • Reduced risk of counterfeits. The risk of receiving counterfeit or misrepresented products is virtually eliminated when purchasing directly from the manufacturer.

Ultimately, there is far more benefit to buying directly from the manufacturer rather than from Amazon. The only time you may find Amazon to be better is when you need the laptop in a hurry and cannot afford to wait for your customized unit to be built and shipped.

Techie: Ashley Hallene, JD, GPSolo eReport Editor-in-Chief ([email protected]).

Q: How Can I Protect Myself When Clicking on Links to PDF Files That I Find Online or in Emails?

A: PDF files, like many others, are risky. You can take a number of steps to protect yourself.

PDF files can contain malware that steals files, launches ransomware, and remotely controls computers. You can be tricked into opening a bad PDF by phishing emails (where email senders impersonate someone or some company you trust).

Poisoned search results conceal a similar danger. Scammers are flooding the Internet with fake websites offering free but infected downloadable PDF legal forms, pushing legitimate websites for downloadable forms further down in search results.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

A key answer is updates, updates, updates.

Personally, I find software updates annoying. They interrupt, distract, and delay. Yet, they are necessary, even critical.

Cybercriminals are finding and exploiting software flaws every day. They create new viruses as often as every 15 minutes. This allows them to bypass many antivirus programs, such as the free version of Microsoft Defender, which is updated only a few times per day.

Your antivirus program must be regularly updated. Make sure yours is set to automatically update. I recommend using a product with cloud-based updates more frequently than every 60 minutes, such as Sophos Endpoint Protection, Webroot, or ESET Protect Advanced.

Updating your other applications is also vital. Your web browsers—Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Safari—really need their updates. Otherwise, their emerging vulnerabilities can be used against you. Browsers have their own built-in PDF viewers. If they are not up-to-date, malicious JavaScript can be run from infected web pages that take advantage of web browsers’ flaws.

The list of important cybersecurity protections includes many other items, but the timely updating of software ranks right up near the top of the list.

Techie: Wells H. Anderson, JD, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor and CEO of SecureMyFirm, 952/922-1120, www.securemyfirm.com—we protect small firms from cyber threats with affordable, multiple layers of defense.

What’s YOUR question?

If you have a technology question, please forward it to Managing Editor Rob Salkin ([email protected]) at your earliest convenience. Our response team selects the questions for response and publication. Our regular response team includes Jeffrey Allen, Wells H. Anderson, Ashley Hallene, Al Harrison, and Matthew Murrell. We publish submitted questions anonymously, just in case you do not want someone else to know you asked the question.

Please send in your questions today!

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Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 8, March 2024 . © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.