How do you handle crapware?


toolbar4

Let’s have a party!

When was the last time you downloaded a software update, only to find you also invited half the street to join in the fun?

You see, personal computing today can be akin to throwing a party and spending the rest of the evening fighting off hordes of gatecrashers. Everyone wants a piece of the action and if you’re not standing at the front door wielding your shield and sabre, it could get ugly.

knight1

Did you bring a bottle?

So, picture the scene. You’ve just installed an untouched, virgin copy of Windows on a new hard drive and you’re ready to rock. There’s only one snag; you lost the the CD that came with the PC, the motherboard is showing it’s age and that obscure sound driver is proving illusive. It’s not much fun watching YouTube without sound is it?

Assuming you know the exact model of your sound device, you find the driver at Driverguide, which is promoted as  ‘The worlds’s most popular driver download site since 1996…


You’re suitably unimpressed by this claim but nevertheless proceed to download that pesky driver anyway and the voyage begins thus:

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnIwsv2WD-Y[/youtube]

****** Best viewed in full-screen******

The Devil in disguise

If you made it to stage 10 and can still remember why you were on Driverguide in the first place, you deserve a medal for persistence at the very least. But if you weren’t paying attention during the prolonged ‘driver download’ process and clicked NEXT at every turn, your troubles have only just begun.


We can see from the slideshow that without taking evasive action, the user will install a minimum of FIVE totally useless browser addons, toolbars and other rubbish that do nothing more than compromise your system, almost bring it to its knees and jointly redefine the unholy definition of crapware.

Going back to our raving party, this would be much like discovering that your gatecrashers were in fact your ex wife, your mother in law, your ex bank manager and an unsavory mix of all their relatives, which is not what you want is it?

driverguide1Take a closer look here and you’ll see that ‘Use Driverguide’s installer‘ is ticked by default and guess what?

You guessed right, you can’t untick that.


The tick is stuck in that tiny box permanently.

You do however have a chance on the next screen, to hand over $2.99 and download the driver directly without using their installer.

How cool is that?

You may also have noticed that on screens 1, 2 and 3, they are trying to push a further FIVE other programs down your eager throat in preparation for the crapware-fest later on.


And there’s more to come

It could be argued of course, that if you managed to swerve your way through the chicanes, twists and turns presented to you by Driverguide and you managed to NOT hand over the princely sum of $2.99, you got your pesky driver and no harm was inflicted upon anyone.

Not only can you see You Tube now, but you can hear it, so what’s the all the fuss and malarkey all about, I hear you ask?

Simple really; nobody should have to pay for a device driver and this type of cynical social engineering preys upon those who  are the least prepared for it.

Of course, this practice isn’t confined to driver downloading; it’s now become all pervasive and has been written about on Dave’s Computer Tips on numerous occasions.


Take a look at these shots and see what you think.

Click, click. oh dear!

Click, click. oh dear!

Only if I like Bing.

Only if I like Bing.

I already use protection thanks

I already use protection thanks

Hey, thanks but no thanks!

Hey, thanks but no thanks!

One has to wonder how many pennies Oracle and Adobe actually earn from the clicks on ASK, McAfee and Norton respectively and more importantly, is this practice ethical?

In the case of Norton Security Scan, many users consider this to be SCAREWARE, as the version bundled with Adobe, DivX and others doesn’t actually fix anything; the scan simply directs you to a page where you are asked to purchase a Norton security product, which to me is much like holding a person to ransom.

The best advice here is to be attentive and think twice before clicking NEXT.

Do NOT pay for device drivers; life is expensive enough as it is and all the reputable hardware manufacturers offer their device drivers as FREE downloads in any language at any time.

Rogues gallery

joker23

Holy barracuda!

Having de-loused numerous machines in recent years, here’s a small example of the CRAPWARE I’ve removed and is best avoided.

Ask.com, Babylon, Iminent, Incredimail, Pando Media Booster, Sweet IM, Winferno Reg, PC Speed Maximiser, Search the Web, Softonic Toolbar,Media Get,Up To Down, Delta search and toolbar, Lyrics Fan, Portaldosites, Red Apple, Websites recommendation,Web Connect…………………………..

On one PC, which I remember fondly, it was equipped with almost all the crapware mentioned above, together with Norton and McAfee security scans as well as a browser similar to the toolbar festival shown in the first picture. The customer wasn’t entirely dissatisfied with the performance, but she did concede that it wasn’t as fast as it used to be.

But hey! When in doubt, you can always click CANCEL can’t you?

 

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About the Author

Marc Thomas

Marc is an avid traveler, motorcyclist, entrepreneur, and gamer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His interest in computers and technology began in the early 1990's when he was introduced by a friend to a Zenith Data Systems computer running DOS. In the years following he has experienced all versions of the Windows operating system, built hundreds of systems, and fixed many more for his customers. Marc also has an interesting forum you might like to check out at Argentina Expats

10 Comments

  1. The battle is getting rid of the stuff that is too stubborn, removed but makes its return somehow.
    The other stuff can be uninstalled like normal.

  2. With a little research I have (to this date) been able to find any driver for myself or friends’ PC I have wanted without using Driverguide. Well, not quite true, I do use Driverguide to get the exact name of the driver sometimes.

  3. I completely agree with your excellent article. I do wish you would say if there is a FREE website/service that offers a wide range of drivers. I am tired of trying to hunt down individual locations. Many times I have had to look for something that cannot be found on a manufactures website. Jim

  4. Hi Jim D
    I used Driverguide as an example of unethical practice, but it does lead to the interesting point you just brought up.
    My personal view is that driver downloading should be much like going to a hardware store, finding the widget that fits the odd shaped widget you have at home and then acquiring it.
    That is an ideal world scenario of course and driver downloading has now gone the way of many other software updates these days.
    The likes of Driver Detective, Slim Drivers, Driver Zone and Drivers Kit to name just a few, will do a scan of your system and come up with driver solutions. The first two need to be installed and then stay resident; they then continually nag you to update your drivers.
    Wherever possible, go direct to the manufacturer.
    This is a subject that needs scrutinising in more detail Jim D, so stay tuned.
    Cheers
    Marc

  5. That is why I keep Revo Uninstaller, to help with the cleanup and they keep asking if I want to upgrade for half price. If Device Manager isn’t showing any yellow flags then I leave my drivers alone. Love this article. Thanks.

  6. Agreed Daniel.
    As far as I’m concerned, there’s little to gain from constantly updating drivers just because an online updater tells you that your drivers are ‘out of date’.
    One of the big exceptions to this is graphics drivers.
    Somen, Babylon has become more of a curse than anything else and I’m glad you got rid of it.
    Thanks to you all for writing your comments.
    Cheers
    Marc

  7. I find this a kind of tricky subject. Is illegal online downloading partly to blame?

    It does annoy me when the likes of Java and Adobe come up with these things, but I kind of find myself forgiving smaller developers. Many developers find the best way is to give their program free, partly because if they don’t people would probably just illegally download it anyways. But the problem is there’s no such thing as free technically – the developer has probably had to put some money in to fund it and then there’s the maintaining, hosting etc. It’s sadly tricky to make money with programs these days really.

  8. Hi Peter
    Piracy may have some bearing on this, but not to a very large extent in my opinion, bearing in mind that Java, Flash Player and other similar programs are free to download.
    It’s getting increasingly competitive out there and developers, particularly small ones are having a hard time making ends meet.