What is Bloatware and How Does It Work?

  • By Greg Brown
  • Jan 16, 2023

what is bloatware
We can all remember opening that first computer on Christmas day. Then we turned it on, and wave after wave of nonsensical advertisements competed for space on the monitor. Geeks describe the software invasion as bloatware.

Software bloat has been on electronic devices since the dawn of PCs. Annoyware, crapware, or junkware are other, often-used terms for the unnecessary software that comes pre-installed on new laptops, desktops, and, most recently, smartphones.

In 2016 Lenovo faced significant criticism after installing bloatware on their device, creating security vulnerabilities. Lenovo created the system downloads to improve the performance of their machines. Unfortunately, it allowed trojan viruses to infiltrate the operating system.

Common Annoying Bloatware:

  • Weather apps
  • Gaming centers
  • Navigation and Maps
  • Messaging and video apps
  • Video apps and Music players

Bloatware

Device manufacturers pre-installed these applications to make money, increase sales, and boost product awareness. Bloatware was designed to enlighten consumers about different product groupings and sectors. Over time, builders lost their goal of offering a helpful product. Instead, the apps became a big headache for geeks who bought electronic devices regularly.

Two significant bloatware concerns have developed:

  1. Apps or software running in the background can be helpful if handled correctly. However, early in the evolution of pre-installed software, manufacturers were not as concerned about privacy as they are today. 
  2. Hidden apps running in the background consumed enormous resources, generally unknown to the owner. Memory, storage, and battery life running unrestrained constantly monopolized system resources.
  3. Several bloatware apps were designed to help the system run more efficiently. Unfortunately, performance was affected. Experts who delved into the bloatware problem found maintenance apps did precisely the opposite of their design. 
  4. Bloatware curbed efficiency made devices frustrating to use, and created security threats.

Bloatware and Malware

Pre-Installed software exposes computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices to significant malware risk. Bloatware connects to the internet automatically and usually without proper security configuration. This automation led to various applications designed to exploit computing power and personally identifiable information.

The real danger of bloatware is the malicious code downloaded and installed from websites without the user’s knowledge.

The first action most users take is to remove the unwanted software taking up valuable system resources. The real problem comes from downloaded and hidden apps that are difficult to eliminate. Each piece of bloatware may not be malicious; however, predators know you will download updates and patches. Cybercriminals use this automatic download to attach malicious code, which stays hidden on the target device. 

A few common types of bloatware:

  • Utility apps from vendors and manufacturers are one of the most common types of bloatware. This software adds functionality to the device, including file management, video players, and gallery apps. These apps quickly become bloatware if not opened and used. Third-party software is usually easy to get rid of; however, utilities from manufacturers are always challenging to uninstall.
  • Adware is a type of bloatware that is downloaded along with other applications. Security risks are minimal with adware, other than the annoying ads displayed across the screen. On the surface, adware is easy to uninstall with the proper application. However, components of the pop-up software are installed permanently in other applications. There are a few builders that sell their devices with pre-installed pop-up adware.
  • Trialware or demonstration ware is usually preloaded on a Windows machine and needs a license. This type of bloatware lets the user experience a small portion of an application without the expense of buying the full version. Trialware has little security risk, and you can easily remove it. Users forget to remove the trial software, which continues to consume system resources in the background after the trial.

Getting Rid of Bloatware

getting rid of bloatware

Most trialware, adware, and demonstration ware are easy to eliminate by going to the programs and features section in the control panel. Make sure to delete all installed databases and the personal information gathered. If that does not work, every piece of software has an internal removal function.

Removing a piece of bloatware does not guarantee the entire code is gone. The problem is there is so much unneeded software of every type, and most of the software is sticky. 

There are two factors to consider: the first is the device you are using. Uninstalling bloatware from an Android smartphone is different than deleting it from a laptop. The second factor is the bloatware itself: third-party, pre-installed software is easy to uninstall, while manufacturer-installed software cannot be removed. Familiarize yourself with the procedures before attempting an uninstall so as not to harm your device. 

Many new computer users find purchasing and installing a software removal tool or a complete anti-virus package easier. With the explosion of malware predators across the globe, many companies have been bringing outstanding products to the market. 

Two Examples of Very Good Cyber-Security Companies

  • McAfee is a complete package offering everything from cyber-security applications to password managers.
  • Avast was released in 1995 and has become a global icon in cyber-security. It is one of the fastest packages a user can purchase.

Sticky Bloatware

Some software downloads entangle themselves in every part of the OS and many of its core applications. This entanglement makes the application too difficult to remove or requires a specific piece of uninstalling software. Most malware is designed to be sticky.

The following applications are designed to uninstall difficult-to-release software. These uninstallers are free versions, with some having a premium feature set.

Bulk Crap Uninstaller; as its name implies, the software is perfect for quickly getting rid of a lot of bloatware. The open-source software is excellent at removing large complex software programs with minimal user input. BCU forces the removal of sticky applications and has a good user interface.

IObit Uninstaller, this software features a good UI with specific tabs for uninstalling in bulk or an individual program. IOBit is a straightforward uninstaller that removes plugins and other add-ons that can mess up the browser.

Revo Uninstaller, this all-in-one application, can get rid of everything from bloatware to browser plugins with minimal effect. Revo Uninstaller is an application with a lot of great features. The UI is simple but highly customizable.

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