Dell Vostro: Not Totally Free of Crapware

One of Dell’s selling points for its new Vostro line is a lack of trial-ware.  In fact, Dell’s website makes the following claim on the Vostro homepage:

No trialware.
Customers said they hated trialware, so we took it away. Vostro systems come without annoying trialware pre-installed. You only get the software you want.

If only it were true that you only got the software you want.  Remember these machines are designed and priced for small offices, 1-25 employees.  You know the kinds of offices these are–they’re the ones without IT, and are subject to the whims of their vendors.  We recently purchased three Vostros (two Vostro 200 slim towers to expand the POS in my wife’s flower shop, and one Vostro 1500 laptop for myself), and I was dismayed to find software I didn’t really want on all three:

1) Google Toolbar is preinstalled with IE.  Google recently seems to have changed its motto from “don’t be evil” to “total world domination”, and I understand they pay a bounty to Dell for preinstallation of their toolbar.  In case you’ve missed out, Google’s been involved in a couple of privacy flaps lately.  The toolbar remembers where you go and what you do, which has probably been a reason for some of these unsecured data exposures on the Internet–the file location was sent to Google after being accessed by an unsuspecting user, and Google indexed it.  Yes, the business was stupid to not secure the data, but Google is the one who indexed the data and made it public, so I hold both complicit.

2) Google Desktop.  This one is worse than the toolbar, IMHO.  Again, it’s my understanding a bounty is paid for each installation.  And again, there are privacy issues, especially since it opens (automatically, BTW) with default settings.  If the user doesn’t know the software is installed and is indexing their documents, they might be surprised to see them show up in their searches.  While usually pretty secure, Google’s various properties have been subject to exploits recently, and there is the chance sensitive data can be compromised because of the Google desktop.  Additionally, Google Desktop introduces unexpected keyboard behaviors (e.g., double control brings up a search box), and for unknowledgeable users, this software makes their computer a thing of surprise.

3) The Dell Search Redirector.  Oh how this one works my main nerve!  If you goof a website’s address in IE, you’re transported to a Dell/Google cobranded page of “suggested results” and (drum roll please) AdWords ads.  The standard “Internet Explorer couldn’t find the website you’re looking for” page has been totally replaced.

4) Dell Network Assistant.  Yet another replacement for Window’s built in network connection utilities.  Granted, the user-friendliness of Windows XP’s network management is really low, but the Dell NA takes forever to find the preferred network and connect.  How slow is it?  I can boot, open Thunderbird and have it searching for my e-mail servers, and it’s still another minute or so before DNA connects.

5) Dell Support Assistant.  I feel bad for people who agree to use this one.  You get the annoying toasts saying there’s some update for your PC somewhere, but the UI is confusing and uninformative.  If there’s an alert, I should be taken right to it when I open the tool.  Plus, we don’t need the staff freaking out that something is wrong with the new PCs just because an unexpected notice pops up.  That’s disruptive to the day’s work, and takes them out of their flow if they’re taking an order and one of these messages appears.

Now, you can turn off and uninstall all of these options, but that’s not very friendly.  It should be that I can turn on anything I want, not have to turn off what I don’t.  Except for the Dell Network Assistant, all of the others have been removed from our PCs.

kick it on