Tech Talk: Bloatware and the new PC

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bloatware and the New PC
by Brian Boston


Like many people, V.M. made the move from her old Windows XP system to a new computer: 

“I am quite happy with the new Gateway that I purchased, in terms of the actual hardware. But the Operating System -- Windows 8 -- is another story!  It drove me totally bonkers for the first two weeks. “

“Then I started doing some research, and realized that my problem might be that it came loaded with ‘bloatware.’  Every time I turned it on, I'd get 4-5 little pop-up windows all over the screen. ‘Hi! You need to back up your work.’  ‘Free 60-day trial’, and ‘Do you know your machine is in dire peril??’ etc. Why…would I need to back up a machine I just got four days ago?”

Congratulations, V.M., for doing the research and learning about the software pre-installed on your computer. Many people would just throw up their hands at all the trial versions that come on today’s  PCs…or go with a Mac.

Since Apple builds both its own computers and operating system versions, they control the amount of pre-installed software much more effectively. Lack of third-party preinstalled software is also one reason why you pay more for a Mac than a PC.

Why do PCs have all this stuff pre-installed?

Most PCs available for sale now run the same operating system and can use the same applications. They are largely interchangeable.  The first appearances of pre-installed software came from makers trying to distinguish themselves with a mix of tools and software immediately available to use the system.

Over time, especially as the operating system expanded to include many of those tools, the inclusion of pre-installed software become a way for makers to maintain low cost as the capability of system improved. Since end of 2007 when the Consumer Price Index reset the base for Computers and Peripherals, prices have dropped by over 47 points, nearly half the starting price. 


Raising the Margin for PCs

So making deals with software makers to bundle their product has been become a critical way to increase the narrow profit margins on PC. Even Microsoft, who has complained about  the software bloat on new machines, also has major bundle deals for trials of its Microsoft Office,and  the BIng Bar.

Not All of Pre-Installed Software is at Fault
Typically there are three types of this kind of software

 Software developed by the manufacturer to support basic system functionality. This would include hardware drivers, system management tools and utilities. Though you may knowingly use them, they are pretty important to keep.

- Software provided to enable optional functionality specific to the system. This would include software to support special keyboard buttons or a webcam. Toshiba, for example provides facial recognition software and a utility that still permits of charging of mobile devices when the laptop is sleeping

- Software provided by third parties. While these used to be a mix of full products and trial versions, virtually all this software is now fully functional for a limited time or crippled in some other way. Welcome to the world of bloatware, junkware, shovelware, and crapware!

Clearing the Bloat
What V.M. did with her Gateway system was install a tool that removed all her pre-installed software. Then she reloaded the items she actually wanted and all is well.

The program she used is part of a “power tools” suite of utilities probably better suited to advanced users. Just like professional race car drivers don’t recommend you drive a Formula One vehicle, I am leery of pointing people to “optimization tools” that clean your system registry or tweak system operation. When these tools work well, it can be like a fast car, but then it doesn’t work well, you can have an out-of-control car wreck.

In lieu of a power tools, I have some removal options for you.

Uninstalling in Windows
As obnoxious as most bloatware is, it is not malware. Software makers actually hope you like their creation and use it. So, pre-installed software usually follows the rules and can easily be uninstalled. In Windows, the uninstall feature is easily accessed in the Programs section of Control Panel.

While Control is less obvious in Windows 8/8.1, you can access it quickly by the using the Quick Link Menu key combination (Windows Key+X). In Windows 8.1, right-clicking (or pressing and holding) the Start button on the taskbar also works.


Control Panel’s uninstall works for desktop applications in Windows. Manufacturers are also placing the new Windows Store Apps in the Start screen and in the All Apps screen. Fortunately,  right-clicking (or pressing and holding) the app tile will display a menu that includes an “Uninstall” option.

Trying an Automated Solution

V.M.’s idea of using some sort of tool is sound, though. The problem is not the mechanics of removing bloatware but the number of items that need to be uninstalled and uncertainty about which items are safe to remove. While I wouldn’t use her tool, I can recommend a couple of simpler tools that worked well for me.



It’s not just a question, but the name of a free service offered by Reason Software. Should I Remove It uses a downloadable program to scan your system for programs, showing a rating for each program found whether a majority of users chose to remove it. The program links to their web site and allows you to locate helpful descriptions and statistics of programs found. Uninstall is a simple button click once you decide it should go. In addition, they provide a listing of common pre-installed programs for Toshiba. If you are curious what software actually comes with your Toshiba/Sony/Lenovo/HP/Asus/Acer computer, they have a helpful list.



Though not as well-mannered or informative as “Should I Remove It?,” PC Decrapifier is very efficient at locating possible desktop-based bloatware. While information on individual program is available through the help button, this tool is better for someone who knows what they want to uninstall.

What I like about both tools is that they don’t do anything mysterious or tricky; they just automate the process of removing software and allow you to chose what stays and what goes.

Are Anti-Virus Removers Necessary?

There have been issues with Anti-Virus programs in the past completely removing themselves, but that is less of the problem now. Since Windows 8 and 8.1 now come with an anti-virus tool, Windows Defender, removing a trial subscription of an Anti-Virus program is also less of a concern. Norton has a removal tool if you are dissatisfied with its usual uninstall. MacAfee has a download they call the Consumer Products Removal tool (MCPR). In practice I don’t use them very much anymore.

Will Bloatware Ever Go Away?

I would not count on it. About  six or seven years ago, Dell tried to promote a limited software install option and, more recently, HP has offered selected business system its HP Premiere Image, featuring “a full suite of business software and antivirus protection, while eliminating trial-ware and other distractions.”

Perhaps, the most noticeable effort has been through Microsoft’s Signature Experience, the software configuration on the computers it sells through its retail stores. Though most trialware and junkware have been removed, Microsoft’s services and programs are bundled on the computer.

Wouldn’t it be nice to bundle your own items on a new PC?

You can “build your own bundle” using some of the most popular free programs at Ninite.com



This website lets you select up to 91 programs in 13 catagories to place on your PC. It then builds and downloads an installer you can use to automatically download the programs and install them.

Do you have a follow up on this topic or technical question on that needs to be answered or explored? Please share it with me at brian@bostonlegacyworks.com. Your question may show up here on Tech Talk.



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