New tool uses crowdsourcing to remove bloatware

SlimComputer draws user feedback to filter bloatware from critical applications

The bloatware battle has reached the cloud. A new PC utility announced on Tuesday collects information from other users over the Web to help make computers run faster and free up disk space.

The SlimComputer software from Slimware Utilities collects user ratings of programs that ship with PCs and aggregates the data to decide which ones to delete. Users can give programs ratings ranging from unwanted to good.

"As more users participate, we get more data. As we get more data, the better the ratings are," said Chris Cope, CEO of Slimware, based in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The tool will identify and remove programs that many users don't want -- like the free games that come with many PCs -- and also list nonessential toolbars, startup items and shortcuts.

Software publishers often pay PC makers to include trial versions of their software on new computers. Commonly called bloatware, the software can slow boot times, drag on performance and take up disk space. Other examples of bloatware include trial productivity tools and accounting software.

SlimWare tries to be careful not to interfere with important system software such as antivirus programs, and has safeguards to prevent such software being uninstalled, Cope said. For example, users are presented with a list of the programs that are going to be uninstalled and can remove programs from the list before they are deleted.

SlimWare also gathers information about potential bloatware from computer repair shops and volunteers that examine new PC models, Cope said.

Many utilities exist already that clean out unwanted programs, but few use an online feedback program like Slimware's to rate programs.

About 2,000 users have been contributing feedback so far, Cope said. In the future the company plans to extend the cloud-sourcing capability to its SlimCleaner software, which deletes junk files. User feedback will help identify new locations where programs such as browsers store temporary files, which can then be safely deleted. The capability will also be added to an upcoming version of its driver assessment and install software.

The SlimComputer utility is available for free download on the company's website.

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