How To Make Your PC A Microsoft Signature PC Without Paying $99

image68   How To Make Your PC A Microsoft Signature PC Without Paying $99Windows PCs are notoriously junk-filled out-of-the-box. Buy a Microsoft Signature PC from a Microsoft Store (yes, Microsoft has a handful of stores across the US) and you’ll find it free of the usual junk. Soon, Microsoft will offer to turn any PC into a Microsoft Signature PC with its “Signature Upgrade” service – as long as you pay $99.

A typical PC might come with a pile of additional desktop shortcuts, system tray applications, and other bloatware. Software developers pay computer manufacturers to preload their software, reducing the price of the computer by a few dollars. Microsoft realizes that this makes Windows look bad and their response is Microsoft Signature, a fancy name for PCs without the junk. But there are steps you can take yourself that will save you from paying that $99.

Option 1: Reinstall Windows

If you have a Windows disc – or your computer manufacturer offers a clean, Windows-only restore option – you can reinstall Windows from scratch. All the virtual clutter that came with your computer will be wiped away – as will your personal files, so back up first.

After you reinstall Windows, you can download the appropriate drivers for your computer from your manufacturer’s website. If your computer came with a driver disc, you can use that instead. While you’ll probably need some drivers and perhaps a handful of utilities, you won’t require anywhere near as much junk as you get by default.

image69   How To Make Your PC A Microsoft Signature PC Without Paying $99

Option 2: Uninstall Junk

Unfortunately, many computer manufacturers don’t allow you to perform a Windows-only restore – their restore partitions force you to restore their Windows image, which has all their junk on it.  Your only recourse will be to uninstall the junk.

Fire up the Control Panel and get to uninstalling that virtual clutter. Be smart about what you uninstall – keep the graphics drivers and other important software. But uninstall the trials for applications you’ll never use, useless manufacturer-provided utilities, and all sorts of other junk. If you really need it, you can probably redownload it from the manufacturer’s website.

If you’re not sure about an application, try Googling its name and seeing what other users say. Much of the time, other users have written up guides that explain what the applications included with your computer do and whether or not you can uninstall them.

You can also try PC Decrapifier, an application that helps automate this.

image70   How To Make Your PC A Microsoft Signature PC Without Paying $99

Install Additional Software

The Microsoft Signature program doesn’t just remove manufacturer-provided junk. It adds Microsoft’s own software to the PC – different people will have different opinions on whether this software is necessary or just additional junk. These are the applications Microsoft advertises as included, most of which are available for free online:

Microsoft Security Essentials – Unlike the typical antivirus software that comes with a new computer, Microsoft Security Essentials doesn’t bombard you with requests for money; it’s completely free. It runs in the background and does its job without bothering you. If you’d rather use another antivirus application, there are other free antivirus applications you can download.

Windows Live Essentials – Includes Windows Live Mail, Family Safety, Writer, Mesh, Messenger, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery. You can select the applications you want when installing it.

Internet Explorer 9  – Windows 7 will upgrade to Internet Explorer 9 via Windows Update, anyway.

Microsoft Silverlight – If you watch Netflix, you’ll probably want this. Otherwise, you probably won’t.

Adobe Acrobat Reader & Flash Player – Lots of PCs include these already. You can download both from Adobe’s website – make sure to update them if they’re already installed!

Office Starter – You can’t actually download and install Office Starter yourself. But you probably wouldn’t want to, anyway – Office Starter includes only Word and Excel, and each program contains advertisements that bother you while you try to work. Instead, you can install a 60-day trial of the full Microsoft Office suite, install a free desktop Office suite, or use a cloud-based solution like Google Docs. Or you can buy Office and install it – Microsoft even sells digital copies of Office online.

Signature Theme Pack – The Signature theme pack uses a subset of Bing’s images – you can always install the Bing dynamic theme or another theme from the Windows theme gallery.

image71   How To Make Your PC A Microsoft Signature PC Without Paying $99

If you’ve followed this guide, you now have a pretty close approximation of the Microsoft Signature PC experience. You don’t get free support for the first 90 days, but all you need is a search engine to provide your own support.

What do you think of Microsoft’s plans to charge $99 to remove bloatware from PCs? Leave a comment and let us know.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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58 Comments -

0 votes

JR

Better yet, wipe the drive and install a Linux distro like Ubuntu, Mint or Fedora.

0 votes

Ironbalut

Hey, that’s what I was going to say! Linux is the way to go!

0 votes

Corr

Just make sure the hardware is compatible. My HP desktop’s integrated audio card doesn’t work with Linux.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

This is definitely essential. Linux has pretty good hardware support, but every now and then there are issues.

0 votes

dsmile

install alsabackport it will rock

0 votes

Deekshith Allamaneni

Thats what I did. Using Ubuntu. Ubuntu is much more better than Windows. Windows has become a total crapware… and to remove some of the crap, we again need to pay them for it. What a foolish idea!

0 votes

Josh

So, as this article was saying, you don’t have to actually pay them at all.

0 votes

Prasil Koirala

Linux totally sucks. And you talk about the removal procedure in Linux, it’s merely crap. Software center gets stuck frequently and is impossible for normal users to solve the problem.

0 votes

Mark O’Neill

There’s always one commenter who either says “get a Mac!” or “install Linux!”. It’s only a matter of time. LOL! :-)

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

It’s particularly funny because those don’t really qualify as “Microsoft Signature PCs.”

In a parallel universe: “How to Set Up Your New Mac”
First comment: “Buy a Windows PC instead!!”

0 votes

Chad

In a parallel universe? Try a different thread on the same website. ;)

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I suppose! Generally I haven’t seen many Microsoft fanboys. That said, with Windows Phone and Windows 8, I am seeing Microsoft fanboys all over the place.

0 votes

epiquestions

Why does anybody have to preach/push their ‘preferred’ OS in an article about windows? Majority of the users(personal/business) still use windows for workstations.
I use windows and have worked with Unix OS. I have never had any issues with windows and I still love to play games on my pc.

You prefer Linux or Mac? Good for you. Stop wasting your time here. You are not going to change people’s minds

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Also a good option! But I don’t think I can call that a “Microsoft Signature PC.”

And, sadly, there are occasional driver issues. It pays to select a PC that you know supports Linux when buying it.

0 votes

Mihovil Pletikos

sometimes linux just isn’t enough…. like for gaming….

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yeah, sadly, that’s true — One of the big reasons I still use Windows most of the time is because of games. Steam for Linux, hurry up and save us!

0 votes

OldJoe

Many Times (always, as far as my clients are concerned) Linux is useless for business purposes.
Fat Client, anyone?

0 votes

Truefire_

Hi Chris, this is a pretty good write-up. Personally, I get the OS disks from Microsoft for free from here:
http://www.mydigitallife.info/windows-7-iso-x86-and-x64-official-direct-download-links-ultimate-professional-and-home-premium/

(this is legal because MS sells OS licenses, not mediums)

Then, I install a fresh copy of Windows 7, install the drivers, then I go to ninite.com , and have it download and install for me all of the software you listed above. It’s the best and cleanest way to go :D

0 votes

Bruce Epper

It looks like those links are to the old versions (without the -U update) which will not properly install on some machines. If anyone downloads using those links and cannot install on their machine, you can find instructions on how to apply the update to the ISO image here http://www.mydigitallife.info/get-windows-7-sp1-u-media-refresh-msdntechnet-iso-download-or-convert/. At the bottom of the page are a couple of links to torrents for the ISO files with the update already applied.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Hm, I’ve never heard of those before — thanks for the tip. I assume these work with the OEM licenses that come with PCs?

0 votes

Bruce Epper

I don’t have an OEM copy to work with, but the patch process should work properly no matter what version you are using. I can verify that it works with Home, Home Premium, Ultimate and Enterprise. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for the rest.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I’m just not sure if the installer will take the OEM key — probably will, I suppose! Very interesting. I’ll have to look into this further sometime.

0 votes

Garey Boone

Nice piece of info to pass around.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Thanks for the support!

0 votes

santana

“What do you think of Microsoft’s plans to charge $99 to remove bloatware from PCs?”
It is like McDonald’s running a slimming center and charging us there too!

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

It does come across as really sleazy. I fully understand the reasons why Microsoft is doing this, and it makes sense — sure, it’s not Microsoft’s fault manufacturers bloat things up, technically.

But the end result is pretty bad. It’s like when Microsoft started selling an antivirus product. Luckily, they made that antivirus product free — they should seriously consider this making a free, downloadable process. Of course, PC manufacturers would probably complain.

0 votes

Luiz Santos

I also recommend “revo uninstaller” on advanced mode to wipe out the rubbish. But as says the article, be careful while uninstalling applications. In my opinion, Revo Uninstaller ( I use the free edition) is one of the best options out there, as it uninstall and gives u the option to wipe away of the left behind files that normally is kept on Windows (which is why I hate this OS).

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Thanks for the tip! I keep hearing great things about Revo Uninstaller; I’ve been meaning to check it out one of these days.

0 votes

Scutterman

Personally, I prefer to get a clean computer by building it myself – saving money – rather than spending extra on it. It’s more hassle, but gives you the chance to get exactly the power / resources you want rather than going with a pre-built, pre-spec’d computer.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I agree! I’ve always built my own desktops. There are some problems there, though — it’s a real pain when your computer starts failing and you have no idea which component it is (CPU? Motherboard? RAM?). I’ve been there before.

Sadly, you can’t build your own laptops. My laptop feels pretty gross in its factory default state, with all that junk on it. I can definitely see why people buy Macs.

0 votes

Scutterman

Yeah, it is a shame about laptops. Still, for the sake of $99 I’m happy to spend an hour or so cleaning a new laptop down and creating a disk image.

0 votes

Aaron Booker

+1 for ninite.com. I support about 20 Windows computers occasionally or daily and Ninite has saved me dozens and dozens of hours in the last year, as well as making computers more secure and faster.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Ah yes, ninite! I probably should have mentioned that, too — I’ve heard a lot of love for it.

0 votes

Bruce Epper

WSCC (Windows System Control Center) can also install as NiNite plus the SysInternals utilities for those who use them. Free. The also have a download option for a portable version. http://www.kls-soft.com/wscc/index.php

0 votes

Shehan Nirmal

Linux or Fedora is better… but not on the PCs with Windows when you buy it…. I also use a Fedora distro. But I feel that Windows 7 works more FASTER than the fedora….

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Interesting. Could be down to your hardware — or video driver issues on Linux, since Fedora’s default desktop (GNOME 3) uses fancy compositing effects.

0 votes

kaylee

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yup, I linked to that in the post — I’ve heard great things!

0 votes

Benjamin Benekrt

I don’t think anyone should pay $99 to remove bloatware. You can do it yourself easily or if you want a fresh install take it to a local pc shop and it should be around $60. Or like others have said on here, just install a Linux Distro.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I suppose that, for a billionaire, it’s probably more efficient to pay someone to do it. For most people, you’re right.

0 votes

Nishanth Kl

very clever of ms to charge 99$ for something that should be free

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Manufacturers make money adding bloat and Microsoft makes money removing it. It’s a great racket!

0 votes

Kelvin Zhang

I don’t see why $99 is necessary. Even home PC users can be able to do this easily.
-Kelvin

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Microsoft should really be trying to help all users instead of cashing in on this, in my opinion.

0 votes

James Hartwell

One thing that really bums me out about a new laptop with Windows on it is all the useless stuff that comes on it. I did run into the situation where I was trying to run an OS disk in a HP computer and they made it impossible to even do that.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I agree completely. My laptop’s default state is just horrible. I don’t need 20 icons for useless programs in my system tray! (okay, I’m exaggerating — but only slightly)

0 votes

Bill_Bored

…So for $99 bucks M$ will remove “crapware”–does that include Internet Ex-PLODE-r? How about Metro in the upcoming Window$ 8? If so, I’d consider it 99 bucks well spent LOL.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Somehow, I doubt it!

0 votes

Bill_Bored

Of course you’re correct. ;) I still think it’s a $ERIOU$ $$$ making opportunity for Micro$$$oft… :D

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

The sad thing is that I’d probably pay another $99 for a “professional” version of Windows 8 without Metro. And I’m not the only one!

0 votes

Bill_Bored

What you’re describing already exists. It’s called “Windows 7 Professional”

No need for 8. :)

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Touché!

Windows 8 does have some good optimizations though — I hear startup is significantly faster.

0 votes

Someone

i think that Microsoft is doing this to earn more money and they should sell computers with the junk on the CD and not preinstalled so that if you want that junk then you just take the cd

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

The tragic thing is that MIcrosoft doesn’t sell computers with junk. Their partners do. Yet they still take flack.

0 votes

Someone

I think that the Mac is great because it has great tech specs and i PACKED with USEFUL stuff and it is great because you can put windows or linux on it too so you can run both using Boot Camp Which is totally free and comes with the mac Just pay for windows and you are good to go

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Very true. That’s becoming a more and more tempting option these days, even for those of us that don’t want to run Mac OS X…

0 votes

Someone

If you bye a mac, though expensive, you save allot by buying one computer that can have 2

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I suppose, if you want to run both operating systems…