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Bloatware has been a problem on Windows PCs for years. Computer makers sell the hard drive space of new computers like ad space, which helps pad the manufacturer’s margins. Users don’t like it, of course, but by the time they see it they’ve already purchased the PC!

Eventually, the problem became severe enough to cause consumer backlash and as a result, bloatware has diminished over the last five years. You’ll still find it on many new computers, however, and it can be particularly annoying on budget systems, which are still likely to be a bloat-a-thon. Here’s what you can do to avoid it and uninstall it both before and after purchase.

Read The Sales Pitch

Ironically, in spite of its reputation, bloatware is often used as a selling point. Numerous Lenovo product pages boast of custom applications and the inclusion of a McAfee free trial. Acer, Dell and HP also highlight certain bloatware in their marketing materials. Of course, the bloat’s never depicted as a negative; instead it’s touted as a feature that will make a notebook easier to use or more secure.

lenovobloat

The best source for this information is the PC manufacturer’s website. Ads from Best Buy, Staples and other big box retailers will occasionally tout bloat as a feature, but they usually use their limited ad and shelf space to tout more important specifications. The manufacturer’s website suffers no such limitations and as such they contain wonderfully lengthy marketing copy that often spells out exactly the bloat found on a system.

Spend More Money

Another way to avoid bloat is to spend more money. Manufacturers know that consumers don’t like it, so they’re less likely to include it on systems that have a large profit margin. Asus, Dell and HP are the brands that most frequently ditch bloatware in expensive laptops.

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Alternatively, you can buy a laptop from a boutique brand. Small companies like Falcon Northwest, Origin and Digital Storm usually ship their systems without a single byte of bloatware. Even Alienware, which is owned by Dell, ditches bloatware. As anyone familiar with these brands knows, though, going this route will limit your selection. Most of these brands are focused on gamers and other users with extreme performance needs.

How To Remove Bloatware

The most straightforward way to get rid of bloat is to uninstall it manually Getting A New Computer, Part 2: Things You Must Do Before Starting To Use It Getting A New Computer, Part 2: Things You Must Do Before Starting To Use It The first thing you probably want to do when you get that new computer is jump right into using it. But hold on! There are some things that you must do and take care of... Read More . This can be time consuming, but it doesn’t require a third-party app. You remove unwanted applications by doing a Windows search for “uninstall” and selecting “uninstall a program.” This will bring you to the uninstall window where you can remove anything by selecting and then hitting “Uninstall” at the top of the list. Contrary to some conspiracy theories, hidden bloatware isn’t a thing on modern PCs. Even those annoying McAfee and Norton trials can be removed in less than a minute. You can also remove apps on the Windows Start Screen by right-clicking them and hitting uninstall.

uninstall

Another option is to use an uninstall helper like Should I Remove It Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Here at MakeUseOf, we've put out many articles reviewing and highlighting software that allows you to completely and cleanly uninstall applications from your system. One issue many of you run into is not knowing which... Read More . Many system tune-up suites Catch up on PC Maintenance & Clear Your System With Glary Utilities Pro Catch up on PC Maintenance & Clear Your System With Glary Utilities Pro PC maintenance is a chore most people postpone until it's almost too late. You know who you are. Yes, you, with the cluttered desktop and slow boot time. Glary Utilities is designed for you. Read More , like Glary Utilities, provide a similar feature. An uninstall helper will often provide a better overview of software installed on your system, including information like the date on which the software was last used and how often the software is used. Some also use a database to help you choose by showing you how often others used a program or uninstalled a program. These helpers are the way to go if you’ve had your laptop for a few months and are no longer sure what’s bloatware and what you installed yourself.

The most extreme option is to re-install Windows 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer A reset to factory conditions is the quickest and easiest way to return to normal. Not only does it get your computer clean, it will also run at optimal performance. Read More entirely. I don’t believe this is necessary, but some readers may not feel their system is right unless they’ve removed every trace of the offending bloatware. In most cases, you cannot achieve this goal by using vendor-provided restoration media, as it will restore to a factory state, bloatware and all. Instead you need to make sure you have your Windows key and then check out our guide to install Windows 8 from a USB drive How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick If you’re looking to install Windows 8 and your computer doesn't have a DVD drive, you’re not alone. Whether you have a Windows 8 DVD or a Windows 8 ISO file you've downloaded from Microsoft,... Read More .

While removing bloat is a good idea, be careful not to mix bloatware up with critical system tools. Laptops generally come with a utility and/or driver that makes it possible to change certain functions, like volume or display brightness, using keyboard shortcuts. An over-zealous bloat crusade can break important features.

Avoiding More Bloat

Getting rid of bloat from your new laptop is great, but it doesn’t mean your battle is over. Bloat can easily be added after you purchase your PC and slowly choke its performance with background processes. These unwanted programs are also known as adware and spyware. They aren’t malware, but they can interrupt your computer’s normal function.

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Bloat often attaches itself to software you want A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Picture this - you've just found this awesome free software that you are stoked about because of all that it can do for you, but when you install it, you discover that it is packed... Read More . CNET’s Download.com, for example, is one of the world’s greatest distributors of bloat. Every app that’s obtained using CNET’s download utility has adware inserted into the installation process. You can protect yourself from this only by maintaining  vigilance during the install process. Carefully read each install screen the wizard presents to make sure it’s not trying to trick you into downloading software you don’t want. Installers can be very subtle in their methods and may label the button which denies bloatware as “cancel” or gray it out, implying that its selection will cancel the entire installation process.

Be particularly wary of third-party browser toolbars. These hook into your web browser and may alter your search results or inject ads into pages that normally have none. They’re particularly insidious and should be avoided at all costs. If you’ve already succumbed to one try reading our article on Toolbar Cleaner Get Rid Of Those Annoying Browser Toolbars With Toolbar Cleaner [Windows] Get Rid Of Those Annoying Browser Toolbars With Toolbar Cleaner [Windows] Maybe it's a trend that is quickly coming back, or just coincidence and bad luck on my part, but I've noticed an alarming amount of new freeware applications coming bundled with toolbars. The only browser... Read More , which does exactly what its name implies.

How Bloated Is Your Computer?

Bloatware is not the menace it once was, but it’s still a problem for millions of laptop users. Fighting it is simply a matter of maintaining your patience and sorting through what’s installed on your system. This can take hours if your notebook is severely bloated, but it’s worth the effort.

Did the last laptop you purchased have bloat, and if so, did you bother to remove it? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits: app icon set Via Shutterstock

  1. Qua
    December 22, 2015 at 2:25 am

    Nice and dandy, except, what about the bullsh*t that Lenovo decides is ok for them to put on their laptops? It sits in the freaking BIOS & there is pretty much no way to escape it other than using Linux, because even after a reformat of the hard drive, it stays. It always reinstalls itself. When is our government going to get off their ass, step in and do something about this? It should not be legal. If I pay for a product, I have 100% every damn right to remove from and do with what I please. This is getting ridiculous. Now I'm worried my new Toshiba laptop may end up having this kind of thing, but I can't find any info on it.

  2. Boris Reitschuster
    November 7, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Bought an ASUS ZEN UX305 - full of adware. Be aware!

  3. Thomas Scanlon
    September 29, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Well how about Toshiba? They have this 'Bloatware' called Toshiba Places. It leaves minute traces on every uninstall. I have spent days trying to get a subsection it off the desktop. No joy. Been through Registry keys, everything, it is hidden, and there is no Forum info or other spiel from Toshiba regarding this. REASON: DRM Media WhoreStore.

    They have lost me permanently as a customer, and I've been known to buy quite a few computers and Home Entertaiment Items.

    Don't buy Toshiba!!

  4. Nicole Martinez
    June 17, 2015 at 2:38 am

    Jesus Soliz, can you tell me how to "wipe the hard drive, and fresh install windows?" I have two new, very inexpensive acer laptops. Please help!

  5. CHRIS RUDY
    May 22, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    I JUST BOUGHT A LENOVO Y 70 LAPTOP AND OMG IT HAS SO MUCH BLOAT WARE ON IT IM AFRAID IF I UNINSTALL IT ALL I WILL LOSE SOME FUNCTIONALITY I DONT WANT TO KILL MY WEBCAM OR MIKE OR SOMETHING EQUALLY BAD ON A 1600 DOLLAR LAPTOP BUT THIS LENOVO POWER DVD BS IS ABOUT TO MAKE ME SNAP GRR

  6. Rob
    March 1, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    All the bloatware on the computers like the ads on this webpage? Hmmmm

    • Tina
      March 29, 2015 at 10:05 am

      I'm sorry you're annoyed by the ads here.

      I hope you found this article valuable and I wish there was another way to finance our work than with ads.

      Here's a question for you: Would you pay to read articles like this without ads or would you at least donate for articles that you found valuable?

      Most people would never do that. Hence ads. We writers don't like it either.

  7. Alex
    February 2, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    My father called me to ask him what was wrong with his brand new laptop. I told him it looked like it had a virus -- everytime he clicked on web page, another separate window would open with advertisments. It was the most obnoxious, thoroughly insidious piece of adware I've ever experienced.

    And the thing that's killing me is I can't uninstall it from the control panel. It just won't budge. I can't believe anyone would sell a computer with this on it. It's not asking ifyou want to update to the full version, no, it's actively interfering with your ability to use the computer in any way. Ads pop up all over the place. I'm running malawarebytes anti-malware and I've got 544 detected objects so far. I'm going to give it another hour or two of troubleshooting before it's going back.

    • Tina
      March 29, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Are you sure this is bloatware that came with the computer? It does sound like a adware that comes with a download. Which laptop brand is that?

    • Steve Allison
      August 5, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Alex, I just endured the exact same experiences.....all day Monday.....shipped it back to Dell Business on Tuesday.....and now I am getting the hard drive replaced on the old Dell.....it is unbelievable......I am now wondering if there are two options: This is for a 17" laptop....1. Buy from Dell for about $540, immediately take it to a computer geek and have them replace the hard drive....for about $150......or 2. Buy from someplace like Velocity Micro that has NO bloatware for about $1100.......

  8. Pepelepew
    January 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Just bought an inexpensive HP 15-R017DX Notebook PC and I can hardly believe what happened. After removing all the bloatware with Control Panel, and double checking with CCleaner for good measure, all that junk re installed itself!

    I didn't know it was possible and cannot find anybody talking about this anywhere. After cleaning it, I noticed the hard drive was constantly busy. The not very fast PC became unbearably slow. I then realized I had 16 "new" apps installed...

    Is this a new thing? Am I forever doomed to have this junk?

    • Tina
      March 29, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Wow, that really sounds invasive!

      Could you let me know what the bloatware was? Did you find a way to get rid of it once and for all?

    • Jesus Soliz
      June 8, 2015 at 2:11 am

      Wipe the hard drive and fresh install windows (what ever version you have).

      • Nicole Martinez
        June 17, 2015 at 2:39 am

        Jesus Soliz, can you tell me how to “wipe the hard drive, and fresh install windows?” I have two new, very inexpensive acer laptops. Please help!

    • Bruce Too
      September 3, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      t this same model HP last week--I returned the FIRST one, thinking it was defective, but the replacement one did the same thing:
      (1)When I downloaded trusted Freeware, from http://www.ninite.com, the start-up menu would quit working, and thus the computer would quit working unless I "Reset" it. (And thus lost the Freeware and got all the bloatware stuff back)
      (2) If I tried to delete the McAfee bloatware--which has a notorious reputation for uselessness--I got the same result--computer would not boot-up--I'd get a blue screen with a message saying Start-up did not work.
      Each time I would "reset" the computer--which would take a couple hours in itself. What a WASTE of time!!!
      (3) AT NO TIME DID THE COMPUTER'S CYBERLINK SOFTWARE WORK AT ALL TO RECOGNIZE OR PLAY ANY DVD. Only when I uploaded VLC did the DVD drive function. But then 'd have to reset and delete VLC again to get the start-up menu to work.

      It seems to me that HP has made some agreement to chain their laptop only to their pre-installed bloatware, for which you will have to pay a monthly fee after the 30 day "trial period."
      What a racket and what a ripoff and what a disappointment--wonder who's actually in charge there at HP??
      DO NOT BUY HP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Dawn
    December 30, 2014 at 3:12 am

    We just bought an expensive Asus that is full of this crap so much so I can't get it to log onto my email yet. Infuriating. Am ready to return it!

    • Anonymous
      January 28, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      Dawn, my Asus finally bit the dust after 8 years. I did not buy another one because of the bloatware that came with it. Stuff that i never used.

    • Jesus Soliz
      June 8, 2015 at 2:12 am

      Wipe the hard drive, and fresh install windows. I always do this with the included product key.

  10. Matt
    December 23, 2014 at 3:31 am

    I just won a windows 8 laptop at my company party, and I was amazed at the amount of bloat ware that came on it. This wasn't an issue at all with my windows 7 or vista desktops, or the laptop I bought a decade ago. Currently running Malwarebytes. It found 11 items so far in as many minutes. Yeesh. I am seriously considering a MacBook next time.

  11. Jose
    December 7, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    I just bought my dad a Lenovo S20-30 laptop and the amount of bloatware and ad-related crap is unbelievable, to the point I would think it was infected by viruses and/or malware/spyware if I hadn't set it up myself. Now I have to sit down and get rid of all this junk, hopefully it wont be that hard.

    Can you guys recommend a decent, free antivirus and a spyware detector? I've been using OSX for 8 years now and my windows knowledge is quite outdated, it came with Windows 8 (I still can't get the hang of it).

  12. Roger
    September 1, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I am like Cvetan , et al, who would prefer to by the hardware without the OS installed and then install those parts that I need, not what MS/Dell/Acer or anyone else thinks they can sell me. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen, so I usually spend 2 weeks or so, removing junk, reconfiguring the way the system is configured, and installing the software I need. Just one of the things that makes my world easier, is the removal of all the icons on the desktop, and putting those programs and documents I use frequently on it's own toolbar/quick launch bar at the bottom of my screen, hidden, but readily available at any time. Another is to group the various programs into their "super" categories in the Start menu, for example, Excel, Access, Blazons 2000, Master Genealogist, and several inventory type programs are in a folder called "Databases" while Word, Notepad, Wordpad, PowerPoint, and Publisher are in a folder called "Text." "Audio/Video" holds Nero, Media Player, Photoshop, MS Photo Editor, Windows Movie Maker, etc.

  13. Nikos
    September 1, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    decrap.org/

    I've used it on many PCs but it's not an automated process. You shoud pay attention on the stuff-to-be-purged because sometimes it contains drives and motherboard specifics apps.

    Other than that, this app is pure gold

  14. Amit Pandya
    August 30, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Due to bloatware I had to face my whole system crash and I hadva great difficulty taking it's back up. So I take utmost care while installation, I also use adware remover and Spyware Terminator. Because I am a hard core gamer I can't accept lag.

  15. Tech Geek
    August 24, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Sure you could use Should I Remove It and Revo Uninstaller to help remove bloat. But how could you forget to mention PC Decrapifier in the aid of removing as much bloat in one batch. Or my preferred method delete recovery partition to free up HD space and install a fresh clean OS free of OEM packed bloatware.

    To install software in one batch without the bloat Ninite. And Unchecky to install software and to keep your homepage from being hijacked, to prevent the accidental install of third party bundled crap, adware, malware, toolbar and or browser. Which now a days seems to be included in almost every thing from software, to plug-ins and in some drivers.

  16. Sgkris
    August 23, 2014 at 2:07 am

    You are right - 'CNET’s Download.com is one of the world’s greatest distributors of bloat'. At one time I used to get almost every software from them , not anymore. Mostly I go the original developer's site or get it from sites like Filehippo, Softpedia, Major Geeks etc.

  17. Ben S
    August 22, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Excellent article, Matt. Every Windows user should know what to do to take care of this junk. I'm amazed that most people don't seem to realize the ten pop-ups from expired bloatware on their computers don't have to be there.

    Well done!

  18. Ed
    August 22, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    If you are near a Microsoft Store, if I'm not mistaken, their inventory is bloat-free from the same brands and models that provide bloat if sold from other stores.

    Linux distros themselves, in an effort to be to more "convenient" for users are pretty bloated by providing everything they think the average user would need out-of-the-box. I don't want Thunderbird or Pidgin or Totem. I would rather just have links to these and other software packages that are normally provided with Linux distros and let me click those links to install if I want, or let me delete those links.

  19. Cvetan
    August 22, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Buy a laptop without operating system installed. Everybody happy. :D

    • dragonmouth
      August 22, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Laptops without an O/S are few and far between. I bought a refurb without an O/S from Newegg a couple of years ago but have not seen an O/S-less latop offered since then.

    • joo
      August 23, 2014 at 1:02 am

      Or just buy your Computer from an Microsoft store.

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