From the perspective of someone who’s bought, sold, used, and repaired numerous Windows-based PCs and laptops, the fact that Lenovo pre-loaded adware onto their PCs for years doesn’t surprise me. Every OEM does it. HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, everyone. Lenovo’s example is the most public and potentially egregious example I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t dozens of examples of malicious adware already installed on your future PC.
Now this is where your average tech blogger would suggest that you do something positively face-cringing like tell you to buy an Apple computer. People, stop. While that’s an answer for some, the fact is that you’ll be dealing with a learning curve, you’ll have to buy and get used to completely new software, you’ll be spending egregious amounts of money on something because of fear, and if you use any piece of Microsoft software, you’ll be dealing with a compromised experience. Plus, there’s no guarantee that Apple computers are secure. The more popular they get, the more they will get targeted by adware. And because Apple hasn’t ever had to deal with that issue, PCs are actually more secure than Macs, funny enough. Many will use this as a reason to toss their Lenovo out the window and buy a Mac. If you want to do that, fine. I can guarantee you that an Apple computer won’t have bloatware on it from the start. But you don’t have to do that.
This debacle underlines of the biggest problems that Microsoft has with PC OEMs. There is nothing wrong with Windows on its own, but when people have bad experiences with PCs, its generally because these OEMs have loaded tons of bloatware on the computer that slow it down, download new things, or deliver pop-up ads. Why? Because they make money off software contracts with these shady software vendors. Many OEMs try to only get contracts with “legit” vendors that aren’t actually putting adware on computers, but it doesn’t mean that the software they install is not going to cause you issues.
Many tech experts have always suggested “blowing away” the OS on a new PC and installing a fresh copy of Windows. But unless you’re pretty tech savvy, you’re not going to know how the heck to do that. Even if you create or are provided Recovery CDs from the manufacturer, they typically still include all the bloatware. Sometimes the OEM will include an option on their website to ship a “bloatware free” install of Windows for an extra $20 – 30. While that’s certainly a way to do it, I find it dumb to pay extra to have less stuff. You can also use a program like “The PC-Decrapifier” along with tools like CCleaner to freshen up a new computer, but the average user won’t want to do that and won’t have time to learn how to use these tools.
But there’s an easy solution. I feel like this is common knowledge, but I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know what the Microsoft Signature PC program is. So here’s my advice: Buy a Signature Edition computer directly from Microsoft’s Windows Store.
While Microsoft doesn’t have every computer available on their site, they do offer a pretty good selection, and it’s not just Surface devices either. They’ve got ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and even less well-known companies like MSI, Razer, and Maingear. They’ve got gaming laptops, hybrid computers like the Yoga, and All-in-One desktop replacements. And not just the expensive stuff either. I’m even seeing laptops as cheap as $200 on their website, typically including free Office software.
And the best part about these “signature edition” devices is that they are preinstalled with a clean version of Windows without any bloatware, adware, or anything. They might come with MS Office pre-installed if it comes with it for free, and Windows Defender pre-enabled, but those are both good things.
And it’s not exactly like they’re expensive. There’s a closely guarded secret I’ve learned while working in the retail computer sales business. Windows PCs are sold with very little margin. That means that if you see the same laptop at one place versus another, they’ll often be sold at the same price, unless the OEM is paying for a sale, at which case it will be on sale everywhere.
If you’re worried about bloatware with your new PC, avoid it completely by buying a Signature PC.