It’s one of the biggest downers in personal technology: you buy a new PC, take it home and set it up, and then spend hours investigating and removing the crapware that PC makers put on there. But there’s a better way thanks to a small selection of utilities designed specifically to help remove this space- and attention-wasting nonsense.
Take the HP Stream 11, for example. It’s a great little PC, and as I noted in my HP Stream 11 and 13 Review, a tremendous value at just $200. But boy do you pay for it in other ways: The HP Stream, like virtually all other new PCs regardless of price, is loaded down with crapware.
There are strategies for dealing with this. I could have bought my HP Stream 11 at the Microsoft Store, which offers Signature editions of this and other PCs that do not include crapware. Or you could spend a bunch of time hunting and pecking around the Programs and Features control panel (what most people still think of as “add or remove programs”), trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. (And with Windows 8+, there’s an additional wrinkle: You need to closely examine the Start screen and All Apps list for Modern app crapware too. It never ends.
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If you don’t have a choice, or simply already have a PC that came preconfigured with crapware, you can save a lot of time and effort by using one or more of the free utilities listed here—and, please, if you have additions to this list, do let us all know in the comments below—to identify and then remove the crap.
Revo Uninstaller. This utility comes in free and paid versions, but I just stick with the free version. (There’s a portable version, too, which is handy if you don’t even want this thing on your PC.) Revo quickly found 19 instances of crapware on the HP Stream 11, including the obvious—like McAfee LiveSafe—plus some drive-type things I wouldn’t have thought of wiping out. The only issue is you have to install crapware one at a time to remove it.
Decrap. This is an interesting choice because it offers PC maker-specific (HP, Dell, etc.) “bloatware” removal. And, yes, there’s a portable version too. First run is a bit slow, but Decrap does a lot: It finds auto-start software, desktop shortcuts and other items, drivers (which it leaves alone by default), Start menu items, Windows-related software and of course third-party (crapware) software. On the HP Stream 11, it found 27 (!) items of software to potentially remove, though some were driver utilities I’d leave as-is.
PC Decrapifier. Another great choice, PC Decrapifier finds crapware, of course, but also unnecessary startup items that can slow down your PC. That said, I wasn’t all that blown away by what it found on the Stream: Just four recommended apps to remove, none of which were particularly harmful. (It also found one questionable entry and a more reasonable list under “everything else” (including, ironically, some other crapware removers).
What I’ve found is that I still need to really examine what these utilities fine and then do some fine-tuning, both before and after removal. That is, it’s not fully automated, not yet. But I’d still rather use these utilities than remove crapware completely manually.
Somewhat related to the removal of crapware is the issue of browser toolbars. I don’t see a lot of toolbar action on new PCs, and that I do see is easy enough to remove. (Or you could take the obvious step of using IE only once, to install Chrome, and then forget it even exists.) But utilities like AdwCleaner can help keep browser toolbars at bay too.
Friends don’t let friends use crapware. Spread the word.