Dead And Bloated

Posted on 30th April 2007

If you've ever bought a desktop or laptop in recent years, that has come with a version of Windows on it, the chances are that there is an awful lot of "bloatware" preinstalled and taking up valueable resources, which often hinder the performance of the machine. It's often a reason why I've heard non-IT people complain about Windows. Now a technical savvy person can generally get rid of most of the unwanted applications, but I am seeing far too many getting in under the guise of helper and support functions.

My sister had a problem with her machine, and asked me to take a look. Apparently it took ages to load up and wasn't particularly fast when it did finally load. Considering it's a 2.70GHz machine, this wasn't a good sign. I did suggest getting some more memory, so before I called round she bought a 512MB memory stick, to compliment the 256MB she already had.

I started by turning on the machine and watching it load. It took nearly 10 minutes! She was running Windows XP, and even though it's sluggish on my laptop, it's nowhere near that bad. Then trying to open anything caused the disk drive to be almost permanently spinning. Taking a first look at the Taskbar and Start Menu items revealed a large collection of apps that mostly just sit there, then come alive to "check things" every few minutes. I immediately removed them all, except a couple of essential ones. I then install TweakAll, which I've often found to be a handy utility for find all the "invisible" start menu apps. Several featured, which on closer inspection where phone home type apps. The worst offender turned out to be Hewlett-Packard. They have a "Motive Chorus Daemon" application installed when you install the drivers and image apps from their CD, which came with my sister's All-In-One Scanner/Printer. I've blocked some of the network traffic, but I suspect there's more.

It really is horrendous how many spyware and intrusive applications are bundled with software these days. All the unwanted apps on my sister's machine were all either preinstalled or installed by driver CDs with new devices. It took 5 hours to clean the machine, after which I'd reclaimed over 1GB of disk space. The machine loaded in roughly 1 minute, and opening a browser window now happened in seconds with the disk drive barely spinning. In fact if you blinked you'd probably miss the orange flash of the LED. Not surprisingly my sister is very relieved, as it's been a cause of frustration for sometime.

I recently bought a new laptop from Dell, and although I specifically said I wanted a bare bones system, I still got bloatware on there. Thankfully not very much, but enough to be a nuisance to uninstall. However, on both the laptop (even though I made a point of explicitly saying 'remove it') and my sisters machine, there was a little app that appears to have different names, but does exactly the same thing. Remote Assistant. If you ever see anything like it on your machine, I would advise you to get rid of it as soon as possible. It allows someone to remotely log on to your machine, without you asking or even accepting, and alter your machine. This cropped up recently on a thread in a LUG mailing list and was thought to be a hoax. Unfortunately not. I'm absolutely amazed that vendors have actually got away with this, but then Microsoft have finally found a way to sell you software to cripple your machine, so why not the vendors too.

Incidentally the BBC reported the fact that Dell are offering XP again on some models. If you email them directly, like I did, you can get XP on any model you want. There is no way I wanted Vista installed anywhere near my machines, and from reports around the internet, there are too many driver and incompatible device issues that would ever encourage me to use it. The fact that it also comes with inbuilt "security protection" of DRM is now just another reason not to go near it. I don't think I've ever seen such a negative response to a new Windows OS. At a recent Birmingham Perl Mongers technical meeting, the comment made about the fancy graphics was that if you wanted XGL that badly, why not just install Linux. I installed Ubuntu :)


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