With the many years that Windows has behind it, it’s no surprise what a wealth of software exists for the platform. Over the life of your Windows installation, you’ve probably picked up a variety of programs yourself.
We hope that you’re using some of the best Windows software, but there’s another side. Many people keep unnecessary software installed on their systems. Some programs are just outdated, others are downright malicious.
Let’s take a look at commonly installed software you don’t need to have on your PC.
How to Check Your Programs
Not sure how to check the installed programs on your system? It’s easy! For Windows 7 and above, click on the Start button and type Programs and Features. This will open your Programs list, where you can review everything currently installed on your system.
To remove a piece of software, just right-click it and choose Uninstall. Depending on the software, it might uninstall immediately or require you to advance through some dialogue boxes. This method should work fine for most users, but if you find you need to uninstall lots of software, have a look at our methods for removing programs in bulk.
1. Microsoft Silverlight
Once upon a time, having a variety of browser plug-ins installed was essential to having a smooth experience. One site needed Flash to play videos, another required Java for an applet, and a third needed Silverlight. That time is largely gone, and as insecure plugins continue to fade in use, they have become unnecessary.
Microsoft Silverlight was sort of an alternative to Flash, and used to be required for watching Netflix in your browser. However, very few sites use Silverlight these days, and security patches will only support it until its end of life in 2021. Neither Chrome nor Edge support it, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever find a site that needs it nowadays.
2. Any and All Toolbars
Toolbars used to infect browsers like the plague, but modern versions of Chrome and other browsers have gotten better at blocking them. But you might still be running one of these useless toolbars.
Aside from wasting screen space, they slow down your browser speed and replicate features already in the browser, like shortcuts and Google searching. Even the Google Toolbar for internet Explorer, while not malicious, is just unnecessary, as internet Explorer 11 includes a search bar.
Have a look in your programs list for toolbars like the Bing Bar, Google Toolbar for internet Explorer, Ask Toolbar, Yahoo! Toolbar, or the Babylon Toolbar. If you find any of them, throw them out. Afterwards, make sure to check your browser to ensure it’s been completely cleaned.
3. Coupon Printer for Windows
The purpose of Coupon Printer for Windows is to give access to the deals from Coupons.com. However, since this software is typically found bundled in with other programs, chances are you that you didn’t want to install it in the first place.
If you’re a die-hard Coupons.com user, you can leave this one installed so you can access your discounts. Everyone else, however, should check out the best online coupon sites that don’t require you to install anything.
4. PC Cleaners
Many users have installed (or accidentally installed) a PC-cleaning app at one time or another. The majority of these products range from useless to harmful, as registry cleaners don’t improve Windows performance at all. If you find MyCleanPC, PC Cleaner 5000, or Advanced Windows Cleaner in your installed list, you should remove them.
To clean your PC for real, we recommend using a combination of built-in Windows tools and trusted software to safely remove unneeded files.
Java is a runtime that includes two components: Java on the desktop, found under Programs and Features in Windows, and the Java plug-in for browsers (which is notorious for having security problems). Though far more common than Silverlight, Java is similar in that its use is dropping steadily. Last year, Chrome cut support for Java.
For a long time, many people kept Java installed because Minecraft required it. However, this is no longer the case, as the game now includes its own version of Java bundled in. We’ve discussed the issues with Java on Mac, and many of the issues also pertain to Windows.
Unless you’re an Android developer or use other specialized software that relies on Java, such as MATLAB, LibreOffice Base, or PDF Split and Merge, you can uninstall Java and probably never notice a difference.
6. Manufacturer Junk
Unless you’re running a premium device like the Surface Pro 4 or installed Windows from scratch on a new desktop, chances are you have lots of junk from the manufacturer installed. Laptops from HP, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, and more are prone to this issue.
None of this software is included in Windows by default, so it’s not required for Windows to function. Some of the pre-installed branded programs, like photo and gaming apps, or those that duplicate Windows tools, are completely unnecessary. Others, such as driver/BIOS update utilities (like Lenovo System Update), are worth keeping around.
Of course, we can’t comment on every single piece of manufacturer software. To find out about yours, it’s a good idea to check out Should I Remove It?, which gives an overview on what each program does and how others have rated it. When in doubt, it’s probably not a necessary tool.
7. Windows 10 Modern Apps Bloatware
You’d think that fighting manufacturer bloatware was annoying enough, but Microsoft has included it in Windows 10, as well. It comes in the form of Modern apps, but can thankfully be easily uninstalled.
Some of the default Modern apps, like Xbox and Weather, are useful to some people but not others. Others, like Get Office and Candy Crush Saga, are junk and should be removed by everyone. You can check out how to uninstall these apps one-by-one or all at once in our Windows 10 bloatware removal guide.
8. Skype Click to Call
You’d think that Microsoft would be aware of the issue of programs installing extra unwanted junk, but they’re actually guilty of this issue themselves with Skype. Installing Skype gives you not only the base program (which is a fine tool), but often brings the Skype Toolbar and Skype Click to Call extension along.
i hate how every time i try to update skype it tries to trick me into downloading click to call and making bing my default search?
— Mother Coconuts (@shinyraichu) July 1, 2016
Click to Call enables you to click on phone numbers in your browser to call them with Skype. However, unless you’ve made Skype your primary telephone line, you’ll probably never use this features, as calls often cost money. You can feel free to remove this extra software and Skype will continue to work fine.
A few months ago, QuickTime would have fallen into the same camp as Silverlight — an old tool that’s just been phased out. However, in April of this year, Trend Micro released a warning that QuickTime for Windows has major security problems that Apple seemingly doesn’t plan on fixing. Thus, there’s now no reason to keep QuickTime around.
Removing QuickTime shouldn’t cause any disruptions, as iTunes doesn’t rely on it. If you need to open a specific video format that you used to use QuickTime for, like MOV, use the free, versatile, and secure VLC Media Player instead.
10. Shockwave Player
Adobe Flash Player is dying a slow death, but its widespread use for videos and games mean that it’s still wise to keep around for the time being. Adobe Shockwave Player is a different tool and isn’t necessary to keep around.
Shockwave Player lets you view content created with Adobe Director, which isn’t nearly as common as Flash content. You can remove Shockwave and you’ll, again, probably not encounter anything that needs it. Note that some browsers, like Firefox, display Flash Player as “Shockwave Flash” — you shouldn’t turn this off unless you want to disable Flash.
What Other Programs Are Just Unnecessary?
For the vast majority of users, the above programs are unnecessary because they don’t serve any useful function or are outdated. When in doubt, you should remove the respective program because you can always re-install it, if needed.
Now, we want to hear from you. What other programs do you see installed all the time that just aren’t necessary? Leave a comment with your input!
Image Credits: rodimov/Shutterstock