IT Employment

Five tips for getting rid of crapware

New computers are being sold with crapware installed. I don't like it. I doubt that you do, either. Here's what we can do about it.

Crapware is software you didn't ask for and do not want on your computer. Some generic examples are:

  • Store or brand utilities
  • Trialware
  • Toolbars
  • ISP-associated utilities
  • Time-limited antivirus software

Why is it there, then? PC makers cash in big time, that's why. Software vendors pay top dollar to get their trialware loaded on OEM equipment and in front of the user.

It can be more than annoying

To make matters worse, crapware can cause damage. I have a friend who bought a high-end notebook with a solid-state drive (SSD). An aftermarket disk defrag utility was installed and enabled by default. I would have thought companies making PCs would realize you do not defrag SSDs. It shortens their life.

Here are the problems that tag along with crapware:

  • Typically, the software does not allow complete functionality or is time limited.
  • Crapware never comes with install media.
  • Crapware such as toolbars alter default browser or application settings to target specific advertisers.
  • Some preinstalled software (anti-malware apps come to mind) are difficult to uninstall using standard methods provided by the operating system.

Another form of crapware is especially annoying. Try installing drivers for printers and other external devices without getting a few extra applications. That goes for updates as well. What does installing a Yahoo Toolbar have to with Java?

What you can do about it

For the most part, this is only a problem for computers that use Microsoft operating systems. I have not seen crapware on systems using other operating systems. That said, let's focus on what you can do to improve this situation.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Crapware-free computers

Microsoft is taking a cue from Apple and selling computers that have zero crapware on them. It removed 15 applications. In this video, Ken Fowles, Microsoft Signature Lab director, explains what is and isn't loaded on a Signature PC.

Some PC makers offer crapware-free computers (Dell Vostro line) or an option (usually for a price) to not have trialware installed. You will have to check closely to find the exact details.

Being proactive and buying a crapware-free computer is good, but you still need to be reactive. I mentioned earlier that software vendors are getting into the crapware act. Printer software is way more than just drivers now. So we have to figure out how to get rid of the unwanted bloatware that piggy-backs on desired software. Fortunately, several free applications do a great job removing crapware. I'd like to describe them and allow you to choose what makes sense for you.

2: Autoruns for Windows by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell

More often than not, crapware is configured to start when Windows loads. Software developers want to get maximum exposure for their product. Autoruns (Figure A) is a useful app that shows every program that starts at system boot. It checks the startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and registry keys. Autoruns also ranks the programs in the order that Windows processes them, giving you a better idea of their importance. Then, it's just a matter of deciding which ones to keep.

The Autoruns Web site suggests that you select the Hide Signed Microsoft Entries option. Doing so makes it easier to focus on third-party applications.

Figure A

3: CCleaner (but make sure it's the portable version)

CCleaner (Figure B) is not a crapware remover. The developer calls it a system optimization, privacy, and cleaning tool. More simply, CCleaner is known for being a good registry cleaner. It also removes ancillary files that remain behind after a program has been uninstalled. So it should be used as the second wave of a crapware attack.

I almost did not recommend CCleaner. The installed version asks if you want to install what I would consider crapware. That is why I suggest using the portable version. It is not installed and has a minimal footprint.

Figure B

4: PC DeCrapifier

What can I add: The name says it all. PC DeCrapifier (Figure C) is a lightweight, non-installing executable that locates and lists all third-party software and offers you the choice to remove them or not. PC DeCrapifier also creates a restore point. That way, if you make a mistake and remove a valuable application, you have a way back.

Figure C

5: WinPatrol, the go-to resource

If you had to choose one application to control crapware, I would recommend WinPatrol (Figure D). But not for the reason you think. I feel the aforementioned programs are capable of locating and removing crapware.

What they do not do is help you determine what is crapware and what isn't. The developer of PC DeCrapifier has to be concerned about removing a required file; otherwise, why ask to create a restore point. WinPatrol has a vast database you can query, so you can make an informed decision as to whether an application is needed.

Figure D

Extra tip

Normally, removing crapware is not much of a problem -- until you start dealing with antivirus programs, specifically Norton. I know people who have purchased its time-limited trialware just to avoid the pain of removing it.

That's not right. Oddly enough, Symantec must feel the pain. It has a special Web site with removal tools for many of its current antivirus products. So if you would prefer using something else, go to this link, grab the appropriate tool, and remove the Norton product.

Final thoughts

Crapware is a problem. We get a shiny new computer and it has all this extra stuff. Then we figure out that stuff is affecting how the computer works. My theory is if you aren't using it, get rid of it.

I would like to ask you a favor. I don't like the term crapware. Do you have a better term? If you do, please share it.

[Editor's note: Jump over to this poll if you want to vote for your favorite alternative name among Michael's top picks.]


About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

253 comments
alfredan
alfredan

use krojam cleaner it is going to be help full.

Ocie3
Ocie3

you can choose the software that you want installed. Of course, most people don't have the time to do it, even if they have the technical knowledge and skill to do it. So that suggestion has its merits but may be infeasible. If you're buying multiple machines for business use, then the vendor will build and/or obtain them without anything installed that you don't want on them, else you bought them from the wrong vendor/system integrator.

bboswell
bboswell

Just use the control panel->Programs and Features-> Update -> Remove (Add or Remove Programs in XP). It's part of the OS, and works wonders The only thing I don't like is Symantec/Norton programs that still leave files and registry settings behind, that sometimes trip up a fresh install of Symantec Endpoint Protection (shame on you, Symantec). Saves us from having to add yet another program begging us for money to the system ;)

ginny
ginny

How about trialware...because that's what it is. Trial versions of software you most likely won't use or don't need.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

There's another level of pre-installed programs or options provided by and pre-installed by vendors. For example, HP tends to supply an 'enhanced' keyboard with their desktops which includes half a dozen little buttons on the top or side of the keyboard for launching your browser, mail client, net meetings, etc, etc. Personally, I find that a desktop or quick launch icon is just as handy. And I really don't need a program or sevice running which takes up memory and sucks up (admittedly minimal) processor cycles to see if I pressed one of those buttons - plus another to display a systray icon showing me it's there. And yes, there are users who think those little buttons are neater than sliced bread. But they won't miss it if they never started using it. I could also include vendor supplied system diagnostic programs which also grab memory and processor cycles while supposedly monitoring the system and 'phone home' if a problem is found. I suppose they cound be worthwhile for a home user, but... I've never found them to be of much help.

mmartischang
mmartischang

Try "superfware" (as in superfluous). But I think "crapware" is better...

techrepublic
techrepublic

Personally, I *love* the term "crapware". Never did a name so perfectly describe annoying, useless, and often harmful software. A better term might be $#!tware but some may object.

harl_ey
harl_ey

What the hell - go all out and format the machine, install fresh. Have been doing that for 15yrs never misses a beat. How to tame the beast 101 Fresh Install :)

iwer.morck
iwer.morck

Microsoft Works comes to mind... I don't know if you would call it crapware, but crap it is. Cheers

parnote
parnote

I got rid of/ended my "crapware" days more than three years ago, by dumping Windows entirely and using PCLinuxOS. Ha! No more problem!

aspir8or
aspir8or

That's what its there for, to suck in the unwary/noob.

jme3
jme3

clutterware

iroman
iroman

Crap is crap... so crapware is a very good name for crapware

jk2001
jk2001

I started using partimage (a linux tool) to make disk images. Decrap, then save. Restoration will be a LOT faster, and you can clone the decrapped machine.

vstjames
vstjames

I'd call it, "Carpware" because, like the carp, crapware is a bottom feeder.

labattomy
labattomy

I still think of them as crap.

dleippe
dleippe

Junkware, like junk mail/snail mail. You have to weed it out and trash it.

rivercritter
rivercritter

From the lovely people who specialize in convincing peopl that they need something they dont

assign
assign

scumware, junkware, oddware, clunkware, fraudware, dumbware, fubarware, orphanware, clogware, bastardware, deadware, hellware, infernoware,killware, clotware, hateware, dumpware.

smithjk8
smithjk8

I just always called the extra junk that you get junkware

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

It's quite simple, actually. 1) Buy a Microsoft Signature PC 2) Build a PC yourself and install a fresh copy of the OS of your choice 3) Buy a Mac Buying computers from people or companies who include crapware on computers they sell only encourages them to continue doing it. That being said, when it comes to driver installations or software updates in Windows, be careful what you agree to installing. Crapware in this instance can be avoided by unchecking the "install this piece of software" bundled with what you REALLY want to install.

per_franck
per_franck

it's like the swag you pick up at trade shows, etc. It's free and shiny, but ultimately useless and ends up filling up your drawers at home.

ssc
ssc

GRUNT. You can add the "ware" if you wish. Gruntware, because that's what it makes your computer do...

H3LPU
H3LPU

Plays on the words 'annoying' and 'any' software.

radio1
radio1

The first thing I do with a new computer is ghost the Hard drive, Document Hardware, Delete all partitions and reinstall windows. It is quicker than uninstalling the garbage and I know I got everything. Then I install the programs I want. Also I never do the standard install. I always read (what a concept) what I am installing. I agree the bundled junk is getting ridiculous. *sorry, I posted a copy of this to the wrong place*

yetzel
yetzel

Do you know that to view the video you mentioned in part 1, Microsoft Silverlight has to be installed :-P? To people who use Microsoft Silverlight, it may be a useful utility. But to me, it is a piece of crapware. Microsoft wrote the OS, why can?t they package their video so that it plays, then clean itself of the crap, and be done with it. Instead, they ask you to install a piece of crapware, and make the Windows OS rot. I like the name crapware, it really hit the spot.

baberuthless
baberuthless

The title fits, so why not keep it?? One crapware I didn't see listed is "BlueBirds" that comes as part of the firmware on some CD players. Really annoying and oh so hard to get rid of.

isaac1226
isaac1226

slowware or delayware or dragware

vucliriel
vucliriel

I am SHOCKED no one even mentioned Windows AS the Root Evil behind modern crapware with its aggravating interference, huge installation and resource hogging footprint. If anything, the FIRST thing to do would be to TRIM WINDOWS ITSELF to what is should REALLY be limited to: an OPERATING SYSTEM, in other words, a layer between software and the actual hardware, and NOTHING ELSE, and certainly NOT the Bloated, Overbearing Big Brother Knows-it-All it has become. Unfortunately in this puritan, politically correct age, it means basically breaking the law by installing a Tiny or Micro version of Redmond's Obeseware, and flat out REFUSING to follow their "Upgrade Brainwash" marketing policy, which, in my honest opinion, is a SOCIAL DISEASE. I could cite many, many examples why Older and Smaller is actually MUCH better, but what do I know, I'm just an old timer who's been computing since the late 70s.

scruffyprof
scruffyprof

. . . or sludgeware, or dragware, or goutware, (gout; very painful, sign of aging, too much fat)

astones
astones

How about bloatware for yhe name?

jeiche
jeiche

First thing I'll do with a new Windows PC is reformat the hard drive and reinstall the OS and drivers. (OK, sometimes the first thing is to create the restore discs.) Then I can choose which of the bundled applications to install (DVD player, yes; WiFi "helper," no). It doesn't take long to do, and the peace of mind is worth it.

silverhawk
silverhawk

How about CyberGarbage? Na, too many syllables. OH!! I know, TrashWare. Short, descriptive and acceptable in polite company.

RU7
RU7

I was surprised that it wasn't mentioned. Change the "c" to a "t" and you get trapware.

dick.ott
dick.ott

How about using that good old tech language German? And we come up with "Scheisseprogramme" Rolls off the tongue more liquidly and has the advantage of saying pretty much the same thing as crapware. Germans may be offended but somebody always is.

JCitizen
JCitizen

But the RIAA requires by law that cable ready systems have to be OEM. I liked the crapware I got; my friend's kids love it!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Hey Ocie, where have you been? Building your own is not cost effective right now. Just check out the price of a new desktop or notebook. 99

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

There won't be many times for one to be able to do that on a new XP system.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That each of the trialware applications leave junk behind. It is that junk that eventually slows the computer down.

Bremali
Bremali

BullWare pretty much sums it up.

astones
astones

How about bloatware for a name?

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

The whole basis for crapware is the income stream that it produces. It is the "Madison Avenue" boy's dream. During an economics class at the University of Michigan in 1948, (1948 is not a typo) the department head repeated their mantra that all economic progress is the direct result of advertising. Today, the only difference is the number of outlets that they have. Look all around on this web page. That is how the TechRepublic staff is paid. The post above regarding not buying their products simply shows the lack of economic knowledge on the part of the writer. Folks generally buy the lowest priced product that they feel will do the job. Unfortunately the advertising hype makes the consumer feel that they are getting a product that will do the job. I work as a House Call volunteer for our Computer Club. It is somewhat demoralizing to find, time after time either weak (free versions provided by their ISP) or expired Anti-virus programs with Trojans and other malware rendering the computer useless. (I have three in my room at the moment with AntiVirus 2010). One could ask why Microsoft doesn't simply include Security Essentials on every computer shipped, but why bother with that mental exercise when the entrenched Anti-Virus barons would have them in court immediately claiming "monopolistic practices." Many people want cheap, but don't want Microsoft, or Apple for that matter, to be the beneficiaries of the cheap.