Dell has announced a significant reduction in unwanted preinstalled software on PCs sold in the US. The move is a response to overwhelming customer feedback via Dell's IdeaStorm website .

Dell's US customers can now configure new PCs with a reduced level of preinstalled software when ordering online.

A new 'No Extra Software' option deletes certain productivity applications, ISP software and photo and music programs. The reduced software option is available on Dimension and XPS desktops as well as Inspiron portable systems.

However, several applications will remain mandatory. Trial versions of anti-virus software, Acrobat Reader and Google Tools will continue to be installed on all Dell client systems running Microsoft Windows operating systems.

In recent years, the quantity of preinstalled software on new PCs has been gradually rising. As well as providing useful functionality such as additional security, such software can consume idle system resources and reduce performance.

Bloatware

For PC makers, however, this so-called "bloatware" can be an important form of extra revenue. As well as enabling premium services to be offered directly to consumers, direct payments to PC manufacturers in return for the installation of software are often made.

Dell claims its decision to continue installing anti-virus software on all its machines reflects customer expectations for new PCs to be fully protected from first boot.

That's a dubious argument given that firewall protection is enabled by default in both Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista.

Tellingly, however, Dell did not provide any justification for the survival of Google Tools under the new anti-bloatware regime. Last year, Google reportedly agreed to pay $1 billion to install its Google Tools suite on 100 million Dell PCs.

Nevertheless, Dell says even these remaining applications are easily uninstalled courtesy of the latest version its Software Uninstallation Utility.

Dell has yet to officially confirm when the 'No Extra Software' will be offered to UK or European customers.

Jeremy Laird