Dell lets users avoid 'bloatware'

Dell said Monday it will allow many users to order PCs without preinstalled 'bloatware' after customers complained.

Dell is allowing its customers to decline the unwanted software applications 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.

On Monday, Dell agreed to give buyers of certain PC models the option to avoid what the company calls "preinstalled software." Buyers in the U.S. 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 (Internet service provider) 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 preinstalled on their systems at the time of purchase," Dell said on the blog.

The company has also loaded an extra "uninstall utility" program on Dimension and Inspiron computers sold in the U.S., 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 antivirus software, Adobe Systems Inc.'s Acrobat Reader and Google Inc.'s Google Toolbar, said Michelle Pearcy, Dell's worldwide client software manager in another posting.

The company includes antivirus 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 (uniform resource locators), she said.

"The end result is that customers can tailor the amount and type of software that is preinstalled 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 pled with the company to abstain from loading any software on a new machine except for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows OS and Office tool suite.

"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 Feb. 16 posting that has since 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 Web site 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. Hewlett-Packard said it preinstalls 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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Ben Ames

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