Bloatware -- sometimes called craplets -- is that ugly build-up of annoying code you find on new PCs -- demoware, trial applications and sign-ups, and marketing cruft that you have to deal with when you're setting up a new computer. Apple ridiculed PC bloatware in one of its spot-on "I'm-a-Mac-and-I'm-a-PC" ads. And in their latest newsletter, the guys at PC Pitstop say it's getting worse.They did a very interesting thing. They went out and bought eight similar new laptops from Acer, Apple, Compaq, HP, Dell, Sony, Toshiba, and Gateway. They opened them up, and looked at the bloatware on their hard disks. You can see a video of the results here.
The amount of bloatware varied widely. The MacBook came with only one craplet -- an offer for Apple's Mac.Net Web-based storage and e-mail service. At the other end of the range, the Gateway came with no fewer than 22 applications loaded.
The worst company for bloatware: PC game maker Wild Tangent. Its software was on all the PCs but Acer's. (It wasn't on the MacBook, either, natch.)
Microsoft is part of the problem -- interesting, because back in January an anonymous Microsoft official was wringing his hands over bloatware and its possible negative effect on Vista, and the company backpedaled away from it. No wonder. PCPitstop found that Dell, Gateway, and Toshiba load trialware for Microsoft Money and Microsoft Office, which grab all the common file associations, making them even harder to root out.
PC Pitstop sees the contents of a lot of hard drives in the course of its consulting and service work. It looked at three of the more common bloatware titles -- the WildTangent Game Console, URL Assistant by Google (aka Browser Address Error Redirector) and Microsoft's Activation Assistant for the 2007 Office Suites -- and found that the incidence of these applications had more than doubled in the past year.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to tackle bloatware. Jason York's PC Decrapifier got a lot of publicity earlier this year when "craplets" entered the public vocabulary, and it's recently acquired added capabilities to remove more bloatware, and its own Web site, www.pcdecrapifier.com.