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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  • 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.

  • Every consumer computer I looked at for this story came with a trial version of a security package. McAfee and Norton are the leaders in the preloaded trialware game, but Trend Micro occasionally plays as well.

    If you don't activate the software when you first turn on the PC, you'll see frequent reminders like this one, filled with warnings about the evildoers lurking just outside your office door. The only way to close this dialog box is by clicking the faint, practically invisible X in the upper right corner. And if you try that you're rewarded with more frightening dialog boxes before you eventually suppress it. But none of those prompts include an option to uninstall the software. For that, you need to make your way to Control Panel on your own.

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.
    Frenz9
    • Work is work is work

      @Frenz9
      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.
      Mikael_z
      • "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.
        Random_Walk
        • 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.
          JohnOfStony
          • Apple vs PC

            JohnOfStony

            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.
            DisruptiveThinker
      • 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.
        ye
      • 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.
        ScorpioBlue
      • 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.
        darkonc
      • RE: Microsoft Makes it difficult to find a non windows PC

        @darkonc

        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.
        bobiroc
    • 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.
      stephenmj@...
      • 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.
        stano360
      • RE: The desktop is for putting things on.

        @stano360

        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.
        bobiroc
      • 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
        Ken.Nischan
    • RE: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC

      @Frenz9
      Sorry; misread the article.
      tom@...
  • Did you perform any benchmarks?

    Specifically startup time (for Windows) as well as IE with and without the crapware installed?
    ye
    • 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.
      wackoae
      • Then you misunderstand the entire purpose with crapware

        @wackoae
        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.
        Mikael_z
      • 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".
        ye
      • 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.
        baggins_z
      • 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.
        SlithyTove