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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 make extra money by preinstalling trial versions of software. If they can convince you to pay for an upgrade to the full version, they make a commission. But those upsell offers (also known as crapware) are annoying, and in the worst case they can slow a PC noticeably.
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.
How bad is the problem? Two months ago, I picked up three new consumer notebooks, one each from HP, Samsung, and Sony. What I found was eye-opening. On the next 12 pages, I'll show you how those PC makers added frustration and annoyance to the experience.
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Windows has its own simple out-of-box experience for a new PC that requires accepting a license agreement, choosing a time zone, and configuring Windows update. HP adds its own separate setup routine to new consumer PCs. It's a full-screen, animated show that highlights the HP brand while asking questions that most PC makers handle with a simple dialog box.
This step tries to convince the new PC owner to activate the 60-day trial version of Norton Internet Security. And it illustrates a theme that crops up over and over again in these OEM installations. You can say yes, but no doesn't mean no. If you click No here, the wizard helpfully reminds you that "you will be reminded later." Later, as it turns out, is in a matter of milliseconds. If you click No, you immediately see an "are you sure?" dialog box.
This Samsung notebook comes preloaded with a wheelbarrow full of trial software versions. This filtered list shows more than 20 separate programs, each of which will find a way to get in your face with an "offer" to let you pay to unlock the full version.
The most annoying part of this excessive software preload is the collection of games from Oberon Media. In addition to the Game Pack, there are no fewer than 10 individual games preinstalled. It takes five clicks and a minimum of 30 seconds to uninstall each one.