/ Technology

Just say no to pre-installed PC ‘bloatware’

Cartoon blowfish

Earlier this week a Firefox exec launched a scathing attack on software companies that install stealth plug-ins on your web browser. It’s a reminder that ‘bloatware’ is still the bane of computing.

Bloatware – also known as ‘crapware’ or ‘shovelware’ – comes in all shapes and sizes, and as Asa Dotzler of Mozilla Firefox recently discovered, the likes of Microsoft, Google and Apple aren’t averse to littering your web browser with it either.

It isn’t necessarily malicious or dangerous, it’s just a massive waste of time, space and money. It’s about time the PC industry dealt with it properly.

A problem as old as the CD

It’s not as if they haven’t had the time. For instance, the word ‘shovelware’ was penned at the advent of the CD, when software peddlers crammed hundreds of programs onto a single CD. Imagine ‘Now That’s What I Call A Software Compendium 1994’ and you’re most of the way there – lots of naff rubbish.

Of course, the CD isn’t the source of such drivel these days – the internet is far more effective. If you can think of a problem, someone has probably created a software solution for it. Some of it is great (and free) but most of it is at best ropey and at worst pure snake oil.

In fairness, though, unless a program is unwittingly attached to something else – like the web browser plug-ins found by Dotzler – it’s up to you whether you download and install software from the internet.

But if you’re looking for the real culprits, it’s the PC manufacturers that are to blame.

If it’s pre-installed, you probably don’t need it

It’s astonishing how much rubbish comes pre-installed on Windows PCs. All too often manufacturers install ‘custom’ software that does little more than replicate functions already present in Windows, and more often than not, to a lower standard.

All this crud merely slows PCs down, particularly their start-up times, and does little to enhance the user experience. No wonder people continue to flock to Apple computers.

So what can be done about it? At the very least it’s worth examining any new PC you buy, and removing software you don’t think you’ll need.

However, in the future, maybe the app stores that you see on your mobile phones could make downloading new software a far better experience. Apple and Microsoft plan to launch computer app stores in future, and hopefully they won’t allow ‘fart apps’ to sneak their way in.

Comments
Member

Completely agree – I remove the poor quality software supplied by Microsoft instantly I but a new computer and install the excellent shareware equivalents such as Firefox and Thunderbird. A massive problem with Microsoft software is it is wide open to viruses and hacking. Other software is far less prone to attack. and better,
This is also true when you buy a program suite – it is often installs inferior software as a part of that suite.

I only install software I will use (however rarely) and remove the rest.

Member

Why does everyone knock Microsoft like this. Look at it this way, Microsoft provide an OS with which a single install can provide the user with most of thee utilities he/she needs.

ALL other utilities are just as prone to virus attacks because virus writers are nutters that like to make your life miserable. They don’t hold a grudge against one software provider: they want everyone’s life to be miserable. It’s in their nature.

You personal preference may be for FireFox, but it isn’t as good as Chrome. You confuse personal preference and ‘Internet bad information’ with facts.

Member

Err…… If “everyone” knocks Microsoft – then maybe they – and I – have a point.haven’t we?

Sorry all software are not just as prone to virus attacks – because Microsoft programs are far easier to hack – and – there are far more computer illiterates using the poor quality software supplied by MS. Users who use other software are normally far more computer aware.

Hate to point out that Chrome is not a Microsoft product – but issued by Google – which rather proves the point . I said nothing detrimental about Chrome. only that Mozilla products are better than MS.

M/S is not the only producers of poor products – Two others I know are Norton and Nero – both which were unnecessarily difficult to remove.

For your information – I have been using computers since 1950 – repeat 1950 – when they were IBM main frames or people – then used “mini” main frames such as ICL 2400 – then I used the new “PC’s” BBC A and Research Machines in 1980 before the Internet was invented – where fully operational programmes only used 16Kb of memory with instant switch on. Since which time I have helped run a computer club – where we often get newcomers failing to cope with Windows products – yet able to cope with the non Windows products that are not free – but have a smaller footprint and run faster.

I taught Computing and wrote programmes in various languages – from machine code onwards – When IBM decided to get in the act and opt for M/S DOS O/S i was happy as it was completely under my control – Then M/S decided on Windose which was to compete with Apple’s superior graphics. That was when bloat began and speed reduced..

Since that time M/S has dumped /hidden programs without giving an option – hence the EU directive to cease.- causing personal computers to need to increase memory from 16Kb to 1 Gigabites
to cope with the bloated programs.

So it is not due to me confusing “preference and ‘Internet bad information’ with facts” But sixty years experience with computers!!!!

Member
Anon says:
3 December 2010

Dell are terrible when it comes to pre installed crapware

Member

Really? My experience of Dell is that – in recent times at least – they’re one of better manufacturers out there on this point. Acer and Toshiba are the worst offenders in my book – lots of useless junk is installed on their stuff be default.

Member

Agree with Richard, M$ seem to be one of the worst culprits. You can’t even remove Internet Explorer. Windows Updates seem to eat up valuable hard drive space and software writers probably don’t give a flying fig about removing old stuff and making their programs leaner.

Also, check how many versions of Sun’s Java you have. If you’ve updated recently chances are you still have more than one, possibly 3 or 4, each taking up a whopping 7-800MB. Sun’s reason? In case you navigate to a site that uses the older version. Brilliant 🙁

Then you get those ‘We will install Google/Yahoo/McAfee taskbar in your browser. If you do not want this useless bit of carpware then please do not untick this box’. Eh, do what?!

But the worst culprits are the ones that continue to run in the background even after you’ve ‘closed’ them. Not great if you’re a poor mug like me running a laptop with Vista on it.

Member

Peronally I think MS aren’t the worst offenders out there. Internet Explorer is an integral part if the operating system – even if you use a different browsers, it’s there as a fall back and doesn’t eat up resources if it’s not being used.

As you say, the real offenders are those programs that run in the background and don’t do a great deal – apart from use up space in your memory that would better used elsewhere.

Member

The problem is … how do I know which is essential for the running of the computer and which isn’t … I’m no techie … I take on faith that what I get is what I need for the thing to work ???