Buying a new computer or laptop? Well, be on the lookout … you will get the laptop and much more than what you’ve bargained for….

I recently bought a new netbook from a computer supplier and was irritated by the “pre-loaded” software and “goodies” which have been put on the computer. Such an action assumes that I would like a trial version of this or the other software on my laptop or netbook – installed, courtesy of your friendly hardware manufacturer and/or supplier.

Topping my list of irritations was the Microsoft Office  2007  package which started nagging me about “activation” via the internet. Guess what?  Yep, you’ve got it, Microsoft is not in the habit of giving their moneyspinners away – you have to have your credit card details handy to “activate” it.

Remove it!

When I contacted the supplier, the salesman told me that they receive  the product with everything on it, and they are not “allowed” to remove it before selling it to a client. I was then told that it was up to me to remove what I like (or not).  Fortunately my ICT skills made it fairly easy to properly remove software and saved me the expense of taking it back to the shop to have it removed. Since I’ve been an OpenOffice ( user for a while, I just  sneered at the “Are you sure you want to remove this software?” taunt and hit the Add/Remove button.

Another “squatter” on my hard drive was an antivirus “suite” – also a trial version which popped up at the most inconvenient times – urging me to “protect myself” against the threats of worms, viruses and such ilk stalking the internet. Yep, I’ve heard of those but I am also aware that such protection need not cost me an arm and a leg.

These are just two of the likely candidates that you will find “pre-installed” when you unwrap your laptop at home to take it for a spin around the worldwide web. Be careful at this point though. First install a firewall application before you go on the internet. The netbook I recently bought from a reputable (sic) supplier had a “phone home”  utility installed on it. As soon as it detected a live network connection, it tried to phone home – to the supplier’s website. Needless to say, my firewall setting is “never allow” for that application.

My worst fears came true when I installed an anti-virus and spyware package on the new netbook. The first scan listed a number of viruses, trojans, backdoor, etcetera. After a number of frustrating tries – some of these buggers stubbornly refusing to be healed of moved to the virus vault, I nuked (formatted) the hard drive.

Back-up DIY

The worst abuse of this pre-loading practice was one PC manufacturer who neatly partitioned the computer hard drive and loaded all “recovery disk” files – Operating System included – onto the partition. Usually recovery disks (with OS and drivers, etcetera on them) are supplied on DVDs and/or CDs. These disks enable you to boot from them and restore corrupt files and the OS – should you have a serious software  or hardware malfunction.

The manufacturer then also put “nagware” onto the computer,  reminding me every time the PC boots up to “write the recovery files and folders” to backup disks. The manufacturer, it appears, has in the interest of cutting costs and providing a “better quality of service” made it easier for the buyer to exercise “more control” over his or her computer buying experience. Needless to say, it also saved them quite a bit of money not having to pay for the disks and the manpower to load all these files properly onto a DVD and supply it with the new PC.