Update [3/21/08 1:40PM EST]: Sony's Jon Piazza tells us, "Sony has decided to remove the $50 charge. Fresh Start will be free of charge."
Holy crap(ware), Batman! If you've ever gotten a new laptop or desktop, only to turn it on and had time to make a sandwich while it slowly boots up, you know that PC makers can shovel a lot of bloated software onto their systems. From trial versions to advertising links to proprietary media players, these apps can make a brand-new laptop run like one that's several years old.
Sony is among the most egregious of the offenders, sometimes sticking entire DRM-encrypted movies (Sony ones, of course) on your hard drive, which require $10 or so to unlock.
Some vendors are now seeing the light and offering a bloatware-free option in their online configurators, but the eagle-eyed gang at Engadget this morning discovered that Sony's version of this, called the "Fresh Start" option, costs an extra $50.
We tried configuring an ultraportable Vaio TZ2200 and found the following:
Fresh Start (removal of specific VAIO? applications, trial software and games) [add $49.99]
Opt for a Fresh Start? and your VAIO PC will undergo a system optimization service where specific VAIO applications, trial software and games are removed from your unit prior to shipment. Fresh Start safely scrubs your PC to free up valuable hard drive space and conserve memory and processing power while maximizing overall system performance right from the start.
Back when we reviewed Sony's popular TZ150 ultraportable, we noted, "Sony doesn't help matters by including tons of bloatware (including preloaded versions of the first two Spider-Man movies, which take up 3GB of hard drive space, but cost $9.99 each to unlock). Start times, in particular, were interminable, until we cleaned out the start-up folder."
If you don't want to shell out fifty bucks for a bloatware-free system, we did an Insider Secrets video last year called, "Rid your PC of crapware," which takes you step-by-step through the process of cleaning out all this junk. Or, send us $50 and we'll come over and do it for you.