Affinity Consulting Blog

Microsoft's hardware partners have not done Windows any favors over the years by routinely sellng PC's at retail burdened with crapware, trialware, or worse. Last week we learned that the world's largest PC maker, Lenovo, upped the ante by bundling adware (Superfish) that carried with it a serious security risk. The fact that no one got hacked as a result of Lenovo's stupid mistake is only a minor mitigating factor. This is less of a problem with custom-configure PC's ordered directly from the manufacturer though a trusted re-seller. Even then, you may have some pesky trialware to uninstall.

If you buy at retail instead of ordering a custom configured PC, one way to eliminate the risk and annoyance associated with bundled crapware is to buy a "Signature Edition" PC directly from the Microsoft Store. As described by Microsoft, "Some new PCs come pre-installed with programs, toolbars, utilities and screensavers that you might not want and may never use. This can slow down your computer and junk up your Start screen or desktop. When you buy a new PC at Microsoft Store, we ensure there's no third-party junkware or trialware installed." In other words, just like what Apple offers when they sell you a Mac. If only all of Microsoft's hardware partners took this approach.

The reason they don't is money. There is almost no profit margin on Windows PC's. In order to help the bottom line, Lenovo, HP, Dell, and others accept money from the purveyors of crapware to include their trialware/adware on the new PC you buy. At the risk of being overly colorful, they are the pimp and you are the...well use your imagination. This approach has seriously hurt Microsoft and the Windows brand over the years. It is one reason those who are disgusted by this "arrangement" often gravitate toward Apple.

If you like to "kick the tires" before buying a Signature Edition PC, good luck. Microsoft has relatively few (compared with Apple) actual retail stores. You could try going to your nearest Best Buy, Staples, or OfficeDepot to check out the computer (almost certainly loaded with crapware) in person. But don't buy it there. Most of us, particularly in the middle of the country or outside of large metropolitan areas where Microsoft's retail stores are concentrated, will need to order from Microsoft's online store. Not surprisingly, given the Superfish scare, when I try to access the Signature Edition page on the Microsoft Store site, it was slow and flashed a message that web traffic on the site was very heavy. For Microsoft and the Windows brand, that is a good thing.

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