Dell Responds to the Crapware Column

Opinion: There really are a lot of configuration options when you set up a Dell system, yet there are things you can't configure.

Its no surprise that people at Dell were bothered by my column two weeks ago about "crapware" on their systems. They responded in e-mail. What the hey, Ill include their entire e-mail from Anne Camden of Dells Corporate Communications:
"I guess you havent been to in a while to see how customers now have a huge amount of control on the amount of third-party software that comes with the system.We have been working diligently to improve the OOBE [out of box experience] for customers. I would challenge you to find another PC manufacturer that matches, or even offers customers the amount of latitude Dell does in software choice at time of purchase.For our XPS systems, most SW options, e.g. security, productivity, games and entertainment, and ISPs, are set by default to "No software installation." These come pretty close to being the "naked Windows PCs" you ask for in your article.For our Inspiron and Dimension systems, customers can opt out of third party SW at time of purchase for any or all of these as well.Beyond that, we also now include a Dell Uninstaller Utility on all shipping systems, that makes it easy and efficient to uninstall third party programs in one easy step, vs. having to go into Add/Remove programs and uninstall each program individually.If youd like to discuss this more in depth, wed be happy to set up a briefing with a member of our software marketing team. Ultimately weve taken these steps because as you noted our customers have asked for them, and we are committed to deliver a great customer experience.Also, feel free to take a quick tour configuring a couple of systems on and let us know if you have any questions."

It had been about three months since I had configured a system at Dell so I took her up on it, configuring a computer I really am thinking of buying for my daughter.

Its true that I had a lot of choices about what to put on the system, but they werent so flexible about antivirus. There is a variety of Symantec and McAfee software options, but the only $0 option is "No Security Subscription (Norton 30-day) [Included in Price]." So, for example, if I want to run Kaspersky, I have to first uninstall the Norton 30-day trial. (I wonder if the Dell Uninstaller Utility will do this for me...)

Dells response on this point is that its a good thing that they force their users to buy security software, even just a trial version, and that their support calls have gone down a lot since they started this. Perhaps, but beside the point.

Theres also no mention of the Google software, the "Browser Address Error Redirector," mentioned in the article. Is it in the system? Are there any other programs not mentioned at system configuration time? Does the Dell Uninstaller Utility handle them?

Dell says, "Since all systems come with a browser, we include the Google tools (desktop, toolbar and URL redirector). Feedback so far has indicated that most mainstream users find these tools useful. More sophisticated users find them easy to modify, or even remove. This, I believe is the only other SW component included on the systems that we dont support with a no install selection." I guess the picture is complicated. Ms. Camden also says that users cant opt out of ISP software on Inspiron systems, although they can on the XPS. Shes confirming these points.


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In the end, I dont think Ill buy the computer now because its more money than I want to spend at the moment, although the cost is my fault and Microsofts, not Dells. The big problem is that I have a domain here, so I cant use any of the Vista Home SKUs so I end up with Ultimate. Therefore, I end up upgrading the hardware to have a good Ultimate experience, and in the end its about $775 for the system (without a monitor, which she already has). Maybe later, Id be happy to buy the computer from Dell; I own several Dells and Ive never had a real problem with any of the desktops (now my Dell server, thats had lots of problems; good thing I bought a long service contract).

Ill confess ignorance for the most part about other vendors, at least for the last couple of years. In that time Ive only bought Dells, Thinkpads and kit systems Ive built myself. The kits are a pleasure to work with once theyre set up, which obviously takes a lot more time than with a pre-packaged system like a Dell. I love Thinkpads, but they are definitely full of annoying utilities; many are necessary, some are redundant with Windows utilities. I think they do a terrible job of explaining what they are.

Incidentally, searches for "Dell Uninstaller Utility" on the Dell site yield no hits. I found no hits on Google either. Dell says that the utility just began shipping in May. I really do think that Dell is moving in the right direction, but its a shame that revenue pressures prevent them from offering simple, easy options like "naked Windows."

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.


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