How to remove 'bloatware' from your new Windows 7 PC
Mar 1, 2010, 9:33 GMT
Washington - Buy a new Windows 7 computer today, and you'll likely be in for some surprises - both pleasant and unpleasant. On the pleasant side will be Windows 7 itself, which is both faster and less intrusive than Windows Vista.
On the unpleasant side will probably be the large number of applications - both requested and unrequested - that PC makers today are pre-installing on their computers.
The trouble with all of these applications - call them 'bloatware' - is that they clog your hard drive and very likely hamper the performance of your new machine before you ever pull up a browser or type your first e-mail message.
You can regain control, though, by taking the time to rid your PC of its bloatware from the start, leaving a lean and clean machine that performs as you expected. But don't start deleting things without some forethought. Here's a checklist of how to proceed.
--- Create an emergency disk
Before you tamper with anything on your new Windows-based notebook or desktop computer, make sure you can restore it to its original condition. That means creating an emergency disk - also called a rescue disk.
Most computers sold by major manufacturers today come with a CD or DVD that you can use to reinstall your operating system and original software in case a major disaster occurs.
Sometimes though, PCs or notebooks come not with the rescue disks themselves but with the software that allows you to create your own rescue disks.
Whichever is the case with your computer, don't start fiddling with your new machine until you have that rescue disk in hand.
If neither a rescue disk nor software required to create one came with your new Windows 7 machine, you can still create a rescue disk of sorts by using the operating system's 'Create a system image' utility.
Open the Windows 7 Start menu, type 'backup,' and select the resulting Backup and Restore entry. From the Backup and Restore dialog box, first select 'Create a system image,' and follow the instructions, and then select 'Create a system repair disk.'
Once you're finished, you'll have both a usable image of everything on your computer as well as a repair disk that you can use to access that image.
--- Reinstall the operating system
Once the repair or rescue disk has been made, you can perform the ultimate cleaning of your new PC: reinstalling the operating system from scratch. Without a doubt, this is the best way to remove trialware or pre-installed software that you neither need nor want.
But before you undertake this, make sure you have two things: the original operating system disk - including installation key or serial number - and all of the driver files required to get every component of your system running properly.
In an effort to save costs, many manufacturers today are not shipping the operating system disk along with their machines. If that's the case with the manufacturer of your computer, you'll have to contact the PC maker to ask for the Windows 7 disk specifically.
You may even have to pay a small fee to get it shipped to you. Take the time to do it. If something catastrophic should happen to your drive or your data, you may very well need to install the operating system again, and you paid for it with your computer, so you should have it anyway.
Driver files should be easy to collect. Often they are delivered on a CD or DVD that comes with your computer. If not, they're often easy to find by visiting the Support section of your PC maker's web site.
With operating system and driver disks in hand, you can begin the cleansing. Simply place the operating system disk in your DVD drive, reboot your computer, and keep an eye on your monitor.
Your computer should read your DVD drive first and, if there's a proper bootable Windows 7 disk in the drive, you will see a message that tells you to press any key to boot from the DVD. Do it, and the operating system's installation routine should begin.
Early on in the installation process, you will be asked which type of installation you wish to perform: upgrade or custom (advanced).
Choose custom to install a new copy of Windows 7. You can also delete and reformat the computer's main drive (partition) if you wish. Proceed with the installation, and afterwards, you should have a clean copy of Windows 7.
--- Reinstall drivers
One of the benefits of Windows 7 is that the operating system automatically recognises an impressive number of hardware components, so you may not need the drivers that you assembled earlier.
To find out, open the Start menu, and type 'device manager.' Then click the Device Manager entry that appears.
From the resulting Device Manager dialog box, make note of any entries accompanied by a yellow exclamation mark, which indicates a missing device driver.
If you see any such exclamation mark, try to determine the type of device that is missing a drive, and install it from the drivers disk you created.
You might just want to copy all of your driver files to your local hard drive, and install them from there.
If it's not clear which device is missing its driver, try using a process of elimination to determine which driver to install.
Start by installing any 'chipset' drivers you have.
If that installation does not solve the problem, and you have installed drivers for the obvious candidates - such as sound card, network driver, printer driver, and so forth - then look at other, more obscure-sounding drivers that may have been provided by your PC manufacturer.
For example, computers built on Intel motherboards will often show a yellow exclamation mark next to a 'PCI Simple Communication Controller,' when in fact the driver that's required for that is called Management Engine Interface driver.
Assuming you've assembled all of the drivers for your PC, a process of elimination should lead you to the right one.
--- Install software judiciously
Once you have your new, clean computer configured properly, be careful about what you install.
First, create a system image of your clean machine, without any software installed. That way, you can always restore that if you find that your computer becomes hopelessly bogged down with bloatware.
And remember the 'less is more' mantra when deciding what to install. Instead of that bloated 'security suite,' for example, download and use the svelte (and free) Security Essentials from Microsoft.
When installing other types of software, use the 'custom' installation option, and deselect any components you probably will not use. Be careful, too, about installing fonts - too many of them will slow down boot-up time and compromise overall performance.
Follow the guidelines here, and you'll not only feel in control of your PC but you will be.