For those of you who still buy PCs--the store-bought models that come with Windows already installed--what are your thoughts about all of that trial software that comes preinstalled on your not-inexpensive machine? If you're like most conscientious computer users, you absolutely hate it. Not only for the inconvenience, but for the performance issues such software--bloatware or crapware--causes.
The bulk of this putrid software can be classified as OEM, and it's normally a trial version of a software package related to a piece of hardware in the computer itself. If you've bought a PC from Dell, and weren't mindful enough to decline the excess software that comes with these computers, you know exactly what bloatware and crapware refers to.
With that in mind, the small amount of Microsoft stores (currently 16 with further ones coming soon) offer a "Signature" version of their PCs, meaning the machine comes without the additional OEM bloatware installed with Windows, which is a very good thing. If you don't want that crap on your brand new PC, you should have the option of avoiding it, and Microsoft (and Dell) deserve kudos for making that a reality.
However, these same Microsoft stores also offer a service that removes bloatware from PCs that were purchased elsewhere. The cost of removing this crapware, er, allowing Microsoft to give it the "Signature" treatment?
That's right. Taking a page directly out of Best Buy's "Geek Squad" playbook, the Microsoft stores are charging $100-plus (after taxes) to clean the crap off of your computer. The service, as described by Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal, sounds like a good way to make money off of consumers who do not want to take an active role in the lives of their new machine. A quick look at the caveats Mossberg described underscores my disposition:
Microsoft loads Signature machines with its own add-on software, such as its free email, photo and video programs, its Zune music and video program, and a stripped-down "Starter" version of Microsoft Office, that includes only Word and Excel, plus ads, and an offer to buy the full version.
However, the company says the stores will remove any of these a customer doesn't want and even help the customer install competing software, such as Google's Chrome browser, or Apple's iTunes for Windows.
While there's little doubt some consumers will want, and perhaps even need such assistance, it's hard to see the $100 value, aside from the fact you're paying someone else to do the work for you.
A quick Google search for "PC bloatware removal" reveals pages and pages of tutorials and utilities designed to do the exact same thing. Furthermore, many of these utilities, like PC Decrapifier, are free. From PC Decrapifier's description:
It's a free tool for you to use that helps remove programs, unnecessary startup items and icons that can slow down your PC. It takes you step by step, giving you recommendations on what to remove, many of which can be removed unattended.
So, you can pay the Microsoft store over $100 to remove this unwanted software, or you can download a free utility (more than one, actually) that does it for you. Which is the better deal?
"But wait," you say, "Microsoft will install the software I want them to with their 'Signature' service. They'll even install Google's browser if I ask them too." To which, I say, "if you need someone else to install Chrome for you, you might want to reconsider purchasing a home computer, or, well, any technical device until you better inform yourself. If you need the Internet that badly, the public library keeps reasonable hours."