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10 sneaky ways crapware gets onto your PC

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Crapware. Those pieces of bloatware, spyware and other useless apps that clog up our hard drives and sell our search histories to third parties.

It's either sitting there as soon as you switch on a brand new PC or, if you've been lucky enough to get a computer that's free of it, it soon starts to make its way onto your hard drive via the net.

So how does this junk end up on our computers? Here's how...

1. Upselling
To some firms, "I want to update my video software" means "change my browser and my MP3 software, too." We're looking at you, Apple. And we're making a stern face.

2. Toolbars
Search engines pay cash for referrals, which is why their toolbars come bundled with completely unrelated applications.

3. Virus warnings
Depressing fact: pop-up ads that look like real anti-virus warnings wouldn't exist if they didn't work.

4. Cheapo PC firms
One dollar to put an icon on the desktop isn't much, but when you're selling ultra-cheap PCs a few such icons can keep you in business.

5. Very small print
Yes, the End User Licence Agreement does mention that you'll fill my PC with crap! On page four hundred and thirty two, section 339.1, subsection three, clause 3(b)!

6. Restore discs
To you or me, system restore means Windows. To some hardware firms, it means Windows plus all the crapware you've spent weeks getting rid of.

7. Ancient ISPs
Nobody uses dial-up Internet access any more, so ageing ISPs are getting desperate. That's why their icons appear on machines with internal Wi-Fi and 3G.

8. Duelling banjos
Some manufacturers seem to think that if they're going to annoy us, they might as well really annoy us. Why else would they install 32 different security suites and 400 CD burners on a single PC?

9. Printers
Beware the Easy Install, because it won't just install the driver. It'll also give you text recognition, a proprietary photo printing service and an app that puts bubbles, balloons and baboons in your family snaps.

10. Fake codecs
"To view Midgets In Lingerie you need the megaviddycodec. Click here!" Click! Argh!

To clean junk off new PCs TechRadar recommends The PC Decrapifier


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Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Carrie Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," she says. "And there's a lot of crap."