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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.