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

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microsoft signature pcWindows 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.

microsoft signature pc

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.

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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.

microsoft signature computers

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.

microsoft signature pc

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.

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Comments (59)
  • Someone

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

  • 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

    • 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…

  • 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

    • Chris Hoffman

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

  • 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.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Somehow, I doubt it!

    • Bill_Bored

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

    • 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!

    • Bill_Bored

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

      No need for 8. :)

    • Chris Hoffman

      Touché!

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

  • 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.

    • 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)

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.