Microsoft to charge customers $99 to remove OEM 'crapware'

Microsoft to charge customers $99 to remove OEM 'crapware'

Summary: So, the OEMs make money from installing crapware onto PCs, and now Microsoft is making money removing it. Makes you realize why more and more people are buying Apple hardware.

TOPICS: Hardware, Microsoft

Will people be willing to pay Microsoft to remove the crapware that the OEMs install on new PCs? Microsoft thinks they will.

For around two and a half years, Microsoft has been offering what it calls Signature editions of certain PCs. According to Microsoft, these PCs give you faster and easier access to "the applications you want right away without getting sidetracked talking to trialware or other sample software".

See alsoWindows 8 Consumer Preview vs. Windows 7: Benchmarked

In other words, when you boot up your new PC, instead of having to deal with a blizzard of pop-ups and dialog boxes related to trialware and demo software -- collectively known as crapware -- the system boots to a clean Windows desktop.

Microsoft even offers up numbers to show how detrimental this OEM-installed crapware is to your system. Microsoft claims that Signature systems start up 39 percent faster, go into sleep mode 23 percent faster, and resume from sleep a whopping 51 percent faster compared to their crapware-ladened counterparts.

So far, Signature has been limited to new PCs. But now, Microsoft will offer customers the opportunity to give their Windows 7 PC the Signature treatment by bringing it to a Microsoft Store and paying $99, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Microsoft also offers a program that, for $99, will turn users' Windows 7 PCs into Signature versions, if the owner brings the computer into one of its 16 stores, due to grow to 21 outlets in coming months," writes Mossberg. "All Signature computers come with 90 days of free phone support, as well as help at the stores' 'Answer Desks,' which are like the Genius Bars at Apple stores."

Mossberg has been testing three Signature models and comparing them with the same machines as sold elsewhere without the Signature modifications and reports that the Signature versions are much cleaner, easier to navigate, and faster in a variety of tests.

So, is the Signature treatment worth $99? According to Mossberg, it is.

"In my opinion, although it may generally benefit Microsoft at the expense of the hardware maker, it also makes for a better experience for the user."

This is where I have to disagree with Mossberg. This isn't an example of Microsoft benefiting at the expense of the hardware makers, it's Microsoft benefiting at the expense of consumers. The hardware makers have already been paid to install the crapware.

Let's follow the money. The OEMs are paid by a variety of software makers to install crapware onto systems. The OEMs don't disclose how much money they receive from this, but sources tell me that it works out at a few dollars per PC. That doesn't sound like much, but multiply that across millions of PCs and it becomes a significant number.

Then the customer pays the OEM -- or a middleman -- for the PC, a PC which Microsoft itself admits is "slower-than-should-be" because of all the stuff loaded onto the system unnecessarily. Consumers are expected to take their new PC to a Microsoft Store -- though there are currently only 16 of them in the United States -- and pay Microsoft $99 to remove the crapware that the OEMs were paid to install.

It could only be worse if the OEMs wanted payment to remove crapware. Think that wouldn't happen? It's already been tried. Back in 2008, Sony announced plans to charge customers $50 for what it called "Fresh Start" systems that were free of crapware. The plans were dropped following a barrage of negative feedback.

The OEMs make money from installing crapware onto PCs, and now Microsoft is making money removing it. Makes you realize why more and more people are buying Apple hardware.

Most of you probably already know that you can remove a lot of the preinstalled crapware from PCs using PC Decrapifier. It won't give you the nice Signature edition desktop wallpaper, and won't install pretty much every piece of Windows Live software ever made onto your PC -- like Microsoft seems to do on Signature editions PCs -- but it will remove most of the crapware that you find on new PCs. And the best part is it won't cost you $99. In fact, it won't cost you anything, because it's free for personal use.

Image source: Microsoft (1, 2).


Best tablet for those who don't want an iPad

Image Gallery: Best tablet for those who don't want an iPad Image Gallery: Charge Image Gallery: Charge

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What a bunch of crap

    What OEM maker needs to do from the start is have user go through setup and check what software you want. People should not have to pay $99 to remove it. They could also make option for restore disc's like 1) system disc or 2) OS disc so if you want factory chose 1 if you just want windows choose 2
    • Agree 100%

      I understand that OEMs get a kickback from all the [b]crAp[/b]plications but they should at the very least allow a clean restore option which basically only installs Windows, drivers and necessary software.

      $99 seems a bit excessive if they are only walking people through control panel to remove programs. In my side business I charge $50 for a tune up service where I remove all the [b]crAp[/b]plications like tool bars and trial software and I also run all updates and often use something like CCleaner to get rid of temp files and old unnecessary data and registry entries.

      I'd say instead of paying Microsoft $99 support your local geek. I know some may feel Microsoft should provide this service for free but they are not the ones that crappified the PC in the first place. It is amazing how a computer operates so much better once it has been decrappified though.
      • You know that will never fly.

        Who's the final judge as to what's crapware? What if customer M decides the IE is crapware? Or WMP? Or is Microsoft the only one that can determine what's crapware? Maybe Microsoft should pay the OEMs $100 to clean the PCs? You see where it could go? Oce you open that can of worms, you never know where it will go.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Right, JJF

        It's all MS's fault for not [b]forcing[/b] OEM's to do it "Microsoft's Way".

        Yet when they do force OEM's to do it their way, the same people are all over them for [b]forcing OEM's to do things "Microsoft's Way".[/b]

        And I agree with you about who decides what's crapware. So many people, Apple users included think that Safari is crap. So are they really getting a crap free computer, or not?

        So why am I forced to sit there and clean their crap off of people's OS X based machines?
        William Farrel
      • RE: Who's the final judge as to what's crapware?

        That is a decent point but I think we all have a fairly good idea of what is crapware. Basically anything that did not come with the OS and is not a driver or necessary component. I guess some people could consider Microsoft Installed Applications as crapware but not sure if I would put applications such as a web browser or media player as a [b]crAp[/b]plication since most people want or need that out of the box. Now I would consider the added Microsoft Bing Toolbar as a [b]crAp[/b]plication.

        As far as Microsoft paying OEMs to clean PCs I think that is kind of what the whole Signature Edition PCs is about. You pay a little more for a PC without all those [b]crAp[/b]plications preinstalled.

        In my opinion I think consumers should demand a better option so that they can either run a restore without the extras they do not want or make it an option in set up. I actually have seen some signs of this happening as a few of the last OEM PCs I have set up did ask questions about enabling certain software and if you said no the software was sometimes not there.
        • necessary vs expected components

          IE may be necessary since most users need it to download other browsers they'd prefer to use. But is Windows Media Player necessary? Especially when it's vanilla configuration can't play DVDs?

          Does Adobe Acrobat Reader fall into this slop bucket? There's an argument it does, but a PDF reader has become a very basic tool, especially for new PCs with on-disk manuals in PDF format.

          Then there's Windows Live Mail. What ISPs don't provide browser e-mail portals these days? If you have IE or another browser, do you need a mail client?

          Can't OEMs offer their own 'Performance' packages, meaning including no 'extras' and charge more for it than they'd get per unit for it? I suppose their contracts with app makers require OEMs to install the apps on all units. Pity.
      • ccleaner, yumm

        I love it when people run a cleaner program that is not good enough. I get $2 a minute to fix what the cleaner program broke. Just this morning I had a call - I can't get into my program. Turns out he ran a cleaner (not CCleaner today) which deleted a registry key used by the program. Those are okay for consumer use, but please keep them out of businesses. Usually I can find a restore point that works so it is a 15 minute job aross the net.
      • Can a user get generic install media or files ...

        ... and then use whatever key the OEM gave them? That would seem pretty good.

        Personally I've been spoiled with an MSDN subscription for so long I don't think about these things much but I have had to wipe crapware from a few laptops (by starting with a clean install).
        Schoolboy Bob
      • Decrappifying a computer is still not the same as

        a pristine install. I had several customers pay me my hourly rate to do a pristine install of the OS and drivers then install their wanted applications only. It cost them more than MS $99.00 rate but it didn't come with MS installed crapware either. (Except of course IE since it is integrated.)

        As to who's to judge what is and isn't crapware, that should be the user. Basically crapware is unwanted software that is installed without the users consent and that does include IE and WMP if the user doesn't want it. Before MS integrated IE with the OS, it was installed without consent by being bundled with many other products. Then MS payed OEMs to install it just like the other crapware (of which Netscape if pre-installed was one). Then it was bundled with Win95 rev. C but you could CTRL+ALT+DEL before agreeing to the license agreement and kill the install task if you knew what to do.

        I know its a pain, but no software should be pre-installed if it can't be uninstalled cleanly (and most can't). Vendors are payed to put most of this crapware on or they consider it "value added software" but if the user doesn't want it it's crapware.
      • MS is legally forbidden to control what OEMs do to Windows

        Mr. Farrel, if only MS could do what you suggest. Unfortunately for you, they are legally prohibited from "forcing OEMs to do it their way".
    • PCdecrapifier

      Or, just download this free app and use it:
      • Re: Or, just download this free app and use it:

        Just downloaded it.
        Will try it later.
        Their "DeCrap-list" looks alright though.
    • OEMs get paid to include CRAPWARE ...

      ... so, the only choice consumers have is to either pay a premium for CRAPWARE-free PCs or pay a premium for the PC in the first place. Or, they can learn to remove the CRAPWARE themselves.
      M Wagner
  • Only for those with no knowledge whatsoever

    Anyone with any sense would opt to just straight up buy a copy of Windows than pay for someone to "decrapify" your computer.
    • No purchase necessary

      You can always download the OEM media direct from Microsoft (digitalriver), Amazon, or other distributor and reinstall Windows using the serial number on the back of your computer.
      • Yeah like that works...NOT

        The numerical key for a retail disc of the OS installed on your PC never matches the build employed by OEM Computermakers and using the same serial is always impossible. without calling MICROSOFT on the telephone- you could never remploy the same serial
      • @dcsos

        True. You'll need to call Microsoft after you've installed Windows. When it attempts to validate, it'll bring up a message box with a string of numbers and the phone number for the automated system. You call the automated system, punch in those numbers, and then it'll spit out a string of numbers for you type in on your computer.

        It's simple, painless, and easy to do. Takes about 5 minutes.
      • That's why you don't use a retail disc for it

        @dcsos: If you use an OEM version, the key on the machine will work. At least it has always worked for me. It won't work with a retail disc though.
    • Can cut both ways

      [i]Anyone with any sense would opt to just straight up buy a copy of Windows than pay for someone to "decrapify" your computer. [/i]

      And then reinstall everything from scratch, to include drivers, certain OEM + VAR packages, preinstalled applications + utilities, etc. Not so sure about that.

      Not saying that isn't a viable avenue, it is. Only building everything from a virgin base isn't an easy way out either, not from start to finish. And keep in mind, a simple OS repair install isn't going to decrapify a unit, and a clean install requires a reformat and complete system rebuilding. For most that means good bye weekend ... and beyond. :(
      • Goodbye weekend...and beyond?

        I respectfully disagree, but then again everything described below went smoothly, not even 1 hiccup (thankfully). I had the OEM recovery disks I created after purchase--which I had successfully used before-- just in case.

        I reinstalled 7 SP1 Home Premium on an OEM laptop using a borrowed SP1 integrated OEM Media, used the Product Key on the COA sticker affixed to the laptop--a robocall to MS activated no problem, then reinstalled everything--drivers, updates, programs (all freeware) documents, pictures...etc. It took about 7-8 hours total spread over 2 days at a cost of $0.00...priceless! After a few days to make sure all was well I made a full backup image which took a couple of hours more.

        The system now runs faster & more reliably IMHO. YMMV