We’ve all been there. We download something off the Internet or buy it from the store, we know we want a default install, so we just NEXT-NEXT-NEXT-ENTER and the program installs. Later, we launch our browser and we have a new homepage and our favorite search engine has been hijacked. We then start to get toaster pop-ups asking us to register something/upgrade something/answer a survey on something… it’s enough to drive you crazy. Then you realize that the software you meant to add wasn’t flying solo. It had passengers, and one of those NEXTs you clicked so quickly without reading was asking you to agree to install something you really don’t want. Now what?
Even worse is when we get a “great deal” on a new PC, buy it, get it home, and find that the entire desktop is covered with icons for trial software and try-before-you-buy software and other garbage you will never use, and a good part of your hard drive is occupied by this crapware and bloatware. Worse still, is if your new PC comes complete with pre-installed malware.
Either way, you want that garbage gone and you want it gone now. There are a variety of ways you can go about getting rid of the crapware and bloatware on your computer to get it back to the way you want it to be.
1. Read before you click!
The easiest way to solve a problem is by avoiding it in the first place, so when you install some new media player or codec or viewer, anything really, read before you click. Many very reputable developers have to bundle software with their stuff just to pay the bills, but they make it really obvious how not to install the extra stuff, as long as you read before clicking NEXT-NEXT-NEXT. Make sure that when you agree to something, or leave the checkbox selected, it is relevant to the software you want, and not something else that’s just along for the ride.
2. Add/Remove Programs
In Windows, you may be able to remove just about anything by using the Control Panel applet, named either Add/Remove Programs or simply Programs and Features (depending on the version.) From there, view the list of installed programs, select the one(s) you don’t want, and click Uninstall.
3. Remove toolbars from browsers
Which browser you use will determine which way you go to remove toolbars that take up half your screen, change your homepage and generally make a nuisance of themselves.
In Chrome, open chrome://extensions to see the list of installed extensions and remove them. You can simply click the bin icon to remove the extension or uncheck the enabled box.
In Firefox, click the Firefox button, select the Add-ons item in the menu and then click on Extensions.
In Safari, click Edit, then Preferences, then the Extensions tab.
Finally, in Internet Explorer, click the gear icon, then click Manage add-ons.
4. Restore Points
If you suddenly find unwanted garbage on your machine and can’t find a way to uninstall it, run System Restore and restore to a point before the last piece of software was installed. You will then need to rerun the installer, paying more attention to what you are accepting.
5. Use a third-party application uninstaller
There are a number of third-party application uninstallers that can remove unwanted software from your machine and optimize your registry. Look for programs like AppCleaner, AppTrap, AppZapper, CCleaner, CleanApp, Spybot Search and Destroy, and TrashMe to name just a few. Be very careful using these programs. Changing Registry entries is a dangerous game if you do not know what you’re doing.
6. Use MSConfig to see what’s starting
In Windows, run msconfig.exe and view the startup tab to see which programs are set to run at each boot. Note in later versions of Windows, the startup tab is now in Task Manager. Disable what you don’t want starting up, reboot, and if all goes well, use one of the methods above to remove it.
If your PC is so loaded down with junk that it just seems hopeless, consider a clean install. Before you do though, make sure you have the full install media, keys and any additional software you really do want to have on the machine, and check all the installed hardware. Write down device types and versions so you can download the right drivers from the manufacturer to get everything running well.
Getting your PC running just the way you want it is an amazing feeling. You can breathe new life into an old machine by simply optimizing it, and getting rid of all the junk you don’t need. And from now on, don’t forget to always read those pesky install tabs before you click that next button.