Open Letter To PC Makers: Ditch The Bloatware, Now!

This is the final straw. This is the line in the sand. This is the year that companies have to wise up and realize that they're destroying the experience of the very machines that they try to market so vigorously over their competitor's products. We're talking about bloatware, and it's an issue that we simply cannot remain silent on any longer. It's a very, very real problem, and it has been for years. But we always assumed that things would improve as the "fad" faded. Sadly, we assumed wrong. The fad hasn't faded, and dare we say, things have become even less bearable over time.

We should preface this by saying that, as critics of notebooks and desktops, we are faced with this issue far more frequently than the average consumer. You could reasonably assume that normal consumers will only buy a new computer once every couple of years, if that. So they're only faced with the sour taste of bloatware once in a long while. But as reviewers, we see bloatware day in, and day out. And we've reached the breaking point.

This continually pops up every so often until you reboot. You cannot easily just "exit."

If you aren't familiar with this term, "bloatware" generally refers to any additional software installed on a machine that is not a native part of the operating system. For example, iLife is an integrated part of OS X, so it wouldn't be considered bloatware. The same goes for Microsoft Paint and the Scanner / Camera Wizard within Windows. These programs were designed by the host company, and they are written into the fabric of the OS. Both Microsoft and Apple were able to internally test the performance of these applications before releasing them, ensuring that their inclusion did not negatively impact the overall performance of the OS.

The "Bing Bar" up top froze our IE window for ~60 seconds on each launch.

"Bloatware" is usually provided by third-party software companies, and can range from security suites to unwanted Web browser toolbars. It's most problematic as these programs generally attempt to boot up first thing, right as the OS is booting up, before the end-user ever has a chance to launch the program on their own accord. Let's give an example. We recently unwrapped Dell's Inspiron Duo, a unique tablet/netbook hybrid that is currently on the test bench. The initial unboxing experience went something like this: "Wow! What a beautiful and unique looking machine." Then we booted it up. It seemed quick enough, but after the Window desktop appeared, the experience went downhill very quickly.

Look at this insane list of startup applications on the Inspiron Duo!

The first thing we noticed is that we couldn't even move the mouse cursor because dozens of applications were attempting to load simultaneously in the background. On a weak Atom CPU, this is a real grinder. It took around 45 seconds before we could do anything at all, and even then the cursor was jumping around as the machine was still stuttering through the loading process. We attempted to surf down to the Internet Explorer icon, but before we could press it, a McAfee Security Suite started up an update process without even asking us. It simply assumed that we wanted it there, and further, wanted an update. We weren't even connected to the Internet at this point, so up pops an error.

Is all of this really needed? If so, let me do the launching!

And it's not just Dell. Over the past few months, we have encountered similar tribulations on HP, Asus and Acer machines, with many others also guilty of installing software at the factory that we never asked to be there.

It's time for companies to take note: consumers do not want bloatware. It's a royal pain from top to bottom, and moreover, it ruins your brand! When people think of HP and Dell, they immediately think of just how infuriating it is that their last "new" PC took over one minute to boot up and become useable. To these companies: why are you saddling your machines with software that makes it less enjoyable to use? Does anyone at HP, Dell, Acer or Asus actually boot up one of these machines themselves and try to use it? It's painful, and incredibly frustrating. What if I don't want a security suite on my PC? Or what if I prefer Norton, and have to spend half an hour uninstalling McAfee just to make room for my preferred alternative? Why should the first 30 minutes of PC ownership involve the process of uninstalling programs that I never wanted in the first place? And even after that, fragments are still left floating on the hard drive, further dampening performance.

Taking up valuable screen real estate and resources atop Internet Explorer.

What if I just want to use a Web browser the way Google, Mozilla or Microsoft intended? Why are you making the executive decision for me that I need a resource-draining toolbar installed? Who gave you the power to make my machine less quick? And why in the world would you want to make your machines less quick?

The solution seems pretty simple to us. If you still wish to include loads upon loads of third-party software, stick it all on a thumb drive and include it with every new machine. Problem solved. The added cost is marginal, there's no extra hit in shipping weight, and guess what? Your machines are quicker from the start! People are more likely to have a positive experience! Your brand is improved! It sounds like a win-win to us.

Ditch the bloatware, guys!

Has anyone else been soured by the ridiculous amount of bloatware that is shipping with pre-fabricated machines these days? How would you like to see the issue resolved? Let us know in comments!