PC OEMs: Please Cut the Crap!

PC OEMs: Please Cut the Crap!

Summary: Buying a new PC from one of the Tier 1 OEMs can often be a frustrating exercise in crapware removal.My Tuesday morning started like this.

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Buying a new PC from one of the Tier 1 OEMs can often be a frustrating exercise in crapware removal.

My Tuesday morning started like this. Phone rings. 9AM.

Hey Jason, uh, it's Christine. Javi just booted up the laptop at the store this morning and nothing is working. Can you stop on by?

Me: Sure!

I knew, of course, that this probably involved my entire day being completely shot to hell.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

I arrive at Christine's business, Picnic Caterers, to find the company's laptop, a 2002-era Toshiba Pentium 4 with 512MB of RAM and Windows XP, so stuffed up with spyware, viruses and fragmented up the whazoo that it wasn't worth saving.

In addition to general Internet access, the computer was used primarily for QuickBooks for Invoicing and for posting the company's Daily Specials page through Yahoo Web Hosting, so fortunately I didn't have much data that needed rescuing -- I copied off all of their pertinent Office and QuickBooks files and gave Christine the bad news.

"You need a new computer. It's time for it to die," Seven years is more than enough service life out of a laptop, and I wasn't trusting Christine's catering business to an old dusty piece of junk.

So I went out to where I knew I could get a good deal on a computer -- my big box discount club of choice, COSTCO.

As it turns out, COSTCO had a great deal on a 15" Dell Studio, with Core Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, Wireless-N, DVD recorder and built-in webcam for $699.00. As COSTCO throws in an additional year of warranty, this seemed like a no-brainer, so I grabbed one right up.

I brought the laptop home, unboxed it, and powered it up. Vista Home Premium 64-bit with SP1 comes up. The initial startup process is absolutely agonizingly slow. I can't blame this one on Vista -- it's all the crapware Dell loads onto the system, including a 30-day trial of McAfee Security Suite (oh yeah, that's really gonna help when it times out in a month) some stupid Mac OS X-style icon bar and about a dozen other programs and useless games and garbage cluttering up the system.

So in addition to about 2 hours of waiting for all the Post-SP1 Vista patches to download, installing a new copy of QuickBooks 2009 ($200, Ka-Ching!) importing/converting her QBW journal file and then bringing the system up to SP2 with additional hotfixes, I then proceed to remove crapware software from the computer and make sure the system is secure for daily use. First, I yank McAfee and replace it with a copy of Avast! Free, along with Advanced SystemCare 3 and Spybot Search & Destroy -- my standard triumvirate of PC prophylaxis.

The uninstalls and reboots take HOURS. I use another tool, CCleaner, to turn off programs in Startup that aren't frequently needed. By the time I am done, It's 8PM.

Why oh why do things have to be this way? Is there a reason for all this unnecessary software that comes with a new system? If Dell, HP, Acer and other PC OEMs are doing this for additional income from the crapware software vendors, by all means, can't they just distribute this awful stuff on a supplementary DVD or provide an icon with a simple app that downloads the entitled garbage if the user really wants it? And do we really need all these enhanced button bars and junk that just eat up more memory and slow the system down?

In my opinion, the OS build on a brand new retail purchased PC should not deviate tremendously from a retail DVD virgin install of Windows. It should have the requisite driver support for the new PC hardware, so that everything "works" out of the box but other than that, I really don't see the value in crippleware and crapware that the end-user is going to have to spend hours removing.

Dell and other OEMs would be much better off with a single icon that provides a remote managed software deployment utility which provides the customer with a list of free and commercial security suites, driver updates and utilities they can choose to purchase or download after unboxing, not unlike the App Store on the iPhone. Lenovo does this to some extent with their ThinkVantage System Update utility, which I think is a good implementation and approach, although their systems aren't entirely crapware-free either.

What's your feeling about crapware on fresh OEM PCs? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Processors, Software, Windows

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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Talkback

372 comments
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  • Crapware

    Your average non geek will get a fair amount of pressure at the point of
    sale to drop another $35-$50 to get the junk off the computer. Let's
    see, now... If you crank the subsidy to Dell,etc from the crapware
    makers, then that extra half a C-note to Best Buy, maybe those Windoze
    machines aren't quite as cheap as they're made out to be.

    Jason, you've already made your point about us Mac owners as arrogant.
    Consider that perhaps we just like getting a little work done.
    MC_z
    • Consider this

      a healthy dose of equal opportunity criticism.

      Each platform has its share of problems. Christine wasn't getting Mac because she had no budget for a comparative Mac, had no training in using a Mac, and her line of business app didn't run on it. (note: I'm aware QuickBooks has a Mac version, but the data conversion issues from a Quickbooks 2005 for PC file would have been a non-starter.)
      jperlow
      • If you had billed Christine for your time...

        how much would she have spent? If she didn't have a friend wiling to
        spend an entire day getting her computer up and running, I think that
        her budget would have been blown 'decrapifying.'

        Like you, I have no problem helping a friend with computer issues, but
        we shouldn't pretend that there's not cost to this.
        msalzberg
        • You don't want to know. :)

          That's why I'm a friend and not acting as a "consultant".

          Beleive me, she'll pay me back in sandwiches, filet mignon and quiche a bunch of times over :) I can always count on her for a good deal for a party :)
          jperlow
          • I followed your link...

            to her website. I'm sure you'll get the better end of the deal. Enjoy!
            msalzberg
          • Oh dear

            I just dived into a bin full of broken glass and look, I've been and cut myself.

            Perhaps I shouldn't have taken that route.
            fr0thy2
        • Or calculate the opportunity cost

          Jason writes:

          "I knew, of course, that this probably involved my entire day being
          completely shot to hell."

          The real PC experience.
          Richard Flude
          • How is this unique to the PC?

            [i]The real PC experience.[/i]

            Bu the sounds of things if she was using a Mac it would have been the exact same situation.
            ye
          • If it was a 7-year old Mac

            She'd be in a much worse position, especially if she wanted to replace it with another Mac. Particularly if it was PowerPC architecture (G4, 2002 time period) and it needed to be migrated to a modern unit. At best the Quickbooks data MIGHT be able to be converted to the latest Mac version assuming the box could be revived or the data extracted with a working PPC Linux or similar vintage architecture Mac OS X boot disk for PowerPC. You've got far less chance of reviving an older mac in terms of local parts replacement. She'd have to drag that into an Apple store and they'd charge her big money to do the migration. I can't imagine what a nightmare that would be.
            jperlow
          • Your pants must be too tight...

            ...because you're full of it on this one. I've been dragging my key
            datasets from Mac to Mac to Mac for fifteen years. I recently used
            Apple's builtin Migration Manager program to bring stuff from my old G5
            to my new Intel. Guess what? No problem. And I'm still running a lot of
            those apps on my old G4 iBook.

            It's OK if you prefer PCs. You can't help it. But you sound as irrational
            about Mac as a Mac fanboy is about a PC.
            MC_z
          • So you would have recommend she replace the Mac too? (nt)

            .
            ye
          • @MC_z

            Score so far:
            MC_z: 1
            Jason: 0
            nizuse
          • Tight Pants?

            [b]"...because you're full of it on this one. I've been dragging my key datasets from Mac to Mac to Mac for fifteen years.."[/b]

            Look I have no idea what would be involved with Quickbooks data conversion for Mac. I presume it would be similar to importing an older PC version into a newer one.

            I'm talking about getting the data off of a screwed up legacy Mac's HFS, recover the OS and having to find parts for such an old esoteric computer. It would not be cheap, especially at Apple Store prices, presuming you were even in an area that HAD an Apple store or some Mac specialist shop. It's got nothing to do with being a PC fanboy, it has to do with the scarcity of components.
            jperlow
          • Let's look

            "At best the Quickbooks data MIGHT be able to be converted to the
            latest Mac version..."

            Why is this any different to Quickbooks versions on the PC?

            "...assuming the box could be revived or the data extracted with a
            working PPC Linux or similar vintage architecture Mac OS X boot disk
            for PowerPC."

            If laptop working boot from OS CD (hold down command-C). For
            Apple systems this is any full OS disk released since the system was
            manufactured.

            If the laptop was dead remove the drive and mount on a system
            supporting HFS+.

            If drive dead you're in the same position as PC - stuffed.

            "You've got far less chance of reviving an older mac in terms of local
            parts replacement."

            But you rightly didn't try an revive a 7 year old laptop. So?

            "She'd have to drag that into an Apple store and they'd charge her big
            money to do the migration."

            She wouldn't HAVE to, but she could.

            "I can't imagine what a nightmare that would be."

            As opposed to your pleasurable experience?

            Clearly Jason knows little of Macs. But everything you knock in your
            blog is already fixed on Mac. Yet now you complain about Macs?
            Richard Flude
          • @jason...

            I don't know why you think there'd be any legacy HFS problems. A seven
            year old Mac would be running OS X (which was released over eight years
            ago), so there'd be no problem there. HFS is supported by OS X. If she
            still had the QuickBooks disk, even though it was originally for the PPC,
            it would still run on an Intel Mac, so she would have no problem there,
            either. It's also been noted that you can boot from the OS X CD by
            pressing command-C at bootup.

            By these comments, you're showing a real lack of understanding of OS X,
            and Apple's Intel transition.
            msalzberg
          • reply to msalzberg

            [b]"By these comments, you're showing a real lack of understanding of OS X, and Apple's Intel transition."[/b]

            HFS may be HFS, but again I am referring to the hard disk itself. How are you supposed to transfer the data off a seven year-old G5 mac which will not boot? Assume you can't boot it with an old OS X CD, whatever. Something is wrong with the mainboard, etc. How are you supposed to attach that drive to a modern Mac? USB dongle to ATA interface? SCSI-2 or SCSI-3 PCI adapter bridge? What? G3, G4, and G5 hardware is pretty esoteric.

            As to an old copy for Quickbooks for PPC Mac running in Rosetta/Transitive, I'll give you that and assume it works, because I have no experience with it on the Mac. I've played with it extensively on Linux for Solaris binary translation.
            jperlow
          • @reply to msalzberg

            "Something is wrong with the mainboard, etc. How are you supposed to
            attach that drive to a modern Mac? USB dongle to ATA interface? SCSI-2
            or SCSI-3 PCI adapter bridge? What? G3, G4, and G5 hardware is pretty
            esoteric."

            Apple hasn't used SCSI since late 90s. The drive is going to be ATA or
            SATA. These drives can to be connected to any computer supporting HFS
            to recover the files. This can even be done with windows and the
            supporting software!

            You are trying to make an issue where there is none.
            Richard Flude
          • jason, jason

            what a bunch of fud. if she had bought a new mac all her data and
            settings would have been on her new mac via migration assistant
            seamlessly and fast. the old quicken files would import in the newest
            version just fine. ppc oder intel doesn't make a difference and i suppose
            you know that. and as distinct from the piece of pc garbage she had after
            7 years, the 7 years old mac could have been sold on ebay. talk about
            resale value!

            something different: it would be really interesting if you would buy a
            brand new imac or macbook pro in an apple-store, set it up and write an
            article about the whole experience. no sarcasm, it would be really
            interesting! what do you think about such an experiment?
            bannedfromzdnetagain
          • @Jason: More on your breeches

            Jason,
            You might consider simply not commenting on Macs. When a subject comes up
            with which I'm not familiar, I say "I don't know". I don't make up stuff. Try it.

            Case in point. You blather on about the impossibility of recovering an old HFS file
            system. Aside from the fact that most consumer-level Macs have used ATA
            drives for years (my first ATA Mac was 1993), the HFS file system has been
            around for equally as long. So assuming the drive mechanism isn't hosed (an
            equal problem with a FAT-32 drive), you can pop the old drive into an available
            bay or in a standard USB drive enclosure. You can then repair it -- in most cases
            with the tool that's built into OSX.

            The thing that it is clear you simply refuse to understand is that Apple has tried to
            be a good citizen for a long, long time. Macs can actually read, write and format
            Windows file systems. They can deal with many windows application file formats.
            They rigorously adhere to industry standards such as HTML, USB, AAC, Mp3, etc,
            etc. It's Microsoft that attempts to trap customers by sticking them with
            proprietary stuff.

            You made a good point about crapware. You should have stayed with it.
            MC_z
          • Read the article!

            When you get a chance actually read the article and try to understand the
            situation. The Windows box was working, it was just full of crap.
            john_gillespie@...