Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Out Of Box Experience


This month I have bought two new PCs.  Not for me, but for a neighbor family.  They each came to me one after another and asked if I'd get them a machine for the other.  Mother and Son.  They thought I'd be able to figure it out without all the salesmanship crap that comes along with the Brick and Mortar experience.

The whole process of buying anything big and technical whether it is a computer, TV set, or even a car can be a total nightmare.   Luckily if you play it smart and do your research a lot of that nonsense can be skipped. 

I'm not a salesman, I have done professional procurement for a technical organization more than once.  That's all a fancy way of saying I got nothing but entertainment and I'm not a salesman.

It was heartwarming to watch mother give son the Laptop that I had bought for them with their credit cards.  It arrived yesterday afternoon while the son was out at work.  Mom asked if I shouldn't inspect it and since the box was almost pristine I told her no I think we can hold off.  So last night the son came over and fixed the drippy sink and while he was at that, mom came by to eventually give him the gift.

He needed the machine because he broke the old one.  Rather spectacularly.   He was on the bed surfing and called the dog up onto it.  40 pound pudgy pit bull love sponge waddled over and jumped onto the bed sending the old laptop flying.  Ok, maybe 50 pounds.  I haven't seen the old machine but I suspect I'll end up with it since I can get some parts out of that one to match my old laptop.

He was so embarrassed about having broken two machines that he didn't want to ask me to find him a new one.  The prior desktop machine broke in almost the same fashion when he turned to talk to the dog and he knocked the tower off the desk and onto the floor. 

They don't like that.

The only thing I didn't like out of the whole experience is that when you buy a computer these days complete, you are loaded up with a lot of trial and "complementary" software.  I ended up doing exactly what I do with all new machines - let the new owner get it started and enter in their info, then show them why I'm removing software and replacing things.  Of course you may find some use for some of the software, but in my opinion these things had to be removed.

Off the top of my head, I removed a "Dell Toolbar" that was useless, a cloud based calendar, and McAfee virus scan.  Why a "home user" who does not work in management needs a cloud based calendar I will never know!

McAfee virus scan has porked up into a pudgy ball of crapware that must die.  It used to be free way back in the dusty old DOS days, long before the internet was a gleam in Al Gore's eye.  Then it went subscription based.  Everyone requires a Virus Scanner.  Mac OS users included.   McAfee is a poor choice as well as AVG.  They get in the way of you trying to use your machine, they slow it down being resource hogs, and generally cost money.  

While I was removing McAfee, I immediately went to Microsoft's site and installed the free Microsoft Systems Essentials.   It's fairly minimalistic and I run it on all my machines both virtual and physical, laptop and desktop.  I'm very happy with it and I tend to look at Microsoft second, not first for "new and cutting edge" software.   Just make sure you have a legal copy of Windows XP or newer and it will work quietly in the background helping you hide from viruses.

Removing AVG from an old machine got a noticeable performance boost for that machine, I noticed that by the time McAfee was banished and the Reboot happened, the computer was performing like it was a new machine.  Funny thing, it actually was a new machine!

There are other things that I removed last night such as "Wild Tangent".  This is a group of games that are free.  Everyone plays games on their machine and if they're telling you that they don't, then I'd question their trustworthiness.  It's all in how you define "game" anyway.  One person's needed tool can be just a copy of XP that is running in a window that they're learning how to configure.  Skip over to Windows 7 since the world is.

Wild Tangent is another one of those "must die" applications in my opinion.  The reason is that they are reputed to be nothing more than "ad ware" that watches what you do and reports back home.  They haven't come clean with what they're doing with your information that I have heard and I don't like to be watched for any purpose let alone advertising.

To get rid of these applications, go into your control panel.  In Windows 7 once you have the control panel running, look for "Programs and Features".  It will bring up a list of everything that Windows knows is installed, officially.  It won't show you any viruses.  Locate the things that you know need to go away like any toolbars for Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask or any of the other websites.  Find Wild Tangent, any other thing that you know you don't need like trial programs.   If you doubleclick on the name you will get the option to delete the program. 

Remember all of those programs will slow you down.  It may buy you another year of use out of that computer that you already paid for.  It is your computer, and you have control over it.  Most people who have a computer coming this holiday season will have a new machine that is wildly overpowered for normal every day use.  In fact that machine from last year is probably still overpowered for daily use. As long as it is a full Core 2 Duo processor there's probably no reason to replace it.  The new i3, i5, and i7 machines are great, and you should be able to get 3 to 5 years use out of any of them.  Atom based machines are going to be slow no matter what you do with them so be aware of that.  Anything "netbook" is something you will probably be frustrated with unless you are using it to take notes on a train or in class or perhaps use for light surfing - one thing at a time.

If all of this has you curious and want to try speeding your machine up please be hesitant and prove it for yourself.  Pick a name out of that list, then go over to your favorite browser, do a search on what it is and learn what that program does.   If you don't think you need that particular game or toolbar, you are probably right.

Just be careful because this is where you could delete something that you really do need.  Your mileage may vary and of course, this is at your own risk.  This is how I personally do it and now the neighbor has a shiny new PC that runs even faster.

After all with any opinion or blog posting you get what you pay for and you're reading this post for free.


  1. Should of got Lenovo's Bill. After start up, there a no more than 3 icons on the Desktop. NO crapware at all. Also, AVG, when properly configured, uses very little resources, and has proven itself worldwide to be the best. Just sayin'...

  2. Eric,

    For the price point that we were working with, the only new Lenovo that was out there was an AMD chip machine. I don't have a problem with AMD on the desktop, but not in a laptop. They had a very tight budget and didn't want to go to the next higher Lenovo with the Intel chip.

    I will say you're right about the OOBE on Thinkpads. I have had to reinstall two within the last month and there was very little crapware on the machines. Dell is a bit more heavy handed that way.

    I just don't care for AVG. I had it on a machine of mine and took it off when Microsoft Security Essentials came along... and got a performance boost.

    As always, your mileage may vary!