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Bloatware: What it is and how to get rid of it

Preston Gralla | Aug. 24, 2015
Is your new Windows system laden with unnecessary -- or even harmful -- software? Here's a rundown of what to look for and how (or if) you can uninstall it.

the puffer fish
Credit: By Uploader1977 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

When you buy a new Windows PC, you expect it to be clean and lean, starting up fast and speeding through your work as quickly as you need it to.

Ah, if that were only the case. The truth is, most Windows PCs start off slower than they should be, clogged with unnecessary preloaded software. Known as bloatware (or a number of less complimentary terms) this software comes in many different forms. Most bloatware isn't dangerous, but it can slow down your system and take up space on your hard drive.

How much does bloatware slow down your PC? It's hard to say, but there are some indications that it can have a considerable effect. Microsoft sells a line of what it calls Signature PCs, computers that are free of third-party software. According to the product page, on average, the Signature PCs start up 104 percent faster, shut down 35 percent faster and have 28 minutes more battery life than the same laptops with bloatware.

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IT folks: We hope you'll pass this guide on to your users to help them learn how to prevent and/or remove bloatware.

In this article I'll discuss the most common types of bloatware you'll encounter, how to uninstall it and how to buy bloatware-free PCs. (Note that this article covers only Windows computers, and not Macs or other systems.)

New PC = add-ons

Why do PC vendors put additional software on new machines in the first place? Sometimes it's simply in order to offer tools that will add functionality to their systems. But most often, it's because including third-party applications are an additional source of revenue.

Generally, on Windows machines, you encounter two kinds of preinstalled software: The applications that run on the more old-fashioned desktop interface and apps that run on the touch-oriented tablet mode. I find the latter to be less intrusive because they're visible as tiles -- so it doesn't take a lot of deep digging to find and uninstall them. Desktop applications that have been preinstalled can be a lot harder to find, especially for less techie users, who may not even realize they have unwanted software until it activates and pops up on their screen.

Within those two categories, there are a number of different types.

Trialware

Trialware is software that you get to use for free for a certain amount of time, but that you have to pay for if you want to use it after that -- for, say, 30 days or six months. Among the most common kind of trialware is security software made by companies such as McAfee and Norton.

 

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