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What is Bloatware and How to Remove It for Improved Performance

Have you ever felt frustrated by pop-ups, lag, or strange background processes on your brand new laptop or smartphone? The culprit may be bloatware – unwanted software that comes pre-installed or gets installed later on. In this guide, I‘ll explain what bloatware is, how to spot it, and most importantly, how you can safely remove it from your Windows PC, Mac, iPhone, or Android device. By taking some time to declutter your gadgets of useless bloatware, you can speed them up, free up storage space, and enjoy an improved user experience.

What Exactly is Bloatware?

Bloatware refers to applications or software that provide little practical value while taking up space and resources on your devices. According to a survey by Laptop Mag, the average new Windows laptop comes preloaded with over 25+ bloatware apps amounting to several gigabytes of storage.

Here are some common characteristics of bloatware:

  • Pre-installed by device manufacturers – New computers, tablets, and smartphones often come with extra software pre-loaded, some of which are useful while others are bloatware. Laptop makers like HP and Lenovo are notorious offenders.

  • Aggressive monetization tactics – Bloatware apps frequently push in-app purchases, subscriptions, or ads to generate revenue. They may continually prompt you to pay for premium features.

  • Difficult to remove – Bloatware is sometimes intentionally challenging to uninstall so you have to keep it on your device. For example, Samsung phones are known for having many stubborn pre-loaded apps.

  • Reduces performance – Too much bloatware can significantly slow down your device and drain battery life faster. All those unused background processes tap CPU cycles, RAM, and other resources.

  • Takes up storage space – Bloatware uses up your hard drive, solid-state storage, or cloud storage even if you never actually use the apps. This eats into the capacity you have available for apps you want.

  • Privacy concerns – Bloatware may collect your personal usage data or location information without proper consent. Apple and Microsoft have tighter controls than Android manufacturers in this regard.

  • Can be a security risk – While not overtly malicious, bloatware could potentially make devices more vulnerable to outside threats by expanding the attack surface.

In summary, bloatware refers to unwanted programs that provide little practical utility while potentially reducing your device‘s performance, stability, storage capacity, privacy, and security. The more bloatware you have, the more frustrated you may feel when using your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

How to Identify Bloatware on Your Devices

Bloatware can sometimes be tricky to spot since not all pre-installed apps are automatically useless. For example, a weather or map app could be helpful for some users but unwanted bloatware for others.

When reviewing apps installed on your gadgets, consider asking yourself these questions to identify likely bloatware candidates:

  • Do I remember downloading and installing this app myself? If not, it likely came pre-loaded on your device.

  • Have I ever actually used or opened this app? Unused apps are prime targets for removal.

  • Does this app persistently show intrusive ads or push notifications begging me to purchase premium features or subscriptions? If so, it may be bloatware or adware.

  • Does this app duplicate the functionality of another app I already use and like better? Redundant apps tend to be bloatware.

  • Does this app consume an unusually large amount of data, battery life, RAM usage, or storage space? Resource-hogging indicates potential bloat.

  • Is this app abnormally difficult to uninstall, disable, or remove permissions for? Bloatware is sometimes stubborn to get rid of by design.

  • Are there reviews or reports of this app exhibiting bloatware behavior or having privacy issues? Check its reputation online.

By carefully reviewing all the apps installed on your PCs, phones, and tablets, you can more easily identify troublesome bloatware apps that are suitable candidates for removal. Getting rid of them can provide an immediate performance and storage boost.

How to Safely Remove Bloatware on Windows 10

Windows 10 computers from big manufacturers like Dell, HP, and Lenovo are notorious for coming pre-loaded with lots of useless first-party and third-party bloatware apps right out of the box. Here are a few safe and effective methods to remove bloatware on a Windows 10 PC:

Uninstall Through Settings

The most direct way to remove a Windows 10 app is simply to uninstall it through the Settings menu:

  1. Click on the Start button in your taskbar to open the Start Menu.

  2. Select the Gear icon to open Windows Settings.

  3. Click on Apps on the left sidebar.

  4. Select Apps & features from the horizontal menu at the top.

  5. Browse through the list of installed applications and locate the bloatware app you want to remove.

  6. Click on the bloatware app entry and then select Uninstall.

  7. Confirm you want to uninstall when prompted.

This will immediately initiate the standard Windows 10 uninstallation process to remove the bloatware app and related files from your system. However, take note that some stubborn pre-loaded apps bundled by your PC manufacturer may not fully uninstall this way. You may need to take more advanced steps.

Reset With Fresh Start

The Fresh Start option in Windows 10 will completely reset your PC to a clean state while conveniently keeping your personal data files and some system settings intact.

Crucially, Fresh Start also gives you the option to choose NOT to reinstall any of the manufacturer bloatware apps when resetting Windows. This allows you to start fresh with a clean Windows 10 build free of bloat.

To use Fresh Start:

  1. Open Windows Settings and go to Update & Security > Recovery.

  2. Under the Reset this PC section, click Get started.

  3. On the first screen, select Keep my files to preserve your personal data.

  4. On the next screen, choose either Cloud download to freshly install Windows over the internet or Local reinstall to reset from a local image file.

  5. Importantly, on the "Ready to reset" page, click No where it asks if you want to reinstall any apps that came with your PC. This avoids bringing back any bloatware.

  6. Finish walking through the remaining screens to complete the reset process.

Once your PC reboots, Windows will be clean and free of any bloatware that came pre-installed. You can then carefully reinstall only the applications you actually want and need from scratch.

Use a Powerful Uninstaller Tool

Specialized "power" uninstaller utilities like Revo Uninstaller and Geek Uninstaller can uninstall stubborn bloatware programs that stick around after using the normal Windows uninstall options.

These tools scan for leftover artifacts that the standard uninstallers miss. They dig into the registry, app data folders, and other parts of the system to completely scrub out all traces of bloatware. This allows you to thoroughly purge even the most persistent pre-loaded apps.

However, take care when using such powerful uninstallers. Only download reputable options from trustworthy publishers and be cautious about what you agree to remove. These utilities can cause problems if used without care.

Clean Reinstall Windows From Scratch

If all else fails, completely reformatting your PC‘s hard drive and performing a spotless install of Windows 10 is the "nuclear option" guaranteed to rid your system of bloatware.

Be sure to fully back up any important personal data first. Then you can either use the Reset functionality described above for a clean reinstall or boot from Windows installation media to wipe everything and start from scratch.

Reinstalling Windows this way wipes the slate totally clean, forcing you to start over with NO apps or programs preloaded. You‘ll need to be selective and manually reinstall just the apps you truly want after the clean installation finishes.

While time-consuming, this method virtually guarantees you‘ll start fresh with a 100% bloat-free Windows 10 PC fully under your control. The performance benefits are well worth it.

Removing Bloatware on Macs

Compared to Windows, Macs tend to come cleaner with less pre-installed bloatware straight from Apple. But you may still wish to remove some unwanted apps slowing down your MacBook or iMac. Here are the steps to completely uninstall apps on macOS:

  1. Open Finder and click on Applications in the left sidebar to enter the Applications folder containing your installed apps.

  2. Locate the app you wish to remove in the Applications list.

  3. Click and drag the app icon over to the Trash Can icon in your Dock.

  4. When prompted, enter your administrator account password to confirm the uninstall.

  5. Open the Trash Can and select Empty to completely delete the app and all associated files.

Using this method, you can fully remove unwanted apps that were pre-loaded by Apple or downloaded separately. Some apps packaged with the core OS like Safari can‘t be deleted but can be hidden away in folders if desired.

You may also want to use a specialized Mac cleaner utility like CleanMyMac X that can scan for and remove troublesome bloatware or adware in macOS. But take care when granting any third-party app elevated privileges on your system.

Removing Pre-Loaded Bloatware on Android Phones

With so many different manufacturers making Android phones, the amount of pre-installed bloatware you get varies widely. Skinned versions of Android from Samsung are infamous for having lots of built-in bloat that can‘t be removed normally. Here are some tips for deleting unwanted apps on Android:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap on Apps or Application Manager. The exact name varies between Android skins.

  2. Scroll through the list of apps installed on your phone.

  3. Tap on a suspected bloatware app you want gone.

  4. Look for and select either Uninstall or Disable. Uninstall completely removes the app. Disable simply forces the app to stop running or sending notifications.

  5. Confirm that you want to uninstall or disable the app when prompted.

Be very cautious about rooting your Android device just to gain more control over removing bloatware. Only use reputable apps and guides if you do root since it can cause stability issues if done improperly.

If your phone is cluttered with pre-loaded bloatware, buying an unlocked phone or one running pure Android One next time can prevent this scenario by giving you a clean OS build.

Removing Bloatware from iPhones and iPads

Apple generally includes fewer pre-installed apps on iOS compared to skinned Android ROMs. But you may still wish to remove some for minimalism or performance reasons. Here‘s how to easily uninstall apps on iPhone or iPad:

  1. Press and hold down on the app icon until all icons begin wiggling. This enters "jiggle mode."

  2. Tap the small X that appears in the corner of the wiggling app you want to remove.

  3. Confirm that you want to delete the app when prompted.

Some default Apple apps can‘t be fully deleted but can be tucked away into folders or the App Library if unused. Also be wary of sketchy "iOS rooting" services – correctly rooting iOS requires advanced technical skills.

Using Anti-Bloatware Tools

In addition to manual removal methods, there are automated anti-bloatware utilities designed to detect and uninstall unwanted programs in Windows. Examples for PCs include PC Decrapifier, SlimCleaner, and BleachBit.

These apps analyze your installed software and make uninstall recommendations. Some even perform bulk removal of bloatware with one click. This can streamline ridding a brand new PC of junk pre-loaded apps.

However, use such tools with caution. You are granting the software elevated administrative privileges to make major changes to your system. Only use reputable anti-bloat tools responsibly and with supervision.

When possible, carefully reviewing your apps manually and removing bloatware normally is safer. But anti-bloat utilities provide an extra option if you need it.

Tips to Avoid Bloatware on New Devices

While it‘s difficult to avoid bloatware completely, there are a few proactive things you can try:

  • Carefully read all prompts when setting up a new phone or computer and opt out of pre-loading any unnecessary apps you know you won‘t want.

  • Research and purchase laptops, tablets, and smartphones that come with "clean" stock builds of the OS with minimal bloat pre-installed. Certain manufacturers like Microsoft and OnePlus have better reputations in this regard.

  • Consider buying unlocked Android phones that don‘t come with all the carrier bloatware pre-loaded onto the system. Or choose a Google Android One phone with a cleaner OS build.

  • When downloading new apps, stick to trusted sources like the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Avoid sketchy websites that may try to piggyback bloatware or malware during app installs.

  • Use quality antivirus software and run occasional anti-malware scans to detect and remove any PUPs or other junk that snuck onto your devices unnoticed.

Remaining vigilant across all your gadgets helps avoidaccumulate over time. Regularly reviewing and removing unnecessary programs keeps your digital life speedy, stable, and clutter-free.

The Bottom Line

Bloatware annoys users by taking up storage, draining battery life, cluttering the UI, and potentially impacting performance or privacy on PCs, phones, and tablets alike. Thankfully, removing unwanted bloatware is straightforward once you know what to look for and take a few minutes to uninstall or disable junk programs manually.

Investing a small amount of time decluttering your devices results in an immediate improvement in speed, storage capacity, and user experience. Your gadgets will thank you!

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Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.