Personal service computes for local shop
Morton Grove- Krex Computers, is one of a few remaining independent computer stores, it has been in business since 1986. Owner Al Lakhani. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:43AM
When you call Krex Computers, you might be greeted by a recording that talks about the store’s custom-built computer systems that include either a 5.25 or 3.5-inch floppy drive.
While owner Al-Amin Lakhani admits the message is probably due for changing, he is proud of the fact that customers can indeed still find a variety of floppy drives at the Morton Grove store, something some of them need to access old data they’ve never transferred to a newer format.
“We still have floppy drives. People still have data on floppy drives,” Lakhani said.
Lakhani got out of school in the 1980s, with a degree in computer science and he says more book knowledge than practical knowledge.
“I went to work for a company and started really learning,” he said.
In about 1990 he decided to go out on his own, and opened Computer Brain Inc. in Skokie.
He still owns that store, now in its second location since moving to Lincolnwood.
Being in the same business, he knew Steve Krex and about four years ago leaned that Krex wanted to move on.
“We started our businesses about the same time. We knew each other and when I heard he wanted to sell out I made him an offer,” Lakhani said.
Krex accepted, and Lakhani took over Krex Computers in 2008.
Though many of the independent computer stores that sprouted up with the advent of personal computers long ago were driven out of business by big box stores and large computer retailers like Dell, Lakhani said his ability to provide personal service has allowed him to keep going.
Lakhani and his staff at Krex build new systems for customers at the Morton Grove store. That enables them to customize a computer based on the customer’s needs.
In some cases, that may mean a more basic system for someone interested in simple tasks like word processing and email, or a more powerful system with a fast, multi-core processor, snappy video card and lots of memory for a system designed for gaming.
“All of our systems are custom-made,” Lakhani said. “We try to find out what they want to do and then we make a recommendation.
“We customize it to their needs. That’s what we specialize in,” Lakhani said. “We use quality parts to build a system that suits their needs.”
The use of standardized components, from hard drives to optical drives and memory modules, makes it easier and often cheaper to replace a part that has failed or to upgrade a system. The components, even something like the motherboard, are easily replaceable with parts purchased at Krex or any other supplier.
That’s different than many prebuilt, name-brand systems that often use expensive parts that can only be purchased from the computer’s manufacturer.
“You’re held hostage. You have to buy their proprietary components,” Lakhani said.
A big part of his business, Lakhani said, is service. In addition to servicing Krex systems, the shop can repair pretty much anything, including replacing broken screens or defective circuit boards in notebook computers.
The store also does a considerable amount of virus removal for customers whose systems become infected. Maintenance and repairs can be done on-site or at the store.
“We do a lot of maintenance and cleaning. We can solve any kind of technical problems they have,” he said. “A lot of our clients are small- or medium-size businesses.”
Krex also gets called in often to recover data from a machine that has had a hard drive failure.
In many cases, Lakhani said, computer owners have installed an external hard drive that could be used for backup. But instead of duplicating data that is on the computer’s main hard drive, they simply move it to the external drive.
“If that drive goes bad, you’ve lost the data,” he said. “We do a lot of data recovery.”
As for himself, Lakhani has one word for what he enjoys about computers. “Speed, speed and speed,” he said.
His current favorite processor meets that need for speed. It’s an eight-core processor made by AMD. It’s the equivalent of having eight brains in one machine.
“It’s like driving down an eight-lane highway,” Lakhani said.
Lakhani said customers come to him rather than buying at a large chain store or through the Internet because of the personal service they don’t offer and he does.
“People come to us not because of the pre-sale service, but for the post-sale service,” he said.
“I love to be able to help somebody meet their needs and see them happy at the end of the day,” Lakhani said. “That’s the most satisfying part, providing them with something they like.”