Should You Pay $99 to Have Microsoft Remove Bloatware from Your PC?

Ever wonder why Apple is gaining market share at the expense of Windows-based PCs?

One big clue comes when you boot a brand new PC for the first time. Not only do you see the familiar Windows logo, but there are also icons leading to applications and services that you may or may not want. Typically, those applications are for trial, or are stripped-down versions of the software, that some company hopes you will eventually buy.

Those apps are annoying, unless they include something you really may want. But more significantly, they can slow down your PC, particularly when it start ups. They also waste hard drive space and sometimes interfere with programs you really do want.

The "bloatware" plague doesn't strike Mac owners because Apple controls and sells the computer as well as the operating system. It does strike PC owners, but not because Microsoft is out to milk them.

It happens because those little programs are put on the machine by the makers of the PCs, that is the Hewlett-Packards, Dells and Lenovos of the world that see the "bloatware" as money makers, either because they'll sell you the app, or the software developer has made some sort of a licensing deal to place their junk on your new PC.

Never a company to miss an opportunity, Microsoft is now offering a service called "Signature Upgrade", which entails bringing your PC to a Microsoft retail store and having the technicians there remove the junk -- for $99. That's right. You buy a PC, the maker lards it up with junk you don't want, and then you have to pay someone to remove it. How crazy is that?

Even so, I don't blame Microsoft. In fact, the software giant has for years chided PC makers for messing up the Windows experience with bloatware. It's the manufacturers that are at fault here, and their annoying actions are pushing consumers towards Macs and iPads.

Experienced users like me and many of you are more than capable of going into the Windows Control Panel and removing the junk, a piece at a time. Or you can download a free program called PC Decrapifier to do that for you. But not everyone is comfortable doing it themselves, so for some, it might be worth the money to pay someone to clean up your machine.

Microsoft has only a relative handful of brick and mortar stores, though, so the vast majority of people wouldn't be able to take advantage of that program even if they wanted to.

I should mention that at least one reliable reviewer, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal has done before and after tests on PCs that have been debloated by Microsoft and said he found them much easier to set up out of the box, and they ran somewhat faster, as well.

Microsoft has a related program, also called Signature. If you shop at Microsoft's store, either in person or on the Web, you can buy a Signature version of a PC made by a mainstream PC maker. It won't cost more, but it will be almost bloatware free. Mossberg, did however, mention that the PC he tested had some of Microsoft's own bloatware on it.

For me, the issue is less the chutzpah of Microsoft, than it is the cluelessness of the PC makers. When will they learn that the best way to drive sales is to give customers what they want? Just ask Apple.

San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at bill@billsnyder.biz and follow him on Twitter at @BSnyderSF..

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