The Mouse Wars: Laser vs Optical

Ask Mr. Modem!

Q. I was mouse shopping the other day and I looked at both a laser mouse and an optical mouse. I bought the laser mouse, but now Im not sure if I bought the right thing. Whats the difference between a laser mouse and an optical mouse, and is one better than the other?

A. The difference between an optical mouse and a laser mouse, besides the spelling (sorry, I couldn't resist), is the light used to track movement. An optical mouse uses an LED (light-emitting diode), while a laser mouse uses a -- care to guess? Thats right, a laser. The more dots per inch (dpi) a mouse can track, the more responsive and accurate it is. A typical optical mouse tracks between 400 and 800 dpi, while laser mice track more than 2,000 dpi.

Neither is really better; it all depends on your needs and preferences. Unless you're a gamer or a graphic artist with a need for super-precise movement, you'll probably find a 2,000 dpi laser mouse overly sensitive, but thats the primary difference. An optical mouse would have served your purposes well, but you didn't purchase the "wrong" mouse unless you find it to be overly responsive and difficult to control. Many gaming mice (lasers) allow you to adjust sensitivity levels so that you have precision movement when you need it, but can revert to 400 dpi or 800 dpi for regular mousing activities. You'll have to check the documentation, Help files, or the Web site of your laser mouse to determine if yours has that capability.

In addition to tracking speed, laser mice work on nearly every surface; optical mice may occasionally experience trouble tracking on black or shiny surfaces.

Q. When I attempt to edit a saved document, a message tells me that the file is "Read Only." How can I change it so I can edit the document?

A. First, navigate to the file using Windows Explorer. (Start > Programs > Windows Explorer or Start > Programs > Accessories > Windows Explorer or Windows Key + E or right-click Start > Explore.)

Right-click the document file and select Properties. On the General tab, look for the Attributes section where you will see a box labeled Read Only. Click to remove the check mark beside it, followed by OK to save and exit. You will now be able to edit the document.

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Mr. Modem publishes "Ask Mr. Modem! each week, featuring PC tips, tricks, and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit