Is This The End For Crapware?
In the wake of Lenovo's Superfish disaster, the company has vowed to “become the leader in providing cleaner, safer PCs,” by significantly reducing the number of “preloaded applications” -- what everyone else calls crapware or bloatware. Are they serious, and will the trend catch on with other vendors?
Bells, Whistles, and Whoopie Cushions
“Crapware” is a crude but apt term for unnecessary software loaded onto computers by hardware vendors. It may include trial versions of software that have limited functionality, unnecessary toolbars, dubious “shopping assistants," and shareware utilities that duplicate functions already built into Windows. We always assumed they were harmless but annoying, until recently.
I was appalled by last week’s news that adware called “Superfish Visual Discovery” installed on Lenovo laptops exposed customers to “man in the middle” hacker attacks. (See my article, Does Your Computer Have VD?)
So were a lot of other people. The tech trade press, the security research community, privacy advocates, and even hackers came down on Lenovo like several tons of bricks. (For a few hours, Lenovo.com was hijacked and its home page replaced with a link to the “Lizard Squad” hacker group’s Twitter page.)
Lenovo got the message, apparently. This week, the company announced that it will stop installing “what our industry calls adware and bloatware” on its products, “starting immediately.” So when exactly is “immediately”? By the time Windows 10 launches, Lenovo pledges that “our standard (Windows installation) image will only include the operating system and related software, software required to make hardware work well (for example, when we include unique hardware in our devices, like a 3D camera), security software and Lenovo applications.”
In other words, Lenovo will pre-install only legitimate software from legitimate sources that serves legitimate purposes. It won’t waste customers’ time and system resources, or expose them to data loss and identity theft, by deliberately infecting their brand-new PCs with untested software provided by unknown firms whose only qualification for being allowed near Lenovo customers is the money they pay for that access.
Lenovo seems to have gotten the message that its reputation isn’t worth the paltry profits that crapware brings. In its earliest response to criticism over Superfish, Lenovo admitted that its relationship with the adware developer was “not financially significant.” No single piece of crapware is “financially significant;” that’s why new PCs are loaded with so many pieces of it! For every computer they sell, the crapware vendors pay them a few dollars.
The King of Crapware?
But Lenovo is hardly the worst PC maker when it comes to crapware. That stigma belongs to Toshiba, according to counts of bloatware posted by ShouldIRemoveIt.com. Sony and Lenovo tie for second, with Dell and HP close behind.
The “Should I Remove It” program scans a PC for over 10,000 crapware titles and provides detailed information that can help a user decide whether to keep or uninstall a program. The most common crapware titles, as of February 28, 2015, include:
• Shop for HP Supplies, by HP. Its only purpose is to steer users into HP’s online store and make sure they buy only (overpriced) HP-branded ink, paper, etc.
• Search App by Ask, the infamous search results hijacker.
• Search Protect from Client Connect (formerly Conduit), another homepage and search engine hijacker.
• TOSHIBARegistration, whose only purpose is to nag you until you register your Toshiba machine. Acer, Lenovo, and HP have their own versions.
• Remote Desktop Access VuuPC; often bundled with third-party crapware, this dangerous program allows unknown parties to have remote access to your computer.
• Spigot Search Settings periodically checks your default search engine and resets it to Yahoo.com if it’s been changed to anything else.
• Coupon Printer for Windows lets you download coupons from Coupons.com and print them.
PC Decrapifier is another popular tool that removes crapware. CCleaner began its long career as a “crapware cleaner” but has evolved PC tuneup capabilities. For more free tools to help you scrub your hard drive of unwanted or unnecessary files, see HOWTO: Clean Up Your Hard Drive.
I hope that Lenovo’s pledge to foreswear crapware becomes a PC industry standard. The extra dollars may be tempting when profit margins are shrinking, but the risk (as Superfish proved) and the consumer disdain will hopefully tip the balance in favor of cleaner and safer computers.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Mar 2015
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved