12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

Summary: Making PCs is a tough business, with low profit margins and cutthroat competition. To squeeze a few extra bucks out of every PC they sell, some OEMs cut deals to preinstall trial versions of software. On top of that, some OEMs feel compelled to “add value” to their hardware by bundling software programs and utilities that duplicate functions already available in Windows. This gallery documents the frustration I found after unboxing three new consumer notebooks.


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  • Every laptop I looked at has its own updater program. In a perfect world, it would concentrate on things like device drivers and BIOS updates. This is, alas, not a perfect world.

    Sony's updater, shown here, makes a bold promise when you first use it: "VAIO Update helps to keep your VAIO tuned for optimum performance." But the four updates shown here are just for the unnecessary stuff included with the PCs. For some strange reason, you have to click the New Software button to learn that there's an updated graphics driver and a second update for the included Blu-ray playback software. If you update manually, each updater launches a separate installer that requires you to select your language from an alphabetical list, and doesn't remember your previous choice or take any hints from your system settings.

  • Windows includes a Recovery option in Control Panel. In addition to the Windows Backup and Restore options, it allows OEMs to give customers the ability to restore their original Windows installation. If you've made it this far, you are probably not surprised that Sony doesn't use this option.

    Instead, it buries the Recover options in yet another Control Panel alternative called VAIO Care. If you choose the Recover Computer option, you can wipe out your existing installation and use the recovery partition to put your system back exactly the way it was when you first unwrapped the PC, complete with trialware. What's noteworthy about Sony's implementation of this option is how clunky and slow it is. A clean installation of Windows takes about 20 minutes, as does a restore from a saved system image. Sony's approach takes well over two hours, and there's no way to skip the unwanted software.

  • Here's one for the record books. HP actually offers a clean installation option, but most people are unlikely to find it. Indeed, I stumbled across it only when I was wiping data and preparing my crop of review machines to be returned.

    On this HP notebook, if you go to the Advanced Recovery Methods page in Control Panel, you're given an option to "Return your computer to factory condition." After a restart, you're presented with these three options. The Minimize Image Recovery option does exactly what it sounds like. You get a clean Windows installation, with the proper drivers and required HP utilities. But trialware and other unwanted software are completely missing. On a default installation, the Programs option in Control Panel includes 50 entries. Using this option, the same list is stripped down to a mere 25 entries.

    It's an option every OEM should offer. And it's one that HP should publicize.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Hardware, Software

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  • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

    I custom build my PC's so dont often come across most of this except for purchasing new laptops. In which the first thing i do is remove all those 'crapware' & remove desktop icons.

    For my PC the only permanent desktop icon i keep is the recycle bin & sometimes used as a parking space for random temporary files.
    • Work is work is work

      to paraphrase a famous scottish actor.
      Why is so much unproductive work associated with cheap PCs?
      Because is the same amount of work to be expected with a premium PC?
      It shouldn't, why no one should be recommended these crap-filled PCs.
      • "You made your beds, now lie in them"

        The title is the famous saying/cliche that comes to mind when it comes to Windows PCs. <br><br>All day long I get to see all the yammering from all these fanboys about how you can buy a "OAMG it's better than Macs!" PC for $800 at most... but neglect to tell the uninformed out there that the things are loaded to the gunwales with crapware. <br><br>On my end, I don't mind, or even care - I know how to clean my gear up, and screw the rest of the planet. If anyone asks, I tell them to go buy a Mac - they get a better resale value, the tech support is top-notch, and they last a hell of a lot longer. <br><br>As for the masses? If you buy a Windows-loaded machine, this is what you get, because the OEMs are most definitely not a charity. Suck it up and deal with it, campers.
        • Apple v. PC - again.

          Whereas Random_Walk may be sincere in his recommendation of Macs, personally, I prefer the freedom of a democracy (PCs - plenty of choice, with the admitted nuisance of crapware) to the dictatorship of Apple (the dictator is good to you but you have no choice - you have to support him). Apple has admittted some third party hardware to connect to its equipment via USB and Firewire but I've had problems connecting third party equipment to my Mac Mini via both these interfaces so it's still not as universal as the U in USB would imply. I also note that Apple is not supporting USB 3, choosing instead the 'new standard' Thunderbolt interface which is not backward compatible with anything, unlike USB 3. Also, remember when Apple switched processors making older machines with the PowerPC processor unable to upgrade to the latest OS? So the dictator isn't always benevolent. With the democratic PC, if one manufacturer lets you down, you simply switch to a different one.
          • Apple vs PC


            But then, you are a Geek (nothing wrong with that), and Geeks tend to prefer PCs. I am a reformed Geek who would rather spend my time USING my computer instead of constantly fighting it.
      • I'd rather spend less and remove the crapware.

        @Random_Walk: It takes about 30 minutes to remove it and it's easy to do.
      • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

        [i]@Random_Walk: It takes about 30 minutes to remove it and it's easy to do.[/i]

        For you it does. For the average user out there...do try to think about them.
      • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

        @Mikael_z Mostly I just suggest that people wipe the drive and install Linux. Microsoft, unfortunately makes it rather difficult to find a non-mac Intel PC that doesn't have Windows pre-loaded on it.
      • RE: Microsoft Makes it difficult to find a non windows PC


        Really? You mean all those shops that will build and/or sell white box PCs or the ability to simply assemble one yourself is difficult? I love this argument how Microsoft prohibits choice when there is plenty of choices.

        Oh and for the record Microsoft has very little to do with OEMs primarily offering Windows on what they sell. It has everything to do with what people want. Despite lame attempts from the the Linux Fanboys people do not want Linux because it is not what works with what they want to use a computer for. For some people it is a good fit but for most it is not. They do not want to deal with open source alternative softwares or some poor attempt at emulation. They want the mainstream software.
    • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

      @Frenz9 I'm on the same boat. I can't stand a cluttered desktop. Recycle bin and a Temp folder is all I care to keep in there.
      • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

        @stephenmj@... Guys, that's a little neurotic. The desktop is for putting things on.
      • RE: The desktop is for putting things on.


        It sure is. In a neat and organized fashion with the minimum you need to work or need access to right away. It is called a Desktop because it is like the Top of your work Desk. Or do you clutter that up with all your files and other items so that you cannot find anything when you need it?

        There is no need for a shortcut to every installed program and tons of files right on the desktop. Just like the top of your desk it is not intended for that.
      • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

        I'm the same. I suppose it .is. a bit neurotic, or at least obsessive-compulsive, lol, but in my case I don't like anything obscuring the wallpaper :) I love the quick launch bar, and with the Windows 7 start menu redesign I don't see any need for desktop icons anyway.

        Of course.. wallpaper is a crappy excuse considering 90% of the time I can't see it due to my windows being open lol
    • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

      Sorry; misread the article.
  • Did you perform any benchmarks?

    Specifically startup time (for Windows) as well as IE with and without the crapware installed?
    • Why waste the time

      @ye Who cares if the startup time is significant or negligible? The fact that a computer comes with 51 crapware programs pre installed (I'm assuming most people will find PowerDVD and Skype (but not the toolbar) useful ) should be enough scream bloody hell. There is ZERO reason to have the applications pre-installed. The user should be asked if they want it or not, and only after user approval, should they be installed.
      • Then you misunderstand the entire purpose with crapware

        Crapware is not for the customer to enjoy but for the OEM to make money on. They don't care one wit if it gives you a second rate experience, it's all about the money and nothing else.
      • I don't. But it seems many people do.

        @wackoae: [i]Who cares if the startup time is significant or negligible?[/i]

        There have been numerous articles (for example Windows 8 reducing start up time) as well as comments in this forum (as well as others) about startup time. I think it's a worthless metric (unless it's excessive). But it would be nice to know how much all the crapware adds to startup times. After all it's at the heart of "Windows rot".
      • There is a perfectly good reason to have it installed

        to cover the razor thin margins in selling a $399 laptop. You can't have your cake and eat it too. No trialware, cheap PC. Pick one.
      • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

        @Mikael_z <br><br>It is all about the money, but maybe not the way you think. Crapware is a form of subsidization, ie it lowers the cost of building a system. <br><br>Since the PC market is so ruthlessly competitive, most of that actually gets passed on to the customer. One PC maker does it, and becomes more price competitive, then the rest follow suit out of necessity. <br><br>And customers really really like cheap. That's why it is so hard to wean PC makers off of crapware.