Column: Bloatware - That is the last thing I need...
by Uli Ries 18.11.2009
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I do not want your software!
Dear laptop manufacturers: I do not want your software. I especially do not want gigabytes of it. Instead of installing whatever you please, you should consult the user and install only those software which he/she needs or desires. Apropos: 90-days-test versions of anti-virus software probably cause more virus infections than they solve. So thanks but no thanks!
Although I like German as it is my mother tongue, when it comes to technical specifications it is easier to describe such things in English. For example, the terms "crapware" (a polite synonym for "crap" would be "rubbish") and "bloatware" (which derives from the verb "to bloat") are two useful terms in English which aptly describe most of the software which are installed by notebook manufacturers on new laptops (such as, 90-days test versions of Microsoft Office, DVD-burning software, games or anti-virus programs).
The software can take up a lot of hard disk space. For example, Acer and HP, install, depending on the model of the laptop, up to 2 GBs of unnecessary software. This "crapware" increases the start-up time of the laptop by a lot. Of course, due to the sheer number of running programs, the strain on the RAM and other CPU resources increases exponentially too.
Most of the pre-installed "crapware" is useless and after a few weeks it starts demanding the user to buy the full version by putting up annoying pop-ups. There are more than enough free programs on the internet, which are far more practical and user-friendly, so why is it that they are not installed on new laptops instead of the crapware?
The reason is simple: money. Notebook manufacturers are more interested in making money off the anti-virus software producers, who wish for their product trial versions to be used by the laptop buyers, than in what the user wants to have on the laptop. So the notebook manufacturers are actually well aware of the annoyance cause to the users, but ignore their discomfort to make more money. Experts say that manufactures can earn up to millions of US dollars from such unfair transactions.
As long as I do not receive a 20 percent discount on a 500 euro notebook, from a software producer, I am not interested in their free products. The performance of cheaper, weaker notebooks would suffice users if it were not for the unnecessary pre-installed softwares which strain the laptop components and thus lead to severe drops in performance.
Thankfully, not all pre-installed software is useless. There are some which are actually quite useful, and surprisingly enough, these programs do not come from some small warm-hearted software company, but from the notebook manufacturers themselves. The "ThinkVantage tool" on Lenovo is a good example of a collection of useful pre-installed programs. Of course, the performance of these free programs, such as, "Rescue & Recovery" (Lenovos free backup software), may be disputed. Still they can be very helpful in everyday use, such as the network management tools, the "ThinkVantage Access Connections" or Dells "Connection Manager", which make it easier for laptop users to quickly connect to the desired network.
Pre-installed 90-days test versions of anti-virus softwares do more harm than good. Of course, they do protect the computer from all kinds of malware, and are especially helpful when the computer is missing several important Windows security updates, and the laptop user is ignorant of all the malicious things which lurk on the internet. However, despite all that, these trial programs are still a big danger. They coax the user into a false sense of security, and after 90 days, when the trial ends and the user does not subscribe for a full version, the program does not get any more updates. This will inevitably lead to the anti-virus software becoming more and more useless as each day passes.
Even though the software does remind the user to buy the full version of the program, most users do not know how to actually subscribe for the full version and thus, ignore the warning completely. This, of course, leads to some new malicious software infesting the laptop and harassing the user.
It would be much better to install a free anti-virus software, which may not have cool extra features like web browser protection or "Rootkit-Killer", but they do run for a longer time, and are thus far safer for notebook users. And of course you have the best interest of those users at heart do you not, dear laptop manufacturers?