Dell buyers can refuse unwanted software loaded on new PCs, after hundreds of users complained about such "bloatware" on a company blog.
Many software companies pay PC vendors to install their applications on new computers, hoping to gain new customers or persuade users to upgrade to a new version. But customers say it can take a savvy user hours to remove unwanted programs, and those who are less sophisticated may never be able to reclaim the wasted memory.
So Dell has agreed to give buyers of certain PC models the option to avoid pre-installed software. Buyers of Dimension desktops, Inspiron notebooks and XPS PCs can now click a field in Dell's online order form that will block the installation of productivity software, ISP software, and photo and music software.
"Since we launched IdeaStorm, there has never been a shortage of conversation about 'bloatware' here! Well we've recently taken action on your feedback on this topic, and we're working toward giving customers more choice in the amount and type of software that is pre-installed on their systems at the time of purchase," Dell said on the blog.
The company has also loaded an extra "un-install utility" program on Dimension and Inspiron computers sold in the US, making it easier for new computer users to remove software they don't want.
However, Dell will continue to install three applications on its new computers, including trial versions of anti-virus software, Adobe's Acrobat Reader and Google's Toolbar, said Michelle Pearcy, Dell's worldwide client software manager in another posting.
The company includes anti-virus software because many customers expect their PCs to be protected at first boot, Acrobat because it is required to read electronic copies of system documentation, and Google Toolbar because it aids web surfing by suggesting likely alternatives to mistyped URLs, she said.
"The end result is that customers can tailor the amount and type of software that is pre-installed on their systems to meet their specific needs at time of purchase," Pearcy said.
Many users said Dell had not gone far enough, however. Dozens of comments attached to Pearcy's blog posting pleaded with the company to abstain from loading any software on a new machine except for Windows and Office.
"Would love the ability to have a clean Vista install. No AOL software, no EarthLink software, no Google software - just a clean, original OS," said someone writing under the name "ootleman" in a posting that has received thousands of votes on Dell's site. That post helped start the idea for Dell to give users more control, since it has remained one of the most popular ideas on the company's IdeaStorm website since being posted on the blog's first day, Pearcy said.
Despite users' persistence, some may find it challenging to find a PC vendor that does not load extra software on new machines. Gateway did not respond to a request for comment, but Hewlett-Packard said it also pre-installs software.
HP does not sell any PCs running only an OS, but it does allow individual users to remove the programs they don't like, said Melissa Stone, a spokeswoman for HP.
"HP offers third-party software with its consumer PCs in order to provide customers with programs that will enhance their computing experience," Stone said. "Not all users will have the same preferences, therefore each user has the ability to keep or remove the programs he or she finds most valuable. Current products offer a very carefully chosen set of HP, Microsoft and third-party software and services that HP believes will bring the most value to the customer."
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