Worth noting: Chad's tale of woe with a new Dell

Worth noting: Chad's tale of woe with a new Dell

Summary: From the sound of his most recent blog, Chad Dickerson ended up in a wrestling match with a new Dell system and lost.  That's bad news because Chad, who used to be the CIO at InfoWorld (now, he's at Yahoo), is one of the most technical people I know.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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From the sound of his most recent blog, Chad Dickerson ended up in a wrestling match with a new Dell system and lost.  That's bad news because Chad, who used to be the CIO at InfoWorld (now, he's at Yahoo), is one of the most technical people I know.  Apparently, his neighbor bought a new Dell that came with a serious case of marketingware syndrome and asked Chad if he could rid the box of all that illed it.  Wrote Chad:

I’ve been helping my friends across the street from me set up their new Dell PC and though it booted up out-of-the-box, it has been ridiculously tedious and frustrating to clean all the trialware and marketing crud off the thing. (Of course, this isn’t news to anyone who has bought a PC recently, but I haven’t bought a new PC in years since I’ve either been using a Mac or a work PC). After tangling with the PC for a few hours, it felt less like a useful tool and more like a child screaming for unneeded candy in the grocery store, except this time the PC was screaming for various online services, anti-virus software suites, printer supplies (hey, the printer is NEW, why do I need toner?!), and online banking services. Click here to sign-up for AOL! Click here to sign up for Earthlink! When I setup their printer, I got the same marketing message in three different contexts at the same time: an icon was placed on the desktop that said “click here for Dell printer supplies,” the small LCD screen on the printer itself displayed the URL for Dell printer supplies (which I won’t dignify with a link here, nofollow or otherwise), and the first test page printed had the same URL for printer supplies. At that point, I expected a Dell representative to kick their front door down and scream the URL in my ear for good measure.

Chad knows what any self-respecting techie knows -- the best way to fix the problem is to re-load Windows and pray that the OEM system disc doesn't come pre-programmed to install all the unnecessary accoutrements as well.  Only there's one problem.  The new Dell came without an original system disk.  This is apparently the new MO of system makers.  For example, an Acer Ferrari that I recently purchased for Vista testing didn't come with a system disk either.  Instead, it has a backup recovery disk which restores the system to the exact same state the system was in when I unboxed it.  It's not an XP installation disk though.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch ran into the same problem recently and I suggested he use an actual OEM CD for Windows XP from another system (some of the older systems have them).  When the installations asks for a license key, just use the one off the Windows license key that's affixed to the system.  Being able to install Windows from any XP CD was one reason (according to Microsoft) that it started getting system manufacturers to affix the those labels to their systems back in 2001. 

Anyway, I agree with Chad.  PCs are too mature for him or any other user for that matter to be ending up in a wrestling match with them.

Topic: Hardware

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11 comments
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  • OEM junk - old practice

    Dell, Toshiba, Sony.. you name it, giving the OEM restore-all-the-junk CD instead of clean OS has been their ugly practice for years.

    This is one reason so many users end up with "grey" copies of XP on their systems, although they purchased a copy perfectly legally.
    Zoli Erdos
  • Easy fix

    http://www.linuxiso.org
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • give it a rest

      Getting Linux is not an "easy fix" for regular people who just want a computer that can run the same apps as their office and friends. At least the Apple fans are becoming more relevant with their evangelizing.

      The real fix is getting a white box computer system from a builder and loading on your own software. But, that's out of the realm of most people who view computers more as an applicance than a hobby or vocation. I've built many computers for myself and friends -- but even two weeks ago I suggested a friend go to Best Buy and get the GREAT bundle deal being offered. Compaq AMD Sempron/512MB RAM/dual-layer DVD burner system, including 17" monitor and Canon photo printer -- all for $399 (after rebate). I couldn't build a system like that for that price. But, then I spent several hours UN-stalling useless adwarre/"trial services" crap and then installing what she did need.

      But Linux? She couldn't use that. And you would be disingenuous to suggest she could. I know you love Linux but it's not the answer to all computing issues.
      ChazzMatt
  • Does Dell or anyone offer a "clean system" setup?

    I wonder what would happen if you asked for a system that didn't come with all the extra junk loaded up?

    This reminds me of DVD's. I wish you could just get the movie w/o all the extra junk like behind the scenes and director comments. For a cheaper price than the "full featured" DVD.

    Plus, doesn't AOL pay Dell to put that junk onto the computer? Who is Dell's customer supposed to be? AOL or the sucker buying a computer from Dell?
    ibabadur1
    • HP Does

      I recently bought an HP nx6125 notebook, and they offered a recovery cd that installed Windows XP and then included a separate CD which contained all the extras. I had the choice to install some or all of the extra software. I was very pleasantly surprised. Don't know if this only applies to HP's business line, or if the same is true for their consumer line.
      t_mohajir
    • Clean systems are available

      "I wonder what would happen if you asked for a system that didn't come with all the extra junk loaded up?"

      I doubt Dell or any of the big makers would do it. They are all mass producers running PC's down an assembly line. And even if they did they would probably charge you extra for doing so. It reminds me of the food makers. They always charge more for the "diet" foods which in many cases consists of nothing more than leaving out the salt etc, that they normally add in.

      As for getting a clean setup, go to your local white box builder. You will not only get a system free of junk ads but you will get an OEM CD of the OS that was installed.

      The second way to get a clean system is to learn to build your own. I did that years ago and never looked back. I get a PC that is ad free and is equipped exactly the way I want, or at least exactly the way I can afford it, without paying for the labor to put it together. Not to mention the fact that I am often able to upgrade with newer components and extend the life of my PC rather than having to go out and buy a new machine everytime mine gets outdated.

      "Plus, doesn't AOL pay Dell to put that junk onto the computer? Who is Dell's customer supposed to be? AOL or the sucker buying a computer from Dell?"

      You are their customer but as long as they can get their customers to tolerate it they will sell placement slots to increase their revenue and profit. How bad it is to do this is dependent on your level of tolerance and whether Dell etc. passes at least some of it on as savings to you or just pockets all of it to increase their profit.
      Looneytoon
  • I've cleaned a lot of new pc's...

    ... and with some practice and a few third party programs, it can be done inside an hour. Not counting Windows updates on a dial-up connection.

    One very important final step: install something that makes it difficult for programs to start with Windows. Otherwise you'll be back.
    Which is okay only if you're helping a friend who supplies good meals or wine or, preferably, both.
    Anton Philidor
  • And I was just about to buy a Dell...

    thanks for this info. You just made my mind up for me...I'm going "local"
    mgardner
  • Cleaning up new computers

    I bought my kids new Dell laptops and helped a friend purchase a new Dell desktop for Christmas...and YUP! I gladly spent the first couple of hours on each of them uninstalling the CRAP! The sad part is you can't order them without the junk, or at least it isn't an option while stepping through the screens. Tough for my newbee friend to understand why I had to uninstall all that stuff before she could use her computer. I have emailed tech support requesting XP OS for when I get the urge to reformat, but they won't even reply.
    Phatdragonlady
  • Dell *does* sell a "white box" PC, buy that next time

    Dell sells PCs without an OS installed on it. You need to look under the Small Business section (link to them, the "N Series": http://www1.us.dell.com/content/products/compare.aspx/desktops_n?c=us&cs=04&l=en&s=bsd). They were reasonably priced, especially since they were OS free. If you plan on using a non-Microsoft OS, it is an especially good deal, because then you aren't paying for soemthing you aren't using. If you do want Windows, you get the version at the local store for whatever Dell would have charged you for it anyways. Your super technical buddy should have spent a few moments extra shopping in order to have himself a lot of time and money.

    J.Ja
    Justin James
  • Taking advantage

    I, too, went thru a similar drill with a new Dell PC for the child, but the removal of all the stuff didn't seem that difficult (now I've got to wonder if I did in fact get all of it off). It almost seems worthwhile to simply reformat and reinstall the OS - at least then you're sure of what is lurking on the box.

    At first glance it appears Dell is attempting to simply grab some more cash by using the PC purchasing customer as a captive marketing audience, but perhaps that revenue stream helps to keep the PC purchase price down? What would happen if Dell offered the choice of a box with all the ad sludge removed for a few bucks more? The knowledgeable amongst us would probably purchase the cheaper box and then do the reinstall portion.
    ejhonda