April 26, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

PC buyers aim to cut the 'crapware'

When large businesses buy new PCs, they often wipe the hard drives clean and install a fresh copy of Windows, along with the other software they want workers to have.

Some consumers, frustrated with all of the trial software, desktop icons and other stuff that comes loaded on their machines, are doing the same thing.

However, what works for businesses isn't always so easy for individuals. Many computers don't actually come with a clean copy of the operating system. Instead, many ship with a "recovery partition" or a recovery disc that restores the system back to the way it shipped--with all that extra software.

"I'm willing to accept that it comes with junk and I'm willing to clean it up," said Bill Shanner, a self-described "senior-citizen engineer" who has seven laptops and at least a half dozen desktops. "The thing that aggravates me is having to buy a second copy of an operating system. If you pay for something, you ought to get what you pay for."

"The thing that aggravates me is having to buy a second copy of an operating system. If you pay for something, you ought to get what you pay for."
--Bill Shanner, self-described "senior-citizen engineer"

Some PC makers, like Gateway and Dell, say they do offer consumers a disc with just Windows, allowing them to do a clean install of the operating system, should they choose to do so. Others, like Hewlett-Packard and Sony, use a "system restore" option. HP said it does so to help facilitate product support.

"HP's support experience relies on many of the diagnostics and tools that are specific to the software image provided," a company representative said in an e-mail. "In order to provide this support experience, the system is restored to factory specifications."

Apple also uses a system restore option on Macs, though its machines ship with only two trial programs, iWork and Microsoft Office, along with the full versions of iLife and a handful of other third-party titles.

Shanner said he favors some sort of consumer's bill of rights that would ensure those who buy a PC with Windows can do what they want with it.

Offering a disc with just the operating system seems like a way for PC makers to improve customer satisfaction, said IDC analyst Richard Shim.

"You pay for it, you may as well get it," Shim said. Doing so, Shim said, would also allow companies to keep preinstalling software while giving customers who want to remove the software an easier option.

Lenovo uses recovery partitions, but on more recent models it has started offering a "custom restore" option that enables people to choose which of the software programs to reinstall.

"This will allow users to selectively restore things like our ThinkVantage Technologies or other preloaded software," a Lenovo representative said in a statement.

Some analysts have said that they also expect PC makers to begin experimenting with offering clean PCs--ones without any added trial software or other preinstalled programs. Customers may have to pay extra, though, to offset the fact that PC makers make money from many of the programs they add to a new PC's hard drive.

Current Analysis research director Samir Bhavnani said he thought $25 would be a reasonable price that would make the computer maker whole and be affordable enough to appeal to consumers.

One reason that a "clean PC" is a better alternative than wiping the hard drive is that PC makers also equip their machines with the needed drivers for their specific hardware. Although many PC makers do have them for download on their Web site, finding all of the needed bits can be quite a challenge.

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Richard Shim, PC company, Lenovo, copy, system restore

89 comments

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An amazing amount of "common sense"
I'm surprised it's taken this long as computer users, even grandma and grandpa, are now savvy enough to know what they want on their machines. The added registry keys and processes taken up by this bloatware is ridiculous. And let's not even mention the constant popups to get you to purchase whatever crap they're selling today. Pheh... No, I'd gladly pay for a lean, clean rig, but since I build my own, the point is moot.

Da Worfster
Posted by Worf101 (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Please note...
that while there are some applications bundled with Macintosh
systems, they are NOT on the desktop when you first start up.
Some may be in the dock, but are easily removed. Uninstalling
applications is a simple matter of dragging to the trash.
Posted by brettlea (8 comments )
Link Flag
Way to go.
I'm with you build your own, avoid the crap & get exactly what you want.From start to boot it takes me around 7 hours to install the software I want & I save a bundle of bucks also.
Posted by hender650 (6 comments )
Link Flag
Why not?
Put the crapware on the pc, but not the restore disc? Seems that would be an easy alternative.
Posted by rbeier (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Except...
... the manufacturer gets money from all these software publishers. If they make it too easy to wipe the machine, the publishers aren't gonna pay.

I say let the market deal with it. If there's a groundswell of opinion, some clever manufacturer is going to notice, and they'll figure out a way to deliver clean PCs for a minimal amount of money; then they'll create some huge advertising campaign, and then they'll all have to follow suit.
Posted by fool4jesus (3 comments )
Link Flag
nice idea but...
....what happens if a novice user actually likes/uses some of that stuff and wants it back after a restore?
Posted by perfectblue97 (326 comments )
Link Flag
There are alternatives.
When we bought our Dell desktop in 2000, it came with CDs that held copies of almost everything installed on the system. When I later upgraded the harddrive, I was able to reinstall everything but the Dell-specific utilities for identifying my service tag. All the software and drivers were included.

When companies talk about "restore partitions" being better for support, what they're really saying is that they don't have support technicians - they've got people who can read a script and click buttons. In my experience, if you do anything to your PC that isn't on their script, they're useless.
Posted by dagwud (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Partially correct...
Restore partitions are great for "rookies" who have no idea how to configure a computer ("rookies" can be extremely difficult to deal with when it comes to settings, drivers, etc).
Users who are not "rookies" do indeed HATE "restore partitions" which are an insult as well as a real waste of time.

My solution is simple: I refuse to purchase a name brand that doesn't include 2 discs - the OS & the system drivers (why I've built most of my systems over the last 10 years).
Posted by trapper1964 (14 comments )
Link Flag
dead HD
never understood the value of a restore partition - when your HD gets hosed, so does the restore partition. Moronic
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
I have an HP laptop...
and desktop. The desktop came with the option to have the restore CD (which I took), but the laptop did not. The laptop only comes with a restore partition.

I like the idea of the restore partition as I've already used it twice, but I should also have a copy of the CD's. My next suggestion is don't install trialware on computers or at least don't include it in the restore partition or recovery CD's. Most people I know who have owned at least a couple of computers won't use trialware anyway and normally just uninstall it.

With that said, support your local computer stores. I've owned many white box computers and have always had better support from the local business than I have ever gotten from HP or Dell. Sure you generally pay a little more, but at least you get a real Windows CD.

And if you hate Windows then buy a white box PC and load up Linux on it at home or buy a Mac. And remember these companies get away with this crap because "we" let them. Stop buying there products and see how long it is before crapware goes away.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can get back the wasted space from the restore partition and get CD's
I have an HP laptop, first thing I did was burn what is on the partition on 3 CD's, there is a tool to do that.

Apparently the disks are DRM'd and have limited allowed copies. So the next thing I did was boot into linux and burn another copy just in case the first copy gets hosed.

Doesn't matter much to me though, openSuSE runs great on my laptop, I don't think I have booted into windows since I burned those first disks.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
Restore Partition????
Try accessing it when your computer wont boot, then call tech support, and ask them how will i restore from it, well hmmm sput sput.When you pay for a computer you also buy the operating system and without the disk in dire straits you are just SOL
Posted by olcoot (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
U r SOL
Yes exactly. I had to "restore" my HP desktop because i tried vista when it was still a beta and it wouldn't work with all my software, i should've known. Unbeknownest to me i was supposed to make restore CDs. IT was nice they told me, not, i wish they had. But it took my 4 weeks and two trys to get CDs that worked. AlsoThe hardware confoguration has to be exactly as it was shipped, sooo if u replaced the HD after say it burnt up, well ur up the creek.
Posted by sinsforce (4 comments )
Link Flag
Restore Partition????
Try accessing it when your computer wont boot, then call tech support, and ask them how will i restore from it, well hmmm sput sput.When you pay for a computer you also buy the operating system and without the disk in dire straits you are just SOL
Posted by olcoot (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Or when the drive dies
As well, the restore partition isn't very useful if it gets corrupted or if the hard drive has a complete failure.
Posted by PCsRfun (64 comments )
Link Flag
It's also a rip-off...
Think about it - you paid for, say, a "160GB hard drive"... not "160GB minus the crap that our restore partition will eat".



/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Boot Disk?
Don't most windoze pc's come with a boot disk that will let you choose the partition to boot? I know you can make one through some built-in windoze utility... I'm not really sure.. I'm kind of going off memory cause I usually just format the HD and use a disk we have at the office to install Windoze 2000.
Posted by hellsyes (44 comments )
Link Flag
Can't MS help here?
I have no issue with the hardware OEM's putting this stuff onto their PC's, they're getting paid for it and it helps them keep the cost of the machine lower. The "advertisers" are paying the bill for me to get a lower priced box. What I have an issue with is the lack of options to restore the software.

The hardware OEM's don't want to include CD's or DVD's because in general they have to pay for one for every system and only a small percentage gets used. This is also why "restore partitions" are becoming popular. OK, I get it.

In theory you should be albe to take any generic Windows install disc and re-install from scratch but MS limits this option by their licensing structure (OK) so that a retail XP disc won't install with the license key that is stuck to the back of my new laptop. Again, I'm OK with these restrictions as long as someone can give me the right solution.


The solution is for either MS or the hardware OEM to allow a way to download and burn a disc that conforms to the license that you have without any of the junk in it. Probably better from the OEM standpoint because they can include the drivers for the specific hardware if they're not in the MS standard distribution and make it easier. The objection to this in the past has been piracy, but now with product activation and more bullet-proof keys, Microsoft should be more comfortable with people doing this.


Of course none of this really matters to me personally given that I switched my entire house to Macintosh over the last 6 months. But I do help others fix up issues with their PC's and I'm often amazed at how much junk comes with one these days.
Posted by w_jackson (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No - people would sue.
Go gripe to your attorney generals that tied MS' hands long ago.

Vista is a very slick and clean OS. It makes me sad to walk through computer stores and see how badly OEMs disfigure it.
Posted by smilin:) (889 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft is at the heart of the problem!!!
Have you ever needed to rebuild an XP system and have to beg the tech support people in India (or where ever they are, and it's not the US) to let you reistall your copy of wiwdows because you were forced to "Activate" it half way through the install because they won't let you access the updates that are required to install some drivers (ex the XP Media Center 2005 patch disk) and have it crash and not let you try the patch again without wiping the disk first... Or you have a CPU or Motherboard failure...

They have the idea that you should pay full retail eveery time you install it... even it it's the same system you bought it with...

Sorry for the rant, but I get so tired of being treated like a bootlegger for doing normal system maintenance...
Posted by rleeson (4 comments )
Link Flag
Not Microsoft's problem
OEM's are both capable and indeed encouraged to create OEM loads with the appropriate drivers slipstreamed. The only gotcha is the OEM's don't want to spend the time and money to create and maintain two OEM loads per machine, one with crapware and one without. And even if they want to, it might cut into the revenue stream the get from the providers of said software. And that revenue is in effect a discount to you. Otherwise you would pay more for your machine.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Link Flag
Customized Restore Disk
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://unattended.msfn.org/unattended.xp/view/web/3/" target="_newWindow">http://unattended.msfn.org/unattended.xp/view/web/3/</a>
Posted by Fritzr_gc (19 comments )
Link Flag
ALL YOU NEED IS AN XP CD even BORROWED..how? look here..!
When you BUY a Laptop OR PC that DOESN'T come with the XP CD all you simply have to do is BORROW an XP-HOME or PRO CD and re-install using the PRODUCT KEY on the windows sticker on the bottom of your laptop or back of your tower...
e.g.
if you have a laptop with XP-Home on and you only have a recovery disc and you want a clean install of HOME all you do is borrow a XP HOME CD (not Pro) and install it , when asked for product key type in the key on YOUR Windows Sticker...
when Windows connects to Microsoft it checks this Product Key with Windows Version (home) and the components in your computer..
e.g.
If you have a laptop with sempron chip / seagate 60Gb hard drive and 512Mb RAM... it takes these specs along with mobo type and chasis no. (if has one) and assign XP-HOME with that product key to those specs and stores in Microsoft Databases...
So when you re-install XP Home it check its the same computer as it should be with that product key and bobs yer uncle....
everyone knows someone with an XP home CD...
I may also note that some companys like DELL... and others..
even though they SELL you (if you want it) a copy of the WINDOWS XP CD they sometimes (DELL does) have an option to BURN the Operating System to CD in the ALL PROGRAMS menu... thus you create your won for free rather than pay DELL £15 for the CD...
Mine did anyway....
My Packard Bell had similiar but was the restore image and NOT XP itslef
Posted by snadge (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bad Advice
Sounds as if you are advocating piracy, which is what has gotten us into all this mess with software vendors trying to protect their products.
This is a problem (no OS CD) &#38; why I don't buy OEM's (I don't even have a laptop--what a dinosaur, huh), but to use this to justify piracy is still wrong.

I have had to reinstall Pro from a retail CD (I build my own computers) and indeedy-do I had to talk to a MS rep and get another authorization number---but there was no hassle.

Please don't type in caps--that's shouting.
Posted by kenny-J (53 comments )
Link Flag
won't work
the sticker on your PC is an OEM license which will not work with a retail disk. There are documented ways to hack a disc to match a key but it's not for the common user.


As for the piracy comment, it technically is piracy if you use a key from one license with a distribution that comes with a different license. MS, of course could fix this if they wanted to.
Posted by w_jackson (23 comments )
Link Flag
not accurate, don't listen
what the above person forgot to mention, because he/she doesn't know, is that there are several versions of XP home and pro
there are
xp home OEM (this is what your dells and HPs ship with)

xp home retail
xp home MSDN
XP Pro retail
XP Pro MSDN
XP Pro OEM
XP Pro VLK

one key from say an OEM copy will not work with a retail CD.
go ahead and try it if you want, make sure to format your hard drive and lose all your data before hand. then you can come back after you try it and it doesn't work and tell me i was right.

here is what you can do.
you can take a Dell XP OEM home CD and use it to install XP Home on ANOTHER DELL
you can take a HP OEM CD and use it to install on another HP.

you CAN NOT use a MSDN key to install a retail copy
you CAN NOT use a VLK key to install OEM
and so on and such forth...

so just becauswe you have a little sticker on your computer with a key for XP DOES NOT mean any copy of XP on CD will work.
Posted by zackinma (34 comments )
Link Flag
Just use a pirated copy
XP Pro and even Vista super duper are easily available for download with product keys that work. Yes it is "piracy". Who cares? MS made 5 billion profit last quarter and has not paid taxes in over a decade. Yes, that is rationalization, but that is just life. I think it is funny that people have these high minded morals while corporations rape and steal all they want.

For the record, I do not use Windows or Office. OpenOffice is free and superior. If you are set on a cheap PC go for a linux distro. If you want a quality box with few problems and low maintenance and user friendly then buy a Mac.
Posted by expatincebu (156 comments )
Link Flag
retail
cant use an OEM key on a retail CD
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
retail
cant use an OEM key on a retail CD
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
Crapware is a double-edged sword
On the one hand, all that crapware installed at the factory helps lower the cost of the machine. The software vendors pay to have their stuff installed by the PC vendor, who then passes (at least some of) that savings on to the buyer.

On the other hand, it leaves the buyer with who-knows-what preinstalled on their new machine. Getting rid of it can be a nuisance. PC Decrapifier does a pretty good job of this; Add/Remove Programs does the rest. It's the price you pay for a cheap machine.

As far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for a PC vendor not providing a plain OS disc and a copy of the system's drivers. This would cost only a dollar or two. Recovery partitions are useless if the hard drive crashes. Even if you can use it, you just get all that crapware back on your machine.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Keep this in mind - forever
Crapware installed at the factory does not help lower the cost of the machine, it increases the amount of profit that goes into the PC vendor's pocket! Business' only objective is to put as much profit into their pockets as absolutely possible, this is simply another mechanism to add to the profits - not that their is anything wrong with that, but ... at some level someone is feeling some financial pain or sees an opportunity to slant the table so that more customers choose their product.
Posted by DecliningUSDollar (56 comments )
Link Flag
Restore CD/DVD is the better choice
As you said crapware is a double-edged sword. But not just because it offers a lower price for the system - what are 20 euro/dollars on a 2000 euro/dollars system??
It think that all that crapware has been chosen carefully by the manifacturer in order to provide customer satisfaction and productivity while maintainning or increasing system performance.
Have you asked yourself why Toshiba puts Mcafee on some systems while on others Norton or a different brand??
Or how about that yahoo messenger or aim???
Even though in some cases it can be annoying (especially if you don't use that software) you can easily erase that program and no harm done.
And finally, as far as plan windows OS is considered, how many times have you tried to reinstall the system (recover)???
It takes somewhere from 30 to 60 minutes just for the OS to be instaled!!!!
And with a simple recovery CD/DVD this is done in under 15 minutes including all that crapeware but also MS Office and other programs if you have bought them with the system.
It may prove insignificant for one time use but for regular use (once a month) the recovery CD/DVD is a MUST!!!
Posted by buco55 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Carried away with greed...
You know, I wouldn't even mind the c--pware so much if the manufacturers would make their adware partners play by some rules. I can survive spending a session of deleting and defragging knowing it saved me some money on my purchase, but what absolutely enrages me is when an adware maker induces the manufacturer to make their product a protected part of the os so that it can't be deleted. Why do that to somebody who doesn't want your product? The people who want it will buy it, why tick off the rest of us?
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Carried away with greed...
You know, I wouldn't even mind the c--pware so much if the manufacturers would make their adware partners play by some rules. I can survive spending a session of deleting and defragging knowing it saved me some money on my purchase, but what absolutely enrages me is when an adware maker induces the manufacturer to make their product a protected part of the os so that it can't be deleted. Why do that to somebody who doesn't want your product? The people who want it will buy it, why tick off the rest of us?
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CRAP is in the eye of the beholder
CRAPware is irritating and when I own a PC, I want to decide whats on it or not. The point I want to make is that defintion is subjective based on the user. In my opinion, a lot of the bundled features included in the OS I would label as CRAPware. Software manufacturers are almost soley focused on packing in more and more features, most of which are useless and bloat the machine. How about they focus on quality and elegance and efficiency and sell features and modules ala carte. That way I(the user) can pick and choose which components are included. Instead of this all or nothing, one size fits all approach. That way the processing power, memory and storage I have bought are being consumed only by features I want and use and there is no crap overhead performance cost.
Posted by baike (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One word: Ubuntu
There's absolutely no need to be paying for crapware, missing system disks, etc.
Posted by anarchyreigns (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The average end user
Is about as capable of installing and configuring Linux as fish are of riding bicycles.

Not a realistic solution.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Link Flag
One word: Ubuntu
Yes......Why pay for crapware when you can get loads of it for free on the typical Linux Distro disk? At least most of the time you get a choice as to what you want to install.

However the buyer of a new PC is actually getting the PC cheaper as the software and ISP's are subsidizing part of the cost.
Posted by JohnnyL (89 comments )
Link Flag
The Install Issue...
On a generic PC most of the "well-supported" flavors of Linux are as easy to install as Windows... [http://the problem is when you have "private label" hardware that is just a little bit off from the standard model (I have encountered this with Gateway, Dell, HP, and IBM product) and need special drivers.|http://the problem is when you have "private label" hardware that is just a little bit off from the standard model (I have encountered this with Gateway, Dell, HP, and IBM product) and need special drivers.] As long as you can accept the standard/default setup... which is all most uses need and tends to be stable...
Posted by rleeson (4 comments )
Link Flag
Makes perfect sense to me...
Won't have any crapware running on my machine.

But then again, I won't be able to run my applications, games and use several of my peripherals as well.

I like mimimalism, but this goes too far.
Posted by adlyb1 (123 comments )
Link Flag
Another gotcha!
I have an H-P laptop, several years old. Poking around on it after I got it home back then, I found a little .txt file in an obscure place.

It warned: Do not attempt to install an original MS XP-Pro on this machine as our OS version has been customised to suit our hardware.

It didn't have any amount of crapware, however.

But, haha, I was able to successfully install Xandros 3 Deluxe and have a working dual-boot machine. Even I was surprised ...
Posted by NoVista (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another geek!
You must have had a lot of fun playing games on that Xandros, finding (good) drivers for your hardware and reading manuals to do such complex tasks as calibrating a microphone for Skype or uninstalling a program.
Aah, the wonders of Linux...
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
Apple's New BloatWare ad
I was just reading this article went Apple's bloatware ad came on
the tube.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://movies.apple.com/movies/us/apple/getamac/apple-" target="_newWindow">http://movies.apple.com/movies/us/apple/getamac/apple-</a>
getamac-fat_480x376.mov

Is this for real? And doesn't Apple's restore CDs also contain the
same junk that regular pcs do?
Posted by MRMOAV (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple computers don't come with BloatWare
All Macs come with a full version of iLife and the only trial software
included is Office and iWork. If you wish to make a clean start,
(tough to get any cleaner than that) the DVD included with your
Mac contains the latest version of OS X and from there you can
CHOOSE what you want to reinstall or uninstall.
Posted by javixm (2 comments )
Link Flag
Dylan was right
This issue is so absurd; it reminds me about the Bob Dylan line,
"you have to pay to get out of
going through all these things twice."

Cut the crapware! We beat up vendors regularly for selling us stuff that doesn't work. Crapware does not work, so let's beat up the vendors until they change....how about a "Crapware CD" that Dell can bundle (but not install) with their sales...that way, they get some $$, but we have the option of installing what we want...

Sounds like all the "Positively You: Positively Dell" ******** marketing that they claim anyway.
Posted by truth_teller (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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