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Beat it, bloatware: How to clean the crap off your PC

Brad Chacos | April 14, 2014
Preloaded software bogs down your hard drive, your start menu, and worse. Clean it out with these handy tools and tricks.

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Boot up a new PC for the first time, and you should be able to watch it fly. Instead, it may sputter and struggle to get off the ground, thanks all the preinstalled junk that vendors habitually dump onto new PCs.

Bloatware--also known as crapware--is more than annoying, because it actively consumes your computer's resources. It's worth your time to clean it off a new PC so you can use it to its full potential. Here's how to do that with minimal headaches.

Bloatware 101: How manufacturers make PCs slower

But first, some background. Manufacturers install bloatware on new PCs because they're paid to do so. PC profit margins are low, so preinstalling junk gives PC manufacturers a bit of extra money--and, to be fair, keeps your PC cheaper than it would otherwise be.

Beyond sucking up your computer's storage, however, bloatware often loads at startup, increasing how long your PC takes to boot, wasting valuable RAM, and generally cluttering your system tray, desktop, installed applications, and context menus.

Many types of preinstalled software are just plain bad. You'll often find antivirus programs that try to scare you paying up by saying your PC is at-risk, advertisement-filled games you don't want to play, and trial programs that give you an hour free before becoming useless.

Not every program included on a new PC is useless, though. Tools worth keeping are the ones that help with your hardware, like the Nvidia Control Panel and GeForce Experience for tweaking your Nvidia graphics hardware settings.

Desktop vs. Store app bloatware

Windows bloatware has traditionally been confined to the desktop, often loading at startup and filling the system tray. On Windows 8 and 8.1 devices, bloatware sometimes comes in the form of preinstalled Windows Store apps--the new full screen apps that appear in the Modern-style Start screen's tiled interface.

Even if you don't like Windows 8's new touch-first interface, this type of bloatware is much better. Such apps can't start automatically at boot, so they won't run in the background and slow down your system. Plus, they're a cinch to uninstall--just right-click or long-press those tiles and select Uninstall. Done!

Refresh and Reset have been compromised

When Windows 8 was released, many people found that they could obliterate bloatware from new PCs with the built-in Refresh or Reset options. These restore Windows back to a clean state--they're basically an easy way to reinstall Windows.

Unfortunately, Refresh and Reset probably won't remove bloatware on new PCs. System manufacturers have realized that they can create custom recovery images full of bloatware, so refreshing your PC will simply restore all the same junk. Microsoft doesn't prevent computer manufacturers from adding bloatware to their recovery images.


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