Shovelware. Bloatware. Adware. There refer to programs that are running on your PC – and that may be active right now – but that most people don’t know about and never use. These programs clog your limited hard drive space, hog your memory, and generally degrade the performance of your computer.
These programs may come pre-installed on your computer, or you might have downloaded them accidentally by clicking on the wrong link. Some even comes sneakily bundled with useful software. Whatever the reason, you definitely want to get these applications off of your computer. What’s the best way to get rid of them?
Unnecessary Apps: What is Bloatware?
“Bloatware” refers to software that comes pre-installed in a new PC, and which most customers never use. For example, your computer comes pre-installed with Microsoft’s Edge browser. Most people use the Edge browser only once – to search for and download Google Chrome. As a result, the Edge browser fits the classic definition of bloatware.
Most bloatware is harmless, but some of it isn’t. Best-case scenario, your bloatware is a free trial of software that expires a few days after you use it – and then starts asking for a fee. Worst-case scenario, your bloatware is actually broken – like in 2016 when the laptop maker Lenovo announced that one of its pre-installed utilities was vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack.
Did You Accidentally Download an Unnecessary App?
There are some unnecessary apps that come pre-installed on your computer. Other times, however, you download unnecessary apps by accident. To be fair, you probably didn’t make a mistake – rather, you got tricked by an unscrupulous developer.
Makers of adware know that it’s 2023, and no one except your grandma’s grandma wants an extra toolbar on their browser. How do they get people to keep downloading their unnecessary apps?
The answer is trickery. Let’s say that you want to download a useful application, like a .zip extractor to unlock a compressed file, or a download manager to help you download large files. Once you install that application, you might see something like this:
As you can see, the software you’re installing doesn’t match the name of the application. Here, “Search Offer” has been bundled with a more legitimate app. If you blindly click through the installation screen like most people do, you’ll install “Search Offer” – whatever that is – without even knowing it.
Getting Rid of Unnecessary Apps
Now that we’ve covered the ways that unnecessary apps pop up, here’s the easy way to get rid of them.
If you’re using Windows 10, you can simply search for “add or remove programs,” which will bring you to a screen that lists every program installed on your PC. You can scroll down them one by one, uninstalling as you go – but it’s important not to do this hastily.
Some programs you see are almost certainly adware. Some, however, are components that help your computer to run. Quickly googling the name of each program that you’re about to delete is a good way to prevent accidents.
You can find a more detailed view of your installed applications by going to your Control Panel, clicking on Programs, then clicking on Programs and Features. This will take you to a similar list of software that also includes software drivers – more stuff that helps your computer run. Look at this list carefully before deciding to delete anything.
Lastly, you can clean up your browser of unwanted toolbars. If you go into Chrome and type chrome://extensions into the URL bar, you’ll see every plugin that’s installed into your browser once you hit “enter.” This includes plugins that you don’t need, no longer use, or have installed themselves maliciously.
Invest in Antivirus to Get the Most out of Your PC
If you’ve begun cleaning up your computer and you’d like to prevent yourself from accidentally installing any more unnecessary programs, antivirus software has your back. For example, many AV programs will identify installers that attempt to bundle unwanted software. Others will even tell you which applications you use the least, helping you clean up programs that are just sitting there. If you’re interested in cleaning unnecessary apps off of your computer, take a look at our list of 10 best antivirus programs today!