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Bloatware: Why computer makers fill your PC with junk, and how to get rid of it

Brad Chacos | Feb. 27, 2015
Bloatware, crapware, shovelware: No matter what you call it, the junk that PC makers dump onto new PCs is nothing short of a mess. The situation was thrust into the spotlight last week when it was revealed that several Lenovo PCs were preloaded with "Superfish" adware that actively left users vulnerable to attack. The software compromised secure HTTPS web connections in a quest to inject ads on the sites you visit... and make Lenovo a few nickels.

Beat it, bloatware

That doesn't change the fact that bloatware sucks, however. (There's a reason people also call it "crapware.") Even ignoring Superfish's security implications, the sea of junk consumes your PC's precious hardware resources and can significantly slow down boot times, as this since-removed graphic advertising Microsoft's Signature Edition PCs shows.

Fortunately, you can have your cake and eat it, too. There are numerous methods for eradicating or outright avoiding bloatware on your PC.

The easiest way to deal with bloatware is to sidestep it completely. Microsoft — which obviously wants to present Windows in the best possible light — offers bloatware-free "Signature Edition" versions of many popular PCs, from the $200 HP Stream 13 to the jaw-dropping Dell XPS 13 and even more expensive models. Even better, Microsoft charges little or no premium for its clean computers; the biggest price gap we found between a Signature Edition PC and its crud-filled counterpart was $30. You can check out the full lineup here.

Microsoft puts its money where its mouth is, too: The company's Surface laptop-like tablets are similarly bloatware-free.

The Signature Edition lineup focuses on notebook and all-in-ones, however. If you want a proper bloatware-free desktop with a bit more firepower, you'll need to build your own machine and install Windows yourself. Don't worry! It's not as difficult as you may think.

Alternatively, boutique system builders like Digital Storm, AVA Direct, and Origin can build you a custom rig with nary a whiff of shovelware installed. Their PCs tend to be a bit pricer and focused on gaming or business-ready workstations, however.

Cleaning up the mess

All's not lost if you buy a standard bloatware-filled PC, however. Wiping run-of-the-mill crapware off your PC is fairly straightforward, assuming it doesn't sneak in deeper, more dangerous hooks like Superfish did. (Lenovo's Superfish appears to be a unique situation, however — at least for preloaded bloatware. PCWorld's guide to Superfish removal can help you kill it with fire if you've recently purchased a new Lenovo PC.)

Deleting bloatware in the form of Windows Store apps couldn't be easier: Just right-click on its Tile, then select Uninstall. Boom! Done. Likewise, sifting through the list of software in the Control Panel's "Uninstall a Program" section (Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a program) will let you see all and eliminate all the crapware that takes the form of traditional desktop software.

Automated tools like PC Decrapifier can speed up the process. Should I Remove It does the same, while also providing recommendations about whether to remove specific programs. For more in-depth instructions, check out PCWorld's guide to blasting bloatware off your PC.


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