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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.

Should I Remove It? displays all the programs it finds on your PC and color-codes them according to the removal rates -- red for most removed, orange for moderate removal rates, green for low. On my old system, it found no reds, and only two orange: Dell System Customization Wizard and Dell Documentation Launcher. It rated the Google Updater and a Nook PC app as green. It didn't find or list any startup programs such as ehTray.exe and NvCplDaemon.

What's truly exceptional about Should I Remove It, though, is not the program itself, but the accompanying website, which has a tremendous amount of detail about bloatware. Use it as your go-to source. The site has capsule descriptions of each piece of software to help you decide whether you think that application belongs on your system. Unfortunately, though, unlike The PC Decrapifier, Should I Remove It? doesn't report on startup items.

Slim Computer

The free Slim Computer, like The PC Decrapifier and Should I Remove It?, uses crowdsourcing to determine which software on your PC is bloatware, and then lets you decide which to remove and which to leave. Unlike the other two, however, it also looks at browser extensions, plugins, ActiveX objects and other add-ins that might be considered bloat.

Before you run a scan, it's a good idea to go to Settings --> Advanced and change the Scanner Threshhold mode from Default to Aggressive. Default mode is designed for computer novices who might not be able to understand which software to remove and which to keep -- it's safer, but doesn't find all potential problematic programs. Aggressive finds more and is your best bet.

To start the process, click Scan, and after a few minutes, items that you might want to remove will appear in four categories: Applications, Browsers, Startup Items and Shortcuts. The list in each category includes the name of each program, the publisher (if available) and recommendations as to whether to remove it based on what other Slim Computer users have done.

Where Slim Computer shines is in the information it provides about each item. Click a More Info link and you'll get a description of the software and what it does, the number of people who have recommended removing or keeping it, and individual comments that people have made about it. It's a great way to help you decide whether to keep the software or remove it.

For information about browser extensions, plugins, ActiveX and other browser additions you might want to remove, you click Browsers in the left-hand column and then click the icon for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera or Safari. You'll then see a list of the add-ins for each browser, along with ratings and the More Info button. And near the top of the screen you'll see the default search engine for the browser you're currently looking at -- just in case something changed your default search engine without your say-so.

 

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