Take Out the (Windows) Trash

If you’re a Windows PC user, you know the term “bloatware”, or maybe “crapware”. Every consumer PC comes chock full of it. Free trials of games, cloud storage services and antivirus software. Half a dozen “helper” apps from the PC manufacturer. Pre-installed calling, chat, and shopping services. It’s a mess.

But these unwanted apps aren’t merely annoying. They can seriously slow down your computer’s startup and shutdown times, and they can waste precious battery life on laptops. So let me give you two options for taking out this trash.

windows trash

Option 1: Remove Bloatware from New PCs

If you just bought your PC, you have a prime opportunity to get rid of all the pre-installed bloatware by doing a clean install of Windows 10. In the past, if you wanted to do this, you’d have to find and download a Windows disk image, put this on a bootable drive, and then somehow transfer your Windows license.

But Windows 10 now makes this much simpler using a built-in tool called Fresh Start. This cool utility will download a fresh copy of Windows 10 and reinstall it – and crucially, will give you the option not to reinstall all the apps that came with the PC. All that bloatware will be gone!

But so will every other app that was installed – possibly including custom drivers, manufacturer helper apps (that may actually be helpful), and maybe even some software you want to keep. Be sure to take inventory of all the apps that were installed in case you want to re-download some of them later. If any of these apps have special license keys, make sure you have those copied down somewhere, as well. This article will tell you how to use Fresh Start.

Option 2: Remove Bloatware from Existing PCs

If you’ve already customized your PC by installing several applications and/or tweaking a bunch of Windows settings, starting over again may not be the way to go. While Fresh Start gives you the option to save user data, you’ll still need to reinstall the apps that go with that data. So instead, you’re going to want to just go through the crapware apps and uninstall them all. While you can do this one at a time, there are third party tools that can help you do them in bulk.

There are several of these tools out there – because PC manufacturers make it necessary to have them. One of the ones that looks promising is O&O Software’s AppBuster. It’s a free utility (they make their money on many other products) and it can delete any number of apps in one go. It will also helpfully sort your apps into a handful of key categories, to make it easier to see which apps you might want to keep. Like Fresh Start, be sure you make a list of all your installed apps and note any license keys you would need if you decide to later re-install any of the apps you’re deleting.

One Person’s Trash…

Both of these solutions assume you can easily tell what the trash apps are. Many of them have helpful-sounding names. Others come from Microsoft and your PC’s maker (Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, ASUS, Acer, etc). How do you know which apps you can safely delete? How do you separate the bloatware from important apps you need?

Once again, the internet comes to the rescue. There’s a very helpful website appropriately named Should I Remove It? Use the search bar at the upper right of the site to look up each app you’re not sure about. The site rates each app from 0 to 100%, based on whether other people remove it or not – basically a sort of “poll the audience”. You can also download their tool that will scan all your apps and show you the rating for each one.

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