Brand-new laptop! What should I remove/install?
September 23, 2011 6:46 AM   Subscribe

I have a brand-new Dell laptop. What's the best way to remove all the bloatware? What things should I install? (Please no Linux, this is a Windows 7 machine and I need it to stay that way.)

I have disks for MS Office 2007 and 2010, Adobe CS2, and ArcGIS 9*.

*will probably upgrade to ArcGIS 10 in the next 6 months
posted by desjardins to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
You should download a Windows 7 ISO, and re-install Windows 7 from scratch using the OEM key you were given with your laptop/software.
posted by Jairus at 6:54 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

In the past, I've used tools like the PC Decrapifier to clean off pre-installed garbage. You can also probably just uninstall things by hand via the system tools.

What to install is an awfully broad question for Ask Metafilter. I only have one suggestion: Google Chrome.
posted by Nelson at 7:03 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a freeware program called PC Decrapifier that will help take care of the bloatware. I've used it on two new computers now with no ill effects.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 AM on September 23, 2011

If you DO have the option of a clean install, that is your best option. If you don't want to, or can't reinstall Windows cleanly, you can try these options.

Run Windows Update repeatedly until you are fully up to date.

Go to Control Panel > Uninstall Programs, and begin uninstalling the various software you don't want to use.

I'd especially suggest uninstalling any anti-virus or security software that is installed on a trila basis.

You are much better off using Microsoft Security Essentials, it's free, well rated, and works well with the auto-update process.

Once you've uninstalled anything you don't like, download CCleaner. Install this and run it to clean your registry and purge all the deleted files from your computer. It's free, works well, and is a tool you can continue to use as you add and delete programs in the future. This is important because in the uninstall process, poorly written uninstallers can leave bad settings in the registry, like file extension associations to programs that have been removed.

Wait until you have 'cleaned' your computer before installing any of the packaged software you have ready to go.

Don't be surprised if you find more bloatware over time. Just Uninstall things as you find them and use CCleaner to ensure that any leftovers are gone too.

Good luck & congrats on the new laptop!
posted by Argyle at 7:07 AM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: Chrome is a given :)

Is there a legal way to download an ISO of Win 7? Given that I have the product key?
posted by desjardins at 7:07 AM on September 23, 2011

If you install a fresh copy of Windows as Jairus suggests, you may find your laptop needs extra drivers for screen or network card, without which you may be screwed. So if you do that (and it's definitely the cleanest way to go) then make sure to have another working computer around on which you can download the drivers.
posted by anadem at 7:11 AM on September 23, 2011

Re: what new stuff to install, check out Ninite. It will allow you to quickly install a ton of useful stuff (you get to pick from a list what you do or do not want) and is smart enough to check first to see if something is already there before it tries to install it. Really useful for things like .net, flash, shockwave, etc etc. Also has a good selection of useful free open-source stuff. Should save you at least an hour or two.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:17 AM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have used this link for direct downloads; I believe these to be the same links you would get from a retail digital download and have had good luck, but standard disclaimers apply. I installed from an 8gb USB thumbdrive and it was a painless ~20 minute process.

On some laptops, all the drivers you need for video card, sound, etc., are in a single folder on the C: drive - on my HP it was "c:\swsetup" so I simply backed this up and ran all the setup.exe's in the subfolders after the reinstall. I'm not sure if your Dell has something like this.
posted by ftm at 7:18 AM on September 23, 2011

I didn't mention what to install.

For browsing, I like Rockmelt which is basically Chrome with lots of good stuff on top.

Load and fully update Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Silverlight, and Apple Quicktime. That will enable much of the 'rich' internet and keeping them fully updated is important for security.

You might consider Microsoft Live Essentials, especially Windows Live Photo Gallery, which is very good.

I use Miranda for instant messaging, it's very minimalistic.

You might also consider VLC, which is an alternative media player. Not as easy to use as Windows Media Player, but handles pretty much any video or audio you might come across.

Lastly, put some thought into your backup strategy and get that going now. I use Windows Home Server, it's FANTASTIC, but does requires another dedicated computer. Choose something and set it up before you go to far. It's easy to let back drop to the bottom of the to-do stack once you start working.
posted by Argyle at 7:26 AM on September 23, 2011

Rockmelt is intimately tied to your Facebook account, which is fine if you like that sort of thing but useless if you don't.

If you have Norton preinstalled you have to download a special Norton removal tool to get rid of it, otherwise it's impossible to shift.
posted by joannemullen at 7:42 AM on September 23, 2011

Lose Java.

The last dozen or so fake-virus-alert malware disasters I've had to remove for people got in through Java vulns and almost no Windows user actually *needs* Java for anything.
posted by genghis at 7:44 AM on September 23, 2011

almost no Windows user actually *needs* Java for anything

Except Minecraft.
posted by Aquaman at 7:47 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you just purchased a new Dell, you should be able to build a Windows 7 install disc from the Dell Backup and Recovery manager - it's going to have hard drive controller drivers slipstreamed into it - just trying to install off a random ISO is probably going to go badly. Honestly, while it seems like there's a 'ton' of stuff on theree, if you hit the control panel and uninstall what you don't want it should do it.
posted by pupdog at 7:48 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just reinstall windows 7. You should have a windows 7 reinstall disc. If not you can just take a retail windows 7 disc and use your oem key (this is works as of windows 7).
posted by majortom1981 at 7:53 AM on September 23, 2011

Repeating - for most Dell systems, the retail Win 7 will not install straight and clean - you'll probably have to adjust bios settings for the drive controller to get a retail copy to work. as far as 'having; a reinstall disc, Microsoft doesn't supply those anymore, and most manufacturers have stopped sending media unless it's requested - Windows 7 has an option built into it to allow one copy of reinstall media to be created when the system is first set up, most of the manufacturers have integrated this into their own programs.

If you do want to do a clean install, you're going to need to install drivers afterwards, and in a particualr order to make sure everything is set up correctly. Windows 7 has some fairly generic drivers built in that will let you hear sound, etc but will probably not give the full functionality of all your system devices.

After that, let Windows Update do its thing. Forever. Several times. And then start with your own software
posted by pupdog at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2011

Also, using the Dell media will keep you from having to enter a Product Activation Code and activate Windows and all - there's a bios flag that the OS is set to see and bypasses that process.
posted by pupdog at 8:06 AM on September 23, 2011

At work I have installed a ton of windows 7 copies from a retail dvd with the oem key to dell and hp machines. The only thing I needed was the drivers on a USB key to detect the hdd.

At home i installed windows 7 this way also on my xps 8300 that I bought in january. Also only needing the chipset drivers to allow windows 7 to detect the hdd.

No bios changes needed at all.

Also the dell backup and recovery media will still have all the garbage that he doesnt want. some of dells nastier stuff would still leave some stuff hidden away if you just uninstall it.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:20 AM on September 23, 2011

If you build the system restore it will, but there's an option for just a Win 7 restore disc. If you've had that great of luck, cool. Just wanted to be aware that a lot of systems using AHCI don't always come up right off without that being reset.
posted by pupdog at 8:25 AM on September 23, 2011

Rockmelt link -- it looks like a "social" browser, as mentioned by joannemullen.

I personally like Infranview for image browsing and whatnot. It supports a LOT more file formats and advanced settings than the basic MS viewer. It can also read PDF files, but that requires Ghostscript to interpret PDF. Or you can go with a dedicated Acrobat reader, like Foxit. There's also PDF printing, with CutePDF or other similar freeware.

Seconding VLC for other media playing, it supports many formats, again beyond what the basic MS player supports.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:03 AM on September 23, 2011

My standard routine is:

1) Do the system updates and driver updates.
2) PCDecrapifier, as described above.
2a) Remove the anti-virus trialware (eg Norton)
3) Use Ninite to install:

Microsoft Security Essentials
Firefox/Chrome (as preferred)

Then optional stuff:
A notepad replacement (Notepad++)
A PDF reader (Adobe, Foxit or PDF-Xchange)
A media player (VLC) + codec pack (K-Lite usually)
An audio player...

4) Install Office etc from disc.

5) Update Office etc over the net

6) Make a system backup. This is your restore image if something goes drastically wrong. I use Acronis True Image for this, but there are many other solutions out there.
posted by bonehead at 9:03 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I recommend against a codec pack if you install VLC. Installing VLC, by itself, solved 99.9% of my media-viewing issues, and required nothing extra. Codec packs are known for fuxoring stuff in weird ways.

My install list, which is a little technical, is:

Bulk Rename Utility (renames EVERYTHING FOREVER).
Crimson Editor (awesome text editor with all-powerful "column mode").
Filezilla FTP Client (ftp, for free, great).
Irfanview (views any image).
Chrome+Adblock Plus (yup).
PDFCreator (free PDF printer).
CDBurnerXP Pro (free CD burning).
posted by fake at 3:36 PM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: For future searchers - Adobe CS2 and ArcGIS 9.1 work fine on Windows 7 (so far).

Thanks all. McAfee was the first thing I uninstalled, and Chrome was the first thing I downloaded. All is right with the world.
posted by desjardins at 3:55 PM on September 23, 2011

Adding another anecdata: bought an Inspiron a few months ago, without Windows of any kind of it, and installed Win 7 from a standard DVD (employer provided, Microsoft Campus licenses). The install only had trouble recognizing the LAN card and the Bluetooth option for some reason, easily solved by downloading the installers for both drivers from Dell's site with the exact model number in hand (alternatively, install from Dell's site their "Dell Support Center" and it should link you back via browser to any applicable downloads for your model). Of the actual Dell extras, QuickSet seems the only one hard to ignore, as it shows up caps lock notifications and such (no little light indicating if it's active or not in my model, see). There's also some system patch that gives you extra power management options, might want to install that one too if you're picky about battery use.
posted by Iosephus at 4:36 PM on September 23, 2011

If you decide to uninstall stuff rather than do a clean install of the whole OS, you might want to try Revo Uninstaller - the free one. Really good for at cleaning out the stuff that gets left behind and junks up your registry.
posted by shinyblackdog at 11:59 PM on September 23, 2011

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