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Microsoft to Charge Users For CRAPWARE Free PCs



I’m going to go a bit into rant mode here, so be warned. Yesterday, Walt Mossberg highlighted an initiative by Microsoft. The gist of this initiative is simple. If you buy a new Windows PC and want all of the CRAPWARE that might be included on it removed, Microsoft will do that for you for a $99 fee. The $99 fee turns your CRAPWARE infested PC into what Microsoft is now calling a Signature PC. Or, you can just order a Signature PC and pay extra for a computer that works the way it was designed to work out of the box.

Where to start. First, this Signature PC initiative shows Microsoft acknowledging something that anyone running a Windows PC knows. The CRAPWARE that comes installed on PCs can bog down a system. Microsoft itself knows this is the case and has been selling CRAPWARE free PCs for some time now. I’m sure there are some users who don’t mind this, but I can’t think of another industry that delivers products that are intentionally crippled by installing what are essentially ads on a system. I find it condescending and beyond ludicrous that you have to pay a fee to essentially get the product to work the way it was designed to work. Yeah, I’m crazy right.

And there’s the second point. The OEMs that cripple machines with CRAPWARE know exactly what they are doing. Throwing all of these icons on a desktop makes a new machine on first boot look like the lawns in front of polling places at local precincts, scattered with signs.  In the best case they just clutter up the desktop, making the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) akin to sitting through advertisements for TV shows at as movie theatre before the trailers. In the worse cases, some of these CRAPWARE applets pop up on every boot until the user disables them. That process is often more tedious than it needs to be. Quite honestly, I find the entire scenario to be one that completely and cynically devalues the user and the product. I’m sure somewhere along the line someone thought this was a value add for the customer. But we’ve long since passed that point.

Here’s why I think you’re a sucker (in the P.T. Barnum way of thinking) if you fall for this. By charging to remove CRAPWARE that Microsoft allows to be installed on the machine in the first place, Microsoft is sending a signal that this is the smart way to make sure you have a nice clean PC. It’s a subtle form of up selling. Nothing wrong with an up sell. But when the up sell essentially says that this PC you want is crippled and a piece of mammal dung, well, gee, that’s an attractive way to build customer satisfaction. Sadly, if this turns into enough of a profit center I also fear it will just lead to more CRAPWARE and not less. (It makes me wonder how this will pay out with the UI changes for Windows 8). The fact that a customer has to pay extra to have a PC that works out of the box the way it was designed to work is nothing short of a cynical, blighted mentality, that proves, at least to me, that the folks making these devices don’t care about users, instead focusing only on units sold.

If you want to take advantage of this program there are two ways to feed your $99 to Microsoft. If you live by one of the new Microsoft stores you can come in, pay the CRAPWARE tax, and they will clean things up for you. If you don’t live close to a store, (there are only 16 currently) you can shop for this service and Signature PCs online at Microsoft.

And this brings up the last point of my rant. Go take a look at that Signature PC page. Great promises of faster and better performance. By offering this Signature PC approach, Microsoft is saying that every non-Signature PC that is sold with Windows is the equivalent of buying a discounted piece of crap. I’m not trying to offend anyone here by saying this, but the distinction to me means that Microsoft is essentially saying why not buy your PC at your local CVS or Walgreens. “Industry Experts” who say this is a good idea are essentially supporting both Microsoft’s continued decline, as well as a practice that should be condemned.



  1. Jeff Smith

    05/16/2012 at 9:00 am

    This article is a rambling incoherent mess. What exactly is your point here? Are you saying that Microsoft should not allow companies that sell Windows PC to include extra software on those machines? It’s THEIR fault that companies like HP, Dell, and others preinstall software on the machines? Maybe you should be blaming the companies that install the software, not the fact that Windows is open enough to allow them to do so. You are basically saying it’s the hammers fault that you keep hitting yourself on the thumb — the hammer allows you to do this, but you are the one actually doing it, so blame yourself and don’t go ranting about how the hammer allows for this.

    • Warner Crocker

      05/16/2012 at 10:12 am

      I’m not sure I follow the hammer analogy. Inanimate objects can’t allow or not allow you to do anything. I think the point is pretty clear. Microsoft shouldn’t charge users money to remove CRAPWARE that it does indeed allow to be installed by OEMs. Microsoft could put a stop to that practice (loading CRAPWARE) if it wanted to. So, yes, they are indeed to blame. And we wonder why folks flock to simpler experiences like the iPad.

      • rookwood

        05/16/2012 at 3:08 pm

        Crocker, there is sooooo much wrong with your reasoning. If MS decides to charge for not installing “crapware”, to make up for the lost revenue from the “crap” people, they will still be well below the price point of Apple, who does not install “crapware”. At least MS offers the option. AND, they are saving us the time and frustration of wiping the hard drive clean and starting fresh.

        This is part of what Lenovo did last year when they worked with MS to enhance the bootup time. And yes, they do charge extra for this… which we will gladly pay… and still be under the cost of the underperforming Apple products.

        You guys are like the commerical where the guy is sitting on his couch thanking the robbers for stealing his property!

        • Warner Crocker

          05/16/2012 at 8:27 pm

          So, tell me. If you bought a car, and in order to go over 55 mph you had to pay extra to have a “governor” removed, would you find that acceptable? If you bought a microwave and had to pay extra to use the highest setting, would you find that acceptable? If you bought a TV but had to pay extra to use an HDMI port would you find that acceptable? Same thing in my “reasoning.”


  2. Lori

    05/16/2012 at 9:13 am

    Good article

  3. BillyWonder

    05/16/2012 at 12:49 pm

    Nothing stop’s you from ordering a blank computer with the O.E.M install CD for windows you have always had this option and yes the O.E.M install CD does NOT include the CRAPWARE As a matter of fact by ordering the computer blank you essentially save money. the O.E.M install CD is NOT the same thing as a recovery CD.

  4. Tabletwriter

    05/16/2012 at 11:50 pm

    First, I purchased a Samsung tablet from the Microsoft store, sans crapware, for less than any other retailer was selling the same machine. Plus, Microsoft included a 2 year warrnanty, a copy of Office Home and Student, and an arc touch mouse. They were having a sale, but even if it hadn’t been on sale, the price would have been pretty comparable to what Amazon, for instance, was charging. I fully expect Microsoft to price their PCs near or at suggested retail, so as not to be a direct competitor with the Best Buys of the world.

    Second, don’t forget that crapware subsidizes the price of a system. No crapware = higher prices. In this price-sensitive economy, forcing manufacturers (if that’s even legal, which I doubt) to remove the crapware would result in higher prices for customers. Crapware helps manufacturers meet specific price points.

    Finally, it’s obvious that Microsoft has and is still trying to coerce OEMs to stop loading so much crapware on their systems. This isn’t the first time Microsoft has done something like this. Best Buy used to sell a couple OEM machines that were “Microsoft Certified”, or something like that. These were basically crapware free/optimized systems that Microsoft had tested and stamped with their approval. This was a program designed so OEMs could send their optimized, crapware free machines to Microsoft to certify. Very similar to the Signature program, but different in implementation. This obviously didn’t work out. Most likely, the OEMs who tried it probably found that most consumers opted for the crapware-laden machines because they were seen as providing more bang for the buck. I have no idea how much OEMs get for each crapware-laden pc, but let’s say they get $50. So when the consumer walks into a store and see’s a crapware-free Dell for $649 and a similarly specced crapware-laden HP for $699, well, I have a feeling they’ll go for the crapware-laden machine.

    In the end, Microsoft obviously doesn’t approve, but since they don’t make the OS, the hardware, and sell it to themselves before they sell it to the consumer, they don’t have the same control over this as Apple.

    Paying more for a machine without advertisments is akin to paying for premium cable channels. People pay realizing that they are paying the bulk of the cost for the product, not the advertisers. I’m sure Microsoft did a number of surveys to find out if customers would be willing to pay more for a machine that was devoid of crapware. My guess is they got a resounding ‘yes’, but when the rubber hits the road, most of those people will likely end up opting for the crapware laden machine if they can save a few bucks.

    Really, this is a simple economic issue. If HP decided to drop crapware from their machines tomorrow, and their competitors didn’t, their sales would like take a nosedive as people opt for cheaper, crapware-laden alternatives.

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