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Beat it, bloatware: How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC

Chris Hoffman | Feb. 23, 2015
We originally published this article about a year ago, but in light of Lenovo's Superfish fiasco, cleaning crapware off your PC is now more relevant than ever. For Superfish-specific instructions, see our handy guide here. But even if you don't own one of the affected Lenovo PCs, the following guide should still prove helpful.

You can create your own custom recovery images, too. When you get a new PC, first remove the bloatware and then create a custom refresh image. When you Refresh or Reset your PC, you'll restore it to that clean state without any bloatware.

Get help removing bloatware

Several handy utilities can help you combat bloatware. PC Decrapifier is designed to make crapware eradication as easy as possible. Run this program and it will attempt to find known bloatware installed on your PC. It's far faster than hunting through your Control Panel, uninstalling programs one by one. 

Easy bloatware removal is the Should I Remove It? utility's stock in trade. It displays the programs installed on your computer, informs you what they do, and shows you whether other users have chosen to remove it. This program's website even lists common bloatware by manufacturer

Uninstall the junk

You can also remove bloatware like you'd remove any other type of software. Open your Control Panel, view the list of installed programs, and uninstall any programs you don't want. If you do this immediately after getting a new PC, the list of programs here will only include the stuff that came with your computer.

You can also check your system tray to see what's running in the background, which can help you find some of the worst, most annoying offenders. Uninstall anything you don't use to prevent it from coming back the next time you boot your computer.

When in doubt, perform a Google search for the program. You may be able to find bloatware removal guides for your specific model of laptop or desktop PC. An enterprising user may have written up a guide explaining what all that preinstalled software actually does, which programs are necessary, and which you'll want to remove.

Reinstall Windows to get a clean system

You could also take more drastic methods. Many geeks insist on performing a clean Windows install on all their new PCs. Rather than trying to clean up the bloatware, they find it easier to obliterate everything and start from scratch. This works well, but it can be time-consuming and a bit tedious.

All you need is a fresh Windows disc. (If your new PC doesn't have a DVD drive, you can put Windows installation media on a USB drive.) Insert the installation media into your computer and reboot. Install Windows normally and you'll end up with a clean Windows system as Microsoft intended it, without any of that manufacturer-specific clutter.

Manufacturers generally don't include Windows installation media with new PCs anymore. When they do, it's often packing the same bloatware, so you'll have to find fresh media yourself. Microsoft offers a way to download Windows 8.1 installation media, while Digital River lets you download Windows 7 ISO files — Digital River is a licensed distributor of Microsoft software, so this is legitimate.

 

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