Computers Coming Preloaded with More Crapware Than Ever Before

SonynotebookWalt Mossberg of Wall Street Journal fame has an article out (subscription required) explaining just how much crap his brand new Sony laptop came with. And we’re not talking full programs either; these are trial versions which force you to pay later if you’re really interested. Walt counted about two dozen “craplets” pre-installed, which likely are part of the reason for the over two minutes of time it takes the computer to start up (compared to 30 seconds for a comparable Apple MacBook, ouch!). Sony’s response:

“The programs are carefully selected and provide benefits to many consumers, up to 30% of whom act on the offers.” Sony even goes as far as to preload your computer with over four gigabytes of movies (taking up your space) that you can’t watch unless you pay, calling it “a key differentiator for our products in the marketplace, which we have found that many VAIO customers greatly appreciate.”

Nice try with the PR, Sony, but we see right through it. “Benefits” (nice word usage; translation: when Sony gets paid because of impulse users) to 30% of customers is no excuse for pissing off the other 70%.

Here’s a list of all the craplet issues Walt mentioned in his article and video review:

  1. Two desktop icons for America Online services
  2. At least two dozen icons for random offers
  3. Two desktop icons for Microsoft services
  4. Napster window in the lower right part of the screen
  5. “Watch Hit Movies Now!” icon which requires you to pay to play the movies already taking up space on your computer
  6. Internet Explorer preloaded with AOL toolbar
  7. AOL set as default search engine with Google not even listed as an option
  8. Symantec Internet Security 60-day trial (requires multiple rounds of warnings / scans / updates before use)

I think Walt sums it up well when explaining the core issue:

“The problem is a lack of respect for the consumer. The manufacturers don’t act as if the computer belongs to you. They act as if it is a billboard for restricted trial versions of software and ads for Web sites and services that they can sell to third-party companies who want you to buy these products.”

Incidentally, Dell recently released a service called “Idea Storm” where consumers vote on what they’d like to see change at Dell. The fourth most popular idea? “NO EXTRA SOFTWARE OPTION” If you want to make it even more popular, it takes less than a minute to register and vote. You can also leave comments like this one:

“I think a clean computer option would be a differentiator for Dell. I’d be willing to pay a premium to replace the lost software placement fees.”

I’m not sure about paying a premium, but the idea definitely would make me go Dell over other brands…

*Update* A reader, Jim Strickland, emailed me and had this to share as his solution after trying to clean up the computer and even reinstall (a reinstall of Windows using the CD that comes with the Sony only puts all the crapware back in place):

“I solved it by plopping down my $99.00 for a clean copy of XP Home and installed it alone. I found the drivers I needed and it now works reasonably well without any Sonyware. Never never never again another VAIO. I can only think how I would react if I bought a television set and each time I turned it on I had to watch an endless stream of advertising…oh wait, I do. Oh well…”

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  • cyber_rigger

    You don’t get the crapware with Linux.

    Companies selling pre-installed desktop Linux.

    http://lxer.com/module/forums/t/23168/
    http://lxer.com/module/db/index.php?dbn=14

  • Frank LaRosa

    I bought a Latitude D620 laptop from Dell last year. It had no extra software, trials or anything else on it whatsoever. It also came in a small box with little more than a recovery CD and the power supply. It was the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had with a new computer. Perhaps this is one of the benefits of buying from their “business” line of products rather than the “consumer” line.

  • Bob Caswell

    Going with pre-installed Linux is one option, I suppose, but something I’d never be able to recommend to average computer users like my parents.

    But I didn’t realize Latitudes came clean. That’s definitely a feasible option. Thanks, Frank.

  • Mike

    Like the article mentioned, macs come with no crapware installed. Sure, there are programs that might not be used by everyone, but those are easily removed and do not do anything negative except for taking up hard drive space. You can install windows on them as well. If you must.

  • Matt

    I built my computer. Works absolutely perfect, and I spent about 600 less than what I would have at a store. If you don’t want all the crap that comes with a computer, build one, or have someone do it for you.

  • ex_tech

    Just grab a copy of windows (OEM or original) from your friend and install it on your PC. Get the authentic CDKey from the bottom of your laptop (you paid for the license with the purchase of your PC) and use it to activate/register your copy of Windows. You might need to call Microsoft to activate the license key, but that’s just a small price to pay (15 minutes tops) for not having any crapware installed. Grab the drivers from the manufacturer’s website first (especially the network card driver, either wireless or ethernet).

  • Tom

    Dell’s Inspiron e1505 comes with TONS of garbage software already installed. It took me over an hour just to uninstall all the crap that came on it, the majority of it being software written by Dell themselves, the worst programmers I have ever encountered(besides Sony’s Sonicstage).

    It is a nightmare uninstalling all of it, seeing you need select pieces of their software to operate basic functions(brightness, volume, wireless connectivity) on the pc.

    But after all is off, it actually is a very well rounded laptop I recommend to everyone..I personally get five hours of battery life off one charge on the 9-cell battery(extra $100 option, WELL worth the investment). Five hours with a 15″ screen..can’t go wrong!! And it is a QUIET pc weighing it at just over 6lbs.

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