Junkbusters!

How to Clean Your New PC

New PCs come littered with demoware and ads you never asked for. Does all that stuff affect performance? You bet. Here's how to get rid of the crud--or avoid it in the first place.

You spend hard-earned money when you buy a new PC; why, then, should the vendor treat it like a billboard to sell you more stuff? Or, even more annoyingly, siphon off computing power to add punch and persistence to those marketing messages?

Unfortunately, most systems these days ship with a desktop littered with links, trialware, adware, and other software that you may find worthless. Adding insult to injury, major electronics retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City are cashing in on this trend by offering to remove the junk (a service they call PC optimization or setup)--for a price.

Some of the software can be useful, but much of it deserves the derogatory terms many people employ: junkware, shovelware, and plain old crap. And there tends to be a lot of it on new computers. For example, our examination and tests on 15 new desktop and laptop PCs turned up, on average, seven to eight nonstandard desktop icons; four to five non-Windows applets in the system tray; five or so Welcome Center icons that Windows didn't create; and additional lurkers in the Start menu and Windows Registry.

Getting rid of all this junk has a real benefit: Performance scores can improve by as much as 8 percent, which is pretty impressive considering the speed of baseline performance on a current PC. Read on for details, including advice on how to minimize the gunk when you shop--and, if you can't avoid it, see how to clean your new PC.

How to clean your new PC

As irritating as the idea may seem, one of the best ways to rid a new PC of junkware is to reinstall the operating system right away, using the vendor-supplied recovery discs or partition. Unfortunately, a reinstall won't work with every PC--the Fujitsu, HP, and Toshiba laptops we tested integrated the junkware into the OS install.

In June, Dell started shipping a third-party software removal utility with its Dimension and Inspiron PCs. But it's buried in Start/All Programs/Dell/Dell Software & Utilities/Product Documentation2, and it doesn't touch Dell-branded apps.

If an OS reinstall doesn't help, download PC Decrapifier. This dandy little utility automatically scans your PC for useless software and startup items, and then lets you choose from a list the ones you want to remove. PC Decrapifier makes some judgment calls, and it can't distinguish between trial and paid versions of some software. But anything that you might conceivably need is deselected by default, so it's safe even for neophytes.

Still got junk? Open Control Panel and select Programs and Features (in Windows Vista) or Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP). For most applications, you'll see an entry here for uninstalling the program and its accompanying files. In addition, suites such as Microsoft Office permit you to remove any components you don't need. Scan the folders in Start/All Programs for uninstall utilities that might not appear in the Control Panel list.

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Jon L. Jacobi

PC World
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