How to decrapify your new Windows PC

by Ross McKillop on April 21, 2009

Windows

Have you purchased a new brand-name PC recently? I have. I just bought a laptop for my mum, and the thing was just riddled with garbage. This tutorial will guide you step by step through removing the garbage, determining what is and isn’t needed, and offer some tips on what software you should install in place of the useless stuff.

useless software on a new pc

First up – why does your new HP/Dell/Acer/”Brand Name PC” come with all this useless software? Because software vendors pay hardware manufacturers to include it on the systems. Much of it is trial-based (you can only use it for x days before you’re required to purchase it), some is shareware, and some is free but absolutely useless. The following steps will help you get the most out of your new Windows PC.

  1. Update Windows
  2. Backup your device drivers
  3. Uninstall the garbage
  4. Install needed software



Update Windows


After you’ve started your new PC for the first time you’ll be taken through the initial “set up Windows” procedure. This usually involves creating the first user, setting a password for that user and configuring your Internet connection. After all of that has completed, run Windows Update. No matter how ‘new’ your PC is, there’s a 99.9% chance that Microsoft has updates waiting for you to download and install. Click the “Start orb” (what used to be the Start button), select All Programs and then Windows Update.

windows update
click to enlarge

Once the update has completed, you’ll very likely be prompted to reboot your PC. Do so now.

Backup your device drivers


Before you uninstall anything, you’ll want to backup your Windows device drivers. Why? In case something goes wrong, and/or you uninstall a driver accidentally. Just follow the instructions outlined in this tutorial and you’ll be set. Backing the drivers up while your system is completely fresh is a great idea and doesn’t take very long.

backing up drivers with drivermax

Uninstall the garbage


And here goes. To get started removing unwanted software, click the Start orb, select Control Panel. From the Programs section, click Uninstall a program.


click to enlarge

The Uninstall or change a program window will populate with all of the software currently installed on your PC. Depending on the vendor, and the specific PC/laptop that you purchased, there may be a lot of stuff listed, or not too much. In my case, there was a lot – and almost 70% of it was either unwanted or flat out garbage. The red arrows in the image below indicate just a portion of the software I had to uninstall.


click to enlarge

One of the benefits of removing this unwanted software is that a lot of it automatically runs each time your PC starts, and continues to run in the background – using up valuable system resources that could be put to much better use. As indicated by the screenshot below, my new laptop had a lot of software from the vendor that provided me with no benefits whatsoever, and used up memory and CPU cycles to boot.


click to enlarge

So one by one, go through the list of software in the Uninstall or change a program list and uninstall what you don’t need. If you’re unsure of something, leave it for the time being until you can identify exactly what the program is, and then decide if you want to keep it.

Again, depending on which brand of PC/laptop you purchase, you may be surprised to see that Microsoft Office has been included on your new computer. Before you get too excited, run it (open Word or PowerPoint etc). Likely you’ll get a pop-up message telling you that this version of Office can only be used 25 times before you have to buy it. If you’re “lucky” it will be a time limited version, and you can use it for 60 or 90 days before you have to purchase it.


click to enlarge

The same may hold true with any security software (in my case, the Norton Internet Security package). It came pre-installed on my laptop, but it was actually just a 60 day demo. Because there are much better (and free) alternatives to Microsoft Office and Norton Internet Security, I uninstalled them both (and I’ll outline what I replaced them with later in this article).

Some hardware vendors also like to “brand” software by putting their logo on it. In my case, Internet Explorer came with a branded version of the Windows Live Toolbar.


click to enlarge

You can disable this toolbar by right-clicking on the main Internet Explorer bar, and remove the check from Microsoft Live Search Toolbar.

But if you’re sure you’re never going to use that toolbar (as I was), it can be uninstalled via the Uninstall or change a program list.

Once you’ve finished uninstalling software from the Uninstall or change a program list, click the Start orb, select Computer from the menu, and then double-click your C: drive. Open the Program Files folder. In here, you may find that even though you uninstalled a program, its folder (and very often some files) still remain. Delete any folders that belonged to software that you uninstalled. In my case (as seen in the images below) the folder Online Services remained, even though I had uninstalled every program that was associated with that folder.


click to enlarge

The final step in your cleanup process is to remove items from the Desktop (usually shortcuts to Web pages) and the Start menu. To remove something from the Start menu, right-click on that item and select Delete from the pop-up menu.

Repeat the above step until your list is trimmed down to the programs that you actually have installed, and the shortcuts you actually want to keep.

Now you’re done – all that useless software is gone!

Install needed software


As I mentioned earlier, there are some great free alternatives to the “trial” software that may have been included on your PC. Instead of using Microsoft Office, download and install OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice.org is a free, open source office suite that includes programs for word processing, creating spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. And the best part is that if someone creates a file with one of the Microsoft Office programs, you’re almost guaranteed to be able to not only open and view it, but edit it, save it and send it back to them – and they’ll have no idea you weren’t using MS Office.

Instead of using the Norton Internet Security Suite, I strongly recommend using free version of AVG anti-virus. Since Windows Vista provides a more than adequate firewall, you certainly don’t need to purchase one from a 3rd party. To make sure the Windows Vista firewall is turned on, open the Control Panel, select Security and click the Turn Windows Firewall on or off – and make sure it’s turned on.

If your PC included DVD-playing software and you uninstalled it (as I did) – replace it with the much better VLC video player. Not only will VLC play your DVDs, but it supports a wide range of other video files and formats.

If your PC included CD or DVD burning (recording) software, and you uninstalled it (again, as I did) – replace it with CDBurnerXP is a free application that lets you burn CDs and DVDs – even Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs if your PC has a HD-DVD or Blu-Ray burner.

Recommended Additional Resources

Streamline Startup Applications to Improve Windows Performance

  • http://www.killertechtips.com Shankar Ganesh

    Great tips and these are exactly what I did when I got a Dell laptop recently. Your HP seems to have come with too much crapware than mine :D

  • http://www.killertechtips.com Shankar Ganesh

    BTW, I’d also advise using PC Decrapifier to uninstall such preloaded junk – It has a ‘crapware definition’ list which it compares against the stuff that’s preinstalled on your PC and removes them quickly: http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/apps

  • http://www.ubuntu.org Alexandra Jau

    And when I installed Ubuntu recently on my mums computer…It got ZERO crapware.

  • mrogi

    Decrap your PC. Reformat the drive and install Linux.

  • http://www.coupontrunk.com Coupons

    You would think that the computer manufacturers would stop installing all of this crap. I got a couple of the free Ubuntu disks a few years ago for a computer I had, and it works fine without the need for decrapifying and it’s free, which makes it a winner in my book.

  • simone graef

    tnx

  • gh

    Before doing _anything_ with your new brand pc, you should make recovery dvd(s). Most of them don’t come with a windows dvd or recovery disks, you need to burn those yourselves. I would also advise to make a complete image backup of the harddisk, which is way better and faster than reïnstalling from recovery disks.

    FYI: Drivermax and similar software doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. I have yet to find such a tool, that even correctly identifies the hardware in a pc. Most of the time your pc will be useless or crippled at best, after a reinstall using drivermax.

  • Jeff

    My wife and I purchased an HP laptop recently, and as luck would have it, an HP Rep was in the store. She suggested we take the laptop up to Customer Service and have the extra software that was loaded on the laptop removed for a nominal fee.
    That’s pretty bold.