Out of the box experience with Lenovo's Thinkpads is simply unacceptable

Out of the box experience with Lenovo's Thinkpads is simply unacceptable

Summary: Perhaps the horrible experience I had unboxing a brand new Lenovo R60e Thinkpad (Mobile Celeron-based) is not projectable to all of Lenovo's Thinkpads, but I think it probably is. This is a Thinkpad I purchased.

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Perhaps the horrible experience I had unboxing a brand new Lenovo R60e Thinkpad (Mobile Celeron-based) is not projectable to all of Lenovo's Thinkpads, but I think it probably is. This is a Thinkpad I purchased. So, it's the exact same experience that any other ZDNet reader will get if they buy an R60e.

I purchased it for my wife and before I could "issue" it to her, I had to pretend to be the family IT guy because it simply wasn't ready to be used out of the box. At least not according to my standards. This is a tale of that which isn't pre-loaded (but should be) and that which is pre-loaded (but shouldn't be).

Windows-based notebooks are finicky computers. Most notebook manufacturers include special drivers and utilities to guarantee that Windows runs on them as flawlessly as possible. Lenovo is no different. Under the guise of its ThinkVantage brand, the company pre-loads all sorts of important software that's designed to make Windows and Thinkpads a match made in heaven. I'm not going to go into the list of what this includes. It doesn't matter. What matters is that almost all of it was out of date by the time I got my Thinkpad. Fortunately, Lenovo has a very well-done utility for updating any Lenovo-specific driver or utility that's out of date. Unfortunately, since you'll want the most up to date drivers and utilities before using the PC, it could take several hours before your Thinkpad can actually download all of the updates and install them.

Imagine if after getting your brand new car, the first thing you had to do is return it to the dealership for a week's worth of recall repairs. That's how I felt.

But it gets worse. Not only were Lenovo's utils completely out of date. So too was Windows Vista. Because many of the updates that were as-of-yet unperformed to our new Thinkpad were security related, they are very much something you don't want to do without before starting to use your new notebook. Add at least another hour for downloads, updates and reboots.

So much for the stuff this computer didn't have. But then comes the stuff it did have.

Lenovo wrongly assumes that the best way to give its customers the option of certain software is to pre-load it. For example, it pre-loads Symantec's security suite on the system. I might actually like the idea if it didn't require me to up my subscription with Symantec after only 90 days. Fortunately, at no cost, my ISP provides me free copies of McAfee's security solutions. But to do this right means (1) first uninstalling the Symantec Software and (2) installing the McAfee software. A quick perusal of the programs that can be uninstalled reveals multiple entries for Symantec. To get the cleanest uninstall, which do I uninstall first? Or will the uninstallation of one result in the automatic uninstallation of the other. There's no guidance here from Lenovo on how to get rid of the stuff I don't want. I'm on my own.

If there were only a handful of Symantec oriented software objects preloaded on our new Thinkpad, the situation was far worse when it came to Microsoft Office. I specificially didn't check Microsoft Office when I ordered this computer. But, it apparently came with Office pre-loaded anyway. The only difference is that it wasn't activated. The uininstall list had so many Office-related entries in it, I had no clue where to start. I uninstalled a couple of items and then generated the screenshot below just to show what was still there. I'm not sure if some of that stuff is needed to run Windows or not. I'm pretty sure most if not all isn't.

Add a few more hours to do all the uninstalls and subsequent "You must restart your system for the changes to take effect."

Now, I'm just wishing I could get all that lost time back. But I never will. officeuninstall.jpg

Topics: Lenovo, Laptops, Mobility, Software

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22 comments
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  • Don't blame Lenovo

    I'm not seeing anything there that's really their fault. The problem is that they're shipping beta and trialware, which all OEMs pretty well have to do -- the money they get from "marketing allowances" and such are all the profit they get.

    Having just purchased a Lenovo myself ($DAUGHTER headed to grad school) I must say that aside from having no choice in the preloaded system software I couldn't ask for better. Just open the box, plug in the battery, plug it into the wall wart, insert the Kubuntu disk, and away you go. No fuss, no bother.

    $DAUGHTER is extremely happy with it.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Why not??

      I see absolutely no reason to ship a laptop with SQL Server 2005 installed! I happen to have it on mine but I'm a developer, otherwise why would I want it. I certainly haven't installed it on my wife's PC.

      Why also should office be installed when it has been specifically not requested.

      This is indicative of a lazy deployment process. Install every thing from a single image then activate the stuff the customer wanted.
      nmh
      • How about nothing at all?

        i'd like to be able to get Lenovo systems with BLANK drives, and perhaps a disc of premium apps that were promised with the unit. (preferably, though, not; they take up space and MOST users don't use them.)

        Everytime we get a new standard model, i get it and first thing i do after making a screen-shot of included apps is a wipe-install of our XP. having a clean drive would save a LOT of time . . .
        aellath
  • I think you'd have a similar experience...

    with any computer, at least in terms of updates. Certainly, if the computer was
    built before a "Patch Tuesday," and sold after that day, you'd have to download the
    updates. Unless and until Lenovo (or any computer manufacturer) can control
    production flow so that a computer is built and finished as soon as you buy it, this
    will be the case.
    msalzberg
  • Great Blog but ...

    you mention IBM and they have nothing to do with it anymore. Lenovo is a separate company and bought the Thinkpad line from IBM.Other than that, It was a great article.
    jtiner
    • IBM on the brain

      actually, it's not hard to see why one would do this, ... even brand new Thinkpad's like this one still say IBM on them.
      dberlind
    • That's not entirely true.

      Actually, IBM owns something like 19.9% stock in Lenovo.
      Also, part of the deal back when Lenovo bought the PC Business from IBM, they were given the right to use the IBM name for 5 years after the agreement was complete. I think this ensures them the right to use the name until mid-2010.
      nucrash
  • All the manufacturers are the same

    This is not an experience unique to Lenovo. I setup hundreds of PCs for people and I find that unless I build the machine myself they all come without recent updates and tons of shovel-ware.
    RickyF
    • Not quite true.

      You just have to stay away from the large name brands. I recently purchased a Velocity Micro PC at Best Buy. It came with A demo version of Futuremark's graphics benchmarking software and that's it. No other crapware at all. I did need to get driver updates but even those were only one version behind. All in all a very pleasant setup experience.
      slopoke
  • How long has it been since you bought a PC?

    I have had to activate Microsoft Office since the days of Office XP came pre-loaded. Right out of the box.

    As for the Antivirus, Symantec is junk, but still what IBM/Lenovo uses.

    I get PCs from the System Builder and they seem to like installing SQL Server Express as well. I don't understand this, but I think this is the way of life.

    Their situation is far better than HPs and their preloaded garbage. I had to do a wipe and reload after the initial boot.
    I also found out that the system was slow to shut down because of the LCD screen requiring a driver.
    nucrash
  • Interesting comparison

    An entirely different out-of-the-box experience:
    http://technocrat.net/d/2007/6/1/20868

    Greetz, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
  • It Isnt a Perfect World....but

    My neighbor bought a R60e, who is a nurse and very much NOT PC literate, she had this thing up and running in less than an hour...she didnt have any inclination to do any updates, it just worked our of the box on her wireless network.

    She had no issue with 499mb of Office since her system had a 80gb drive, it was a moot point.....

    She elected to remove the Nortons AV and use AVG Free antivirus and did not have a problem doing this as well....

    She was happy to testdrive Office...

    Some of us PC literate folks like to have TOTAL control over everything and think the world is wrong if we dont get all the latest drivers, bios and updates..this may be well for the business world and companies with their IT staffs and their custom images, but get real....

    If its not broke dont fix it!!

    For everyone that doesnt want the 'bloatware' there is another that wants to play with the stuff. The penduleum swings back and forth depending on who the end user is and is not.

    It would be nice to have Microsoft updates be up to date but if that was possible and the systems sat in a store or wharehouse for a few months you still would need to update.....well maybe.

    Its not a perfect world, yes it could be bstter, but ALL OEMS have these issues...

    Later..
    A.D.
    adydula
    • They can do better

      Video and hi-res still images can eat through an 80GB hard drive like termites through wood. Over the years, I've seen plenty of so-called management packages that can flush the right images to the right drives just in the nick of whatever time things need to be the nick of. Centralized management utils. Why not have a build to order hard drive supply chain that meets the notebook supply chain just before things are boxed up and sent? Every AM, someone does "the build." that goes on that days hard drives.
      dberlind
  • Compare and Contrast

    http://technocrat.net/d/2007/6/1/20868

    All told, depending on how long you take to create a username and password, what 1 minute to up and running and productive?

    Crapware free, factory restore takes 12 minutes from the fat32 partition on the HD.

    Yes, Yes, I know it doesn't run Avg or Symantic or McAfee. :-D

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • Thanks for the link

      That's really great to see.

      [i]I think this is a good start for having alternatives to Windows for some average users.[/i]

      I would say it is an even better alternative to OSX. None of the malware attention at 1/4 the price. There are [b]no[/b] downsides to this laptop, especially when you compare it to a $2,000 MacBook.
      NonZealot
      • Yep, hoping for more of the same

        I hope Dell makes it a little (or a lot) easier to find Ubuntu and advertise it, for the enthusiast. Wish I were a fly in the boardroom and knew how it was going.

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
  • List o' Programs

    Did you really look at that list of programs you included? This is a laptop, for your wife - unless she's a hardcore developer (and she may be!) there's a at least one set of programs that you ought to remove.

    I'm talking about SQL Server. What is this doing on a laptop anyway?? Ok, maybe she wants to put up with a sluggish computer, or she really needs to code when she can't get access to a server. Still this ain't laptop fare, especially on a Celeron based machine!
    aureolin
  • buy a dell...then you will be in real poop

    I allege Dell's new scam is to not ship replacement parts you are entitled to under warranty. I am in IT and I have to work with horrible Dell computers. Lately spare parts never seem to show up. Orders get placed and a week later "accidentally" there is no record. Despite providing a 24x7 cell number "I get the we called you over 3 times for delivery" and no one answered so we sent them back to factory. Then when you call them on their lies ...then there is the oh I guess it was an "accident" we sent it back to the factory thinking a tech logged a call. The scam goes on.

    When I new Dell arrives to my company I just pray for software problems like you had. I can solve those with some work...but about half of the Dell's I get come with major hardware issues out of the box. Missing disk drives, bad floppy drives etc. the list goes on. Dell's laptops have motherboards dying left and right. Disk drives disappear. I will trade you all my dell's for that Lenovo any day of the week. At least if your company buys Dells and you work in IT you will know you have job security. That is until your company goes under because it pissed off your last critical client who got tired of hearing my laptop crashed can I have another month on that?
    bowling_z
  • SQL?

    I know when I downloaded the MS Accounting Express edition, it installed the MSDE, or the desktop SQL engine. I wonder that is what happened when Lenovo loaded a component for the Office eval.
    aulax9
  • I agree with the other respondents

    I don't know of any computer that you can buy retail today that doesn't come with the same issues that you have outlined in your post. Do you just have an axe to grind against Lenovo? At least do us, your readers, the service of putting your comments into the proper perspective.

    AD's comments were quite true. While some folks don't like all of the bloatware on their computer, others actually use the trial versions and elect to purchase full versions. Value is in the eye of the beholder here.
    The NG