I know of several people who received new laptops that came
loaded with extra software, which none of them ever use. I’m
told that trying to uninstall it always leaves some residue behind, and that it
might be better to just wipe the disk clean and install only the desired
software from CDs. Seems like a huge amount of work to me. What do you think?
What do you do?
There’s a term for all that extra software: “shovelware” – as in computer
manufacturers seem to just shovel in piles and piles of useless software for
Well, the reasons aren’t totally unknown, and in a perverse way you should
probably even be thankful that it’s there.
The question, of course if what to do with everything that’s been shoveled
on to your machine.
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So why should you perhaps be grateful for shovelware?
It’s one of the reasons computers are as inexpensive as they are. Software
manufacturers often pay the hardware manufacturers to get their software
included on every machine shipped. The result is that the machines are less
expensive for you to purchase.
You’ll note that most of the shovelware packages are trial versions, or
links to have you sign up for services. In other words, most are an attempt to
eventually pay for the upgraded versions or services.
And many people do. For some, it is an easy way to discover software that
might actually be useful, and perhaps worth the money. And, of course, enough
people do sign up that it makes financial sense for the software and hardware
manufacturer’s to provide this “service”.
But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who know what we want,
and know that it’s not all that shovelware?
Well, as you’ve pointed out, there are two general approaches: piecemeal
uninstalls, and reformat and start over.
I’ve done both. And I’ve done nothing.
More often than not, unless there’s some reason to remove shovelware, I
simply let it sit. I happen to be a fanatic about a clean desktop, so I might
take the time to manually delete all the icons from the desktop. If I’m feeling
particularly assertive I might also manually delete items from the start menu –
again, simply to clean up the clutter from something that I interact with
But none of that actually gets rid of the shovelware, it just gets it out of
my face. And in terms of the time involved, it’s quick, easy and it’s
get rid of shovelware.”
If I’m running into disk space issues – particularly on the C: drive where
most of these applications are stored – then I might dedicate a little time to
walking through the list of programs in the Add/Remove
Programs list in Control Panel. Yes, there’s often
some “residue”, as you put it, but it’s typically quite small in comparison
with the amount of stuff that gets removed by the uninstall.
The only real risk here is uninstalling something that you didn’t know you
were using – so I’m always a little cautious about this, and either let things
I’m not certain about remain, or I do some research on-line to figure out
exactly what it is that I’m considering uninstalling.
I’ve never reformatted or reinstalled Windows just to get rid of shovelware.
As you say, a complete rebuild of a computer is a bit of work. I typically
write off the better part of a day to get a Windows XP machine back to a usable
state, including all the software and tweaks I care about. (You can read about
that in my 7 part series How should I set up my
That being said, the amount of “stuff” on my machine – both the initial
shovelware and other software I accumulated over time, does factor in to my
eventual decision to reformat and start over. More important reasons to
rebuild, however, are things like system stability and performance. The fact
that a lot of stuff you weren’t using doesn’t get re-installed is typically
just a serendipitous bonus.
So in a nutshell, if the shovelware isn’t actually causing you a problem,
I’d not do much of anything, except perhaps clean the desktop and start menu.
If you do have a reason to want it actually gone, then I’d go the uninstall
route, and save the complete system rebuild for more serious issues.