Why Windows Crapware Still Exists

My oldest daughter started high school about five months ago. Anticipating a heavy workload of writing and research, my wife and I did what countless other people do every day: we got her a Windows PC. The purchase decision was made primarily on price, and in this particular laptop we found a good mix of features and value ; or so we thought. Last night, after the latest round of hours spent cleaning, pruning, and otherwise tuning up the laptop for my daughter, a regular chore necessary to simply keep the machine in working order, I was ready to throw the computer out the window. And that was before I even got mad about the situation. The problem with my machine, like all other PCs, is crapware. Crapware is the gateway drug to Malware. It is those little pieces of software you neither need nor want that are installed on your PC for you. (Six month trials, free downloads, alternative search engines, etc.) The manufacturer loads them on your PC before you even buy it, and software vendors keep the cycle going by slipping some more on there for you every time you download a legitimate piece of software that you actually do want. Why would PC makers engage in such an anti-customer practice? Because they make millions of dollars a year from it.

Case in point: just this week, Oracle’s Java software (itself a bloated piece of crap, but that’s another article) had a security issue that required Oracle to release an emergency update. Oracle dutifully rushed out the update and urged users to download it immediately. I hope they didn’t breeze through the process too fast, though, because even this update, an emergency update to patch a major security flaw, contained crapware. Right there on the download dialog, already selected for you, was an offer to install the Ask toolbar, which would then also make Ask your computers’ search engine of choice. When is the last time you did a search on Ask?

The problem is insidious, and it is not going away. PC manufacturers will tell you that our desire for “affordable”; computers requires this subsidy. Compounding the problem, the PC business is going the wrong way, making it even more unlikely they, or the software developers will give up the cash they get in return for foisting steaming piles of crapware at you. In fact, the relationship is getting even cozier. Silicon Valley is throwing venture capital behind a company that streamlines the process of “software monetization”. That’s the carefully worded name that describes the process of bundling crapware with legitimate downloads. I urge you to read Y Combinator is funding the future of spam in Windows – drive-by crapware installers by Long Zheng. It is a thorough, and disturbing look at the business of crapware.

Mac users don’t face this issue. Apple does not load any crapware on new Macs, nor do they permit software developers to bundle it with their programs when you download them. You pay more upfront for this freedom; and that is certainly not the only reason Macs cost more ; but I now firmly believe that if you take the price of a bargain PC, add in the hours you will spend keeping it in working order, you will actually come out way ahead by buying a Mac. And that says nothing of the user experience, which is superior in every way. I’m a convert to Apple that will never go back to a PC. If you are tired of all the crap, you should think about doing the same. You’ll save money ; and time ; in the long run.

Greg Bussmann

Greg Bussmann

Greg Bussmann runs the digital marketing for an IT supplies company in St. Louis, MO. He covers technology and social media. Learn more about Greg on his digital marketing blog
Greg Bussmann


  1. StevendeMena on January 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Why didn’t you buy from a Microsoft store? They blow out the OEM images and install the OS from scratched, optimized for performance on that particular model, including installing Windows Defender for anti-virus (which is free). And no crapware.  (It’s called “Microsoft Signature”)

  2. Stabley on January 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

    @StevendeMena …and that last five minutes until you get it home and start installing a few necessary software titles, and pick up the crapware that way.

  3. lantzn on January 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve personally owned many Macs since 86 and have had both a Mac and a PC side by side at work in the same time. I bought only one PC for personal use and that was a Dell mini 9 to load OS X on before the iPad were released. Seeing the differences between the two on a daily basis I was determined to never have one in my home. I’m also the Apple tech guy in my area and have seen numerous people convert to Mac. They all convey your experience and will never go back.

  4. lantzn on January 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve personally owned many Macs since 86 and have had both a Mac and a PC side by side at work in the same time. I bought only one PC for personal use and that was a Dell mini 9 to load OS X on before the iPad were released. Seeing the differences between the two on a daily basis I was determined to never have one in my home. I’m also the Apple tech guy in my area and have seen numerous people convert to Mac. They all convey your experience and will never go back.

  5. StevendeMena on January 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    @lantzn What that has to do with the subject of the article I’m not sure. It was about crapware loaded onto PCs. At most this should take 30 minutes to remove. And it subsidized the lower cost of the machine.
    I have 4 Macs here at home too, and I love them, but that wasn’t the subject under discussion.

  6. StevendeMena on January 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    @Stabley Examples of apps that install crapware without option to opt out?

  7. lantzn on January 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    @StevendeMena  @lantzn
     Yes it does.  The final paragraph in the article talks about why he went to Macs and never will go back to PCs.  Besides the crapware he states other reasons

  8. HalLevy on January 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Please direct me to the 17 inch Mac laptop….. Oh that’s right….
    Please direct me to the laptop where I can pick a true gamer-class video card… Oh that’s right…
    Just in hardware Apple is second rate… all because you can’t un-check “Install this”?  I hate the crapware… However, that’s the “cost” of free commercial software.  I am sure you wouldn’t want to deny hard working people the right to make money on their hard work … Those are advertisements right in the middle of the article I am reading right?  
    What, are there 3 ads on this page?  Just as “annoying” as crapware.. Oh look at that- I can turn back on my adblocker…  More work than simply un-checking a “yes install me” during an install.
    I hope Apple gave you a nice paycheck for this.

  9. RolloTomasi on January 24, 2013 at 5:32 am

    Hours of cleaning and pruning a new PC? Waste much time there chief?
    Next time just do a clean install and add the software you want. Should take an hour, unless you bought a slow machine.
    Better yet, buy one with no OS installed and make it how you’d like.
    But paying a HUGE price increase, for nothing but dumbed down “simplicity” isn’t smarter, it
    s just more lazy. I’d liken it to paying $50 for Jiffy Lube to give you a $15 oil change.

  10. bmxfelon420 on January 24, 2013 at 8:27 am

    @Stabley  @StevendeMena 
    Have you tried learning to read instead of just clicking through install wizards?

  11. non computer illiterate on January 25, 2013 at 1:35 am

    stupid article. Please stop letting this person write.

  12. thosearethefacts on January 25, 2013 at 1:55 am

    I don’t get it. Why don’t you just uncheck the box saying “I AGREE TO THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE ASK TOOLBAR” one check and it won’t install.

  13. hkscfreak on January 25, 2013 at 2:38 am

    ” nor do they permit software developers to bundle it with their programs when you download them”
     Do you even read what you write? Last time I checked Mac OSX was still an open system where users can run whatever software they want, which means developers are still free to bundle crapware.  Until Apple merges OSX and iOS, and then all applications go through their App store.

  14. Pnutbutter13 on January 25, 2013 at 5:51 am

    @hkscfreak The point is that they don’t allow companies to work with other companies to add their garbage software, which 9 times out of 10 has malware or some other garbage. So people can run what ever they choose to run, but you are purposefully trying to change the subject. Do you own a Mac? Please show me some software that was bought or downloaded on your (or someone elses) Mac that had an additional crap toolbar add on or trial of some stupid software. Really the only reason you would have to write his is that you have a hand in making these add on crap products. Do you?

  15. Pnutbutter13 on January 25, 2013 at 5:53 am

    @thosearethefacts you know that people do things and dont even look. Or your stupid and don’t realize. There is no reason for you or anyone to defend this garbage.

  16. Pnutbutter13 on January 25, 2013 at 6:01 am

    @RolloTomasi Why should people have to waste time (no matter how long it takes). Blaming the user is a lame attempt to get off of the fact that those trial programs and add ons (like toolbars to legit upgrades) don’t need to exist. Blaming the user is just a way to get off of the subject, and if you care this much about what toolbars are added on or what trial software is added onto a Dell/HP/Alienware/etc then YOU have something to lose. SO what do you have to lose? huge price increase? ha!. Jiffy lube being overpriced has nothing to do with it. IF you need 3 quarts of oil for your overpriced piece of garbage and you don’t want to do it yourself, for some people the convenience is warranted. And isn’t that what you are talking about?

  17. Pnutbutter13 on January 25, 2013 at 6:07 am

    @StevendeMena  @lantzn Just because it only takes 30 minutes to take off, doesn’t excuse the fact that additional toolbars (on installation of other software) AND trial ware put onto brand new PC’s (and not Macs). That is what the article was about. But you glazed over it by acting like its not a big deal. Well if it wasn’t then why do people get rid of them (crappy software) It does not excuse the actions of software companies that make crap add ons or the companies that are complacent in letting this bloatware being included onto their more legit products. They make money. The only people that would be mad about added on software and trials on new PCs are the people that have something to lose. Do you have something to lose? My money says yes.

  18. ciny kokociny on January 27, 2013 at 2:36 am

    >Last night, after the latest round of hours spent cleaning, pruning, and otherwise tuning up the laptop for my daughter, a regular chore necessary to simply keep the machine in working orde
    this sounds like a PEBKAC problem rather than a windows problem…

  19. ciny kokociny on January 27, 2013 at 2:37 am

    @Pnutbutter13  @hkscfreak so you (or your daughter) don’t read and just click next, next, agree, next, next? as I mentioned above – that’s a PEBKAC problem – not a windows problem…

  20. virtdave on January 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    It’s mysterious to me why anyone would pay for any operating system, when (for instance) Ubuntu is free and easy to use.

  21. StevendeMena on January 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    @virtdave 99% of the world (non Linux users), who don’t want to fight with non driver support, don’t consider it a mystery

  22. virtdave on January 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    @StevendeMena  @virtdave Gee, I have lots of peripherals, several printers (Samsung, Canon) and have never had a serious problem with drivers.  That used to be the case, no longer. OTOH, I’ve had quite a few hassles with windows.  I find Macs hard to configure, but I do understand that they’re good for beginners.

  23. thosearethefacts on January 27, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    @virtdave Ok think about the average consumer. Why would anyone pay for an operating system…then delete it to get crappy driver support, no game support, and get made fun of by their friends is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong I’m definitely considering an android phone, but you’re fighting a losing battle in the PC arena.

  24. StevendeMena on January 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    @virtdave Got a red hat enterprise Linux machine at work. My Verizon USB LTE Pantone broadband card ($60/month) is a paperweight now. Is there a VZW for Ubuntu?

  25. TomRogers on January 27, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    @Pnutbutter13  @StevendeMena  @lantzn I find the argument that the add-ons are anything other than a tiny, minor, inconvenience to be not credible. As a retiree, I am now a full-fledged PC gamer, and I have no problems whatsoever with the add-ons. First because I buy from IBuyPower PC and they add nothing except what you order-OS and that’s it. Yes, the Ask-toolbar is bloatware, but even if someone forgets and allows it to install, it’s less than a 10-sec. ordeal to just delete the program. 
    And, as a gamer, there’s no way I’d pay for second-rate components at astronomical prices via Macs.. Retina Display prices are going down a lot, too. I’d have paid well over $1000 more for this PC if it was a Mac, and I still would have to run Windows to play half my games. No thanks.

  26. virtdave on January 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    @thosearethefacts That’s why the last computer I bought was sold (for $300, 500g, adequate ports/etc.) without an OS.  I’m not fighting a battle, I’m just cheap.

  27. virtdave on January 27, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    @StevendeMena  @virtdave Steve, I’m not quite sure what you’re asking.  You might try googling <Verizon Ubuntu>.

  28. virtdave on January 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    @StevendeMena  @Stabley heh, you’ve never seen crapware until you’ve seen French crapware.  When I subscribed to France Télécom’s ISP (Orange), I ignorantly used the installation CD they sent me–it messed up my computer so bad, I thought I had a hardware problem.  After wiping it clean and re-installing the OS (Windows XP on that computer), and configuring the internet connection manually, it worked as well as Windows XP ever does…..

  29. StevendeMena on January 27, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    @virtdave  @Stabley  ISPs here in the U.S. used to want to install a bunch of crap too. NONE of it needed.  I think once or twice (when they used to come out to set everything up) I created a separate virgin install for them to play with, and when they left I reverted back to my actual install. 🙂
    Regarding another post Verzion seems to support the Pantech® 4G LTE USB Modem UML290 under OS X and Windows Vista, XP and 7 [presumably 8 also]. I know when I Googled for support under Red Hat Linux I ran across a lot of complex command line instructions and files to edit to get it to work (with separate configs for 3G and LTE) and none of them worked for me, and didn’t seem to work for most people. 
    So basically I am using the Red Hat machine wirelessly and tethering to my iPhone, but I am stuck with a 2 year contract ($60/month) for the broadband modem. (Our company shipped us Lenovo Red Hat Enterprise Linux as mandatory workstations for privileged users, and we still have to run Windows in a VM on these machines to connect to the client we support).  [I can actually do everything fine with my Mac but it’s not allowed…)  🙁
    In the grand scheme of things is the cost of the OS really such an issue these days? Windows is allowing upgrades to Windows 8 Professional for like $40 (from any version of Windows back to XP) and OS X new versions seem to be around $20 or $30 lately.
    I have 4 Macs here, a few physical Windows machines, a Red Hat laptop, and a VMWare ESXi server with most any OS under the sun so I am not tied or feel any allegiance to any one particular OS.

  30. Master_Skroda_of_Dagobah on April 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Come on people, enough with the Apple vs Microsoft stuff.  It’s the same pointlessly polarized sort of Them vs Us thing that is destroying politics.  Fact is, they’re both good for some reasons and situations, but not for others.  Which one is best depends entirely on the person buying it, their tech knowledge, and their home and business needs.  Also good is Linux, which I hope will start taking off like it should have a long time ago (thanks in part to the fact that Android and iOS are modified versions of Linux).  Stop arguing for your own side and try to see the whole spectrum instead of your favorite color, please.

  31. DominicBlais on April 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    thats why any smart person reinstall a clean windows

  32. DominicBlais on April 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    virtdave who pays for windows roflmao lolz

  33. DominicBlais on April 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    hkscfreak mac os is a virus spewing disease in the computer world every time i get near an icrap device i get tons of assault warnings

  34. DominicBlais on April 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    lantzn they can’t use a computer is why

  35. stevles on April 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

    virtdave StevendeMena 
    Good for anyone who likes having a stable operating system without any of the crap/terrible software/bloat ware that comes with all windows installations.
    That being said, I am still sticking with my windows installation simply for the games. Waiting for the day when linux supports games better.

  36. SteveRoy on May 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Just pick a version of Linux that appeals to you, download it, and install it for free. Modern flavors of Linux are very user friendly and can installed on virtually any hardware (including your daughters laptop and other “less expensive” hardware). As a bonus, she’ll have stable, secure system that will need far less maintenance with less crap accumulating over time.

    • TomRogers on May 1, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      SteveRoy I’ve been watching Steam’s attempts to bring the Linux community to their site. Perhaps I’ll try it out sometime. For now, however, I really just don’t have an urgent need. Win7 works just fine, especially after my nightmarish attempts to get my games to install, much less operate properly when I had Vista. If you’d pointed me towards Linux back then, I’d have had more impetus to at least try it out. But I’ve learned enough by now to at least know how to use my rig without too much unwanted extras being installed, though I admit that being a gamer doesn’t mean knowing anything beyond the games themselves, as I found out when my pathetic and blind attempts to install mods into games forced me to learn how to manipulate the files and folders in my system. I hate learning how much I don’t know!