What Bloatware Is (and How to Remove It)
Below, we offer a short primer on bloatware, what it is, how you get it, what it tries to do to you, how to deal with it and what to do in the future to avoid it.
But before we dive in, take note:
If your device is so slow that it’s become unusable, it’s unlikely bloatware alone is at fault. Run a cybersecurity scan first to ensure there isn’t another cause.
What is bloatware?
Bloatware (also not-so-affectionately known as junkware or crapware) can clog up your computers and devices in several ways. It comes in a number of forms, some of which are more of a minor nuisance, while others introduce adware, spyware and other types of malware into the mix.
Think of bloatware as the software version of junk mail clogging up your letterbox. It’s any piece of software or application you don’t need but loves to run as inefficiently as possible and take up a large amount of your device’s space.
You probably won’t even remember installing the offending piece of bloatware. Chances are, you didn’t!
Bloatware usually comes in two different forms:
- Pre-installed software on your computer or mobile device.
- Software you unknowingly download and install from the internet.
Pre-installed software is probably the most common type of bloatware. As a result, virtually every computer comes with some form of what could technically be classified as bloatware.
Common types of bloatware include software bundles your manufacturer adds on top of the normal operating system, such as security suites, music apps or video editing software.
This type of software is often little used by you, yet continuously updates in the background, until (more often than not) it becomes weighed down by unnecessary features.
Other examples are trialware. This is when software developers pay manufacturers to install a demo or “try-before-you-buy” version of their product to upsell customers on the paid program.
It’s important to bear in mind the potential issues presented by some pre-installed software. It can be legitimately useful to you but, gradually, these can build up, hog your storage space and slow down your device.
A good rule of thumb: If these are rarely (or never) used, consider them bloatware.
Software downloaded from the internet
This type of bloatware tends to potentially be more hazardous and can dig its way onto your computer when you visit suspicious sites or click an unsafe link or ad.
Bloatware can also piggyback on other legitimate programs you did want to download (usually some sort of freeware or shareware), to trick you into installing it on your PC, tablet, or mobile device.
A word of warning to Mac users: You may have heard Windows is more prone to coming with bloatware (with some manufacturers, like Toshiba, among the worst offenders).
But you’re not exactly off the hook, either – it’s entirely possible to install bloatware on a Mac and experience security problems as a result. More on what to do about bloatware on your Mac or iOS below.
What does bloatware do?
Bloatware’s effects range from the bothersome to the downright dangerous.
Here’s a quick taster of what bloatware could have in store for you and your device:
1. Bloatware can cause performance issues.
You may notice your computer is slow to boot up, slow to react when you click on something, crashes easily, or your battery drains quickly – these are all telltale signs of bloatware. The more of these programs you have operating in the background of your computer every time you boot up, the more space and resources they take up.
What’s more, because bloatware has a tendency to be poorly designed and built on less-than-stellar code, it can clog up your device’s memory more than other types of software.
2. Bloatware can be intrusive.
Adware and toolbars – we’re looking at you here. We’re willing to bet being pummelled by ads is the last thing you want when you go online.
Many applications falling under the bloatware category are guilty of installing extra toolbars on your browser. They do very little other than show you annoying ads, or otherwise interrupt and even redirect your intended online activity.
3. Bloatware can pose a risk to your digital security and privacy.
The main risk posed by certain types of bloatware connecting to the internet? It can lead to the theft of your financial information, such as banking and credit card accounts and passwords.
The criminal hackers who steal this can use it to drain your account or run up fraudulent credit card bills in your name. Or they could sell your account information on the dark web.
If the thought of this has you breaking out into a cold sweat, then keep reading for more on exactly how to avoid this worst-case scenario.
How to remove bloatware from your device
If you suspect bloatware has compromised your Mac or Windows PC, there are a few steps you can take to remedy the issue yourself.
But first, if you’re unsure what actually constitutes bloatware on your computer or device, we recommend hopping on over to ShouldIRemoveIt? This site gives crowdsourced advice on the specific programs to remove if you’re looking to do a bloatware cull.
Cybersecurity software like Clario can also perform frequent scans to catch bloatware and other forms of malware before they have a chance to run amok on your device.
How to remove bloatware on Mac
While you’re likely to encounter less instances of bloatware on your Mac, it’s still a good idea to remove any unused applications, especially those you received when you purchased your computer. Follow these steps to remove them:
- Go to Applications.
- Select the application you’re looking to remove. Click Get Info > Sharing and Permissions.
- Press the lock symbol, enter your admin password and select the option to make Read and Write permissions available to everyone.
- At this point, you’ll be able to delete the unwanted application.
A word of caution: be sure none of the programs you’re looking to remove are critical to your macOS. If they are, you’re just introducing a different problem into the mix.
How to remove bloatware on Windows
Looking to give any bloatware you’ve identified on Windows the old heave-ho? Luckily, Windows comes with a built-in uninstaller option through the Start menu. Here’s how to use it:
- Click the Start button.
- Search for the bloatware program you’re looking to remove using the All Apps list on the left-hand side.
- Right-click on the program. You should see an Uninstall option in the pop-up menu.
- Click Uninstall, confirm you’d like to uninstall the program, and you’re done!
Of course, this method doesn’t necessarily work for all kinds of bloatware. If you’re not having any luck with it, then your next best option might be to reset your computer to its original state using System Reset. Remember, this is only effective in removing downloaded programs, not any bloatware already installed on your PC.
How to remove bloatware on Android
Android devices are particular culprits when it comes to bloatware. The best way to approach this problem is by disabling the offending unwanted apps. This way, they will no longer run in the background and affect your RAM usage. However, they will still take up space on your device. To remove them:
- Go to Applications > Settings.
- Tap on Apps and Notifications, pick the app you’re looking to disable and tap Disable.
If you’re thinking about using a third-party tool to make bloatware removal easier, remember this gives them full access to your phone. So make sure you do your research on the most trustworthy providers.
How to remove bloatware on iOS
This one’s quick and easy: you should be able to uninstall most unwanted apps simply by tapping on it, then clicking the X symbol.
How to prevent against bloatware
We told you how to tell if you’ve got bloatware on your computer or device. We told you how to clean up any bloatware if you were affected. But how do we prevent it from happening in the first place? Without further ado, here’s how:
1. Purchase bloatware-free devices
These can be a little on the pricier side, so are not always a viable option, but they do exist. Of course, this option only helps you circumvent bloatware already installed on your device, so remember...
2. Download software directly from the provider
Bloatware (and adware, and malware) often comes hidden when you’re downloading bundled software from other sources.
3. Keep on top of the problem
This means thinking twice before downloading and installing any new software – especially freeware. It might even mean (shock, horror) reading the fine print with an eagle eye to learn exactly what it is you’re inviting into your device in the first place.
4. Download a cybersecurity program capable of working across all your devices
Staying vigilant about what you download will always be your best protection against bloatware. But, thankfully there are plenty of cybersecurity products to give you a helping hand when it comes to keeping the bloat at bay.
You’ll want to purchase a solution, such as Clario, offering these essential capabilities across both your computer and smartphone:
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