Cybernaut 

Know when to trash it

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It’s a sad fact that most computers sold today come bundled with all kinds of programs that you didn’t ask for, don’t want, and will likely never need. Most of them are buried somewhere in your applications and systems folders, and since you’ve probably never heard of most of them it’s difficult to know exactly what you can delete.

Why are they there? Usually because the computer manufacturer was slipped a few bucks to include these programs, or because they came bundled with other, more useful programs.

The unwanted software ranges from trial versions of programs you can only use for free for a month — but don’t automatically erase themselves when that trial period is over — to a wide selection of web browers, toolbars, instant messaging services, games, e-mail clients, Voice Over I.P. products, security programs, and applications for everything from mapping to reading electronic documents.

There are little utilities that may one day bug you to subscribe to a pro version. There are beta versions of programs from companies looking for an audience. There are drivers and support programs sent by companies making peripherals you may never own.

Not only do these useless programs take up hard drive space, some are turned on at least some of the time. That sucks up memory and processor capacity, and slows down your Internet connection as the programs check in with the mother company from time to time.

According to an article on C/Net ( www.cnet.com ), the official name for these unsolicited programs is “crapware”, although it sometimes referred to as “bloatware”. The article discussed ways to purge all the crapware from your new laptop, although the same general idea can be applied to your desktop computer as well, whether it’s Mac or P.C.

The issue was also tackled in one of the those PC vs. Mac commercials, with the PC guy — a bloated John Hodman — saying “It’s all this trial software. They pack my hard drive full of it, all these programs that don’t do very much, unless you buy the whole thing… it really slows me down.”

However, despite the ad Apple is not exactly innocent when it comes to crapware. Macs come with a trial version of Microsoft Office and Apple’s iWork and iPlay software, as well as World Book encyclopedia, Internet Explorer, Zinio (online magazine reader), and a handful of games.

According to C/Net, one of the only things you can do is to shop for computers that come without added software. Dell and Gateway already give people the option of what software to include when purchasing online, but if you’re buying from a store you’re going to have to do a quick run through of applications or talk to the sales agent.

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