You know how when you buy a new PC it usually comes not just with the latest version of Microsoft Windows, but also umpteen different apps and special offers cluttering the desktop? There’s a decent chance you don’t actually want or need most of those programs — and they may even be slowing down your PC.

That’s why Microsoft has launched a program it calls Signature Series. You can now buy select computers from Microsoft stores without any bloatware preloaded. Microsoft also optimizes Windows settings for each system before selling it. And All Things D’s Walt Mossberg says the difference is that most Signature Series computers are faster than the systems as configured by PC makers such as HP, Samsung, or Sony.

Microsoft Security Series

If you happen to live near a Microsoft Store you can also take any Windows computer into the shop and have Microsoft essentially turn it into a Signature Series machine by removing unnecessary software and optimizing settings. They’ll charge you $99 for the privilege.

Interestingly, there’s a free app which has been doing something similar for years. It’s called The PC Decrapifier, and basically it lets you selectively remove most of the apps that PC makers preload on their computers to improve system performance.

I highly recommend running the app after setting up a new store-bought computer, at least to see what unnecessary software comes with the PC so you can decide whether or not you really want to keep it.

You don’t have to pay $99 to use PC Decrapifier, but I get the feeling Microsoft’s Signature Series service is aimed at less computer-savvy users who don’t want to delete the wrong things by accident.

There are a number of reasons PC makers preload apps on computers. Some are system configuration tools which might actually come in handy. Others are free trials of software that effectively serve as ads — and which software makers pay to get onto your PC, helping subsidize the cost of the computer.

Even Microsoft Signature Series computers come with some apps that are probably optional, including Microsoft’s photo, video, and other apps and a starter edition of Microsoft Office — but these can all be removed.

The company also includes Microsoft Security Essentials, a free anti-virus suite which offers much of the same functionality as you would get the free trial software from Norton, McAffee, Kaspersky and others that PC makers love to load on new computers. But Security Essentials uses fewer system resources and won’t constantly bug you to pay for a subscription.

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8 replies on “Microsoft Signature Series: Windows PCs without bloatware”

  1. I’ve bought 3 HP laptops over the last 3 years.  Of course they come with the usual bloatware, but all 3 have a restore option which allows you to restore without it. It’s in the Recovery Manager. As a general statement what you get afterwards is a clean desktop other than some HP applications. Norton, games, Ebay, MS trials etc, are all gone.  I’m not sure Windows is actually optimized, but it does make a performance difference and gets rid of the clutter.  

  2. This wouldn’t be required if Windows were as easy to install as Linux.  But if you have ever actually installed Windows from scratch onto a bare drive you know it is usually a major pain, especially if you didn’t think to go download enough drivers beforehand to get the network going so you can go after the others.  And of course almost nobody CAN install Windows from scratch because they don’t get a copy of the actual product, just an OEM preload image that restores all of the crap every time you have to restore.

    1. Installing Linux is a pain too. At least on notebooks and Ubuntu. Not all hot keys and LEDs work. Multitouch trackpad features don’t work (more than just 2 finger scrolling). 802.11n has to be disabled in order to get a stable connection to an 802.11n access point. There are some workarounds for some notebooks but they’re definitely not user friendly. Sometimes driver support just doesn’t exist until someone, maybe you or me, writes it.

      It’s pretty much the same for Windows except a good OEM provides an easy to access database of drivers (ie. Lenovo and others). Just download and double click. Windows update also provides much more updated generic drives too.

    2. Like Tom pointed out, Linux isn’t always easy either and MS has made improvements over the years.  While there isn’t really a OEM version of Linux for proper comparison.

       You’re also forgetting they offer Windows as retail as well as OEM.  The only one that won’t offer a choice is Windows RT as that’s the only version of Windows 8 releases that will only be offered pre-installed.

    3. Linux is easy to install yes, but getting it to work on par with a Windows setup is not for that faint of heart.
      Linux has come a long way, but they are still a long way from matching the usability of a Windows setup.

  3. well, to this just one word … in almost 40 years of pc age i never have seen a pc from a vendor being sold performance or even usage optmized.
    selling this as a usp is therefore easy going for “la maison” it self. but certainly a reasonable service for a mainstream customer.

  4. I thought this program ha been around for a while. I’ve heard from people that have bought Ultrabooks through it.

    1. The signature series definitely has been around for a while.  I think it’s been around as long as the Microsoft Stores have.  The $99 de-bloatify service I think is new.

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