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Issue #377: Oct 12-18, 2014

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Q: Oh wise geek, I seek your recommendation. I bought a Toshiba laptop a few years ago that runs Windows 7. It came fully loaded with bloatware from the OEM that is completely useless. I want to strip this down to bare bones and get rid of all the bloatware and start from scratch, keeping Windows 7, however, it does not have a CD drive and did not come with the Microsoft Products on a separate memory device. I would also not mind keeping the data that is on here which I have backed up to MS OneDrive. What would you suggest?

– Tim B.
Navarre, Florida

 A: Come forth, and be recognized, o seeker of knowledge!  For I, the great and wise Geek shall impart unto you words of counsel that shall be of great value to you!

Ouch. I can’t type like that for very long – it hurts my intellect. So, before I damage it too extensively, let’s dispense with the frivolity and just discuss your question in modern vernacular, shall we?

Before we proceed, I want to make the case for what you’re calling “bloatware”. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, he’s referring to software trials, offers, starter versions, game packs, etc., that usually come bundled with a new PC.  Some of these applications can be fairly useful, such as a year of free malware protection.  Some, as Tim points out, are completely useless, and do little for you other than take up hard drive space, and clutter up the Start menu.  However, what many people don’t take into account is that these software offers are a large part of why you got such a good deal when you purchased that new system.  Each software vendor paid a fee to the OEM to have their software put on your computer, and most OEMs pass some or all of that savings on to the consumer.  Think of them as little electronic coupons that you don’t even have to present at the time of purchase.

Now then, you’re wanting to get rid of the bloat, but what you asked about was how to essentially re-load Windows 7. Now, unless you’ve purchased a fully licensed, non-OEM version of Win7, I don’t think that’s really the path you’re seeking.  Re-installing the OEM software is going to include resetting the bloat to the state it was in when your PC was new.  Since that’s what you asked about, I’ll answer you, but my real advice is in the last paragraph.

Most Toshiba laptops are manufactured with an OS recovery image in a special hidden partition on the hard drive. This image allows you to basically reset the system to the condition it was in when it was brand new.  While this is a great thing if your system has malware that you can’t otherwise defeat, you would want to make sure that all your personal data files are safely backed up before proceeding.  A radical re-install such as this also deletes all customizations (colors, fonts, etc) and will cause you to have to go back and re-download and install every security update that has come out since your OEM software bundle was created.  Remember, it will also put back any “bloatware” that you’ve heretofore removed.  So again, I don’t think this is the option you want.  For any other Toshiba owners who are having major system issues, and would like to see if this helps, here’s a link to the instructions on Toshiba’s website: tinyurl.com/crfh4sg.  Look for the section that says “Using Partitioned Recovery Method (Free Recovery)”.

So, Tim, my words of advice to you are these: Forget the idea of re-installing Windows, and simply go to the Control Panel, visit “Programs and Features” and uninstall anything you don’t want. Your little coupons have done their job for you, and if you no longer need them, offload the fluff the same way you’d uninstall any other application that you don’t want anymore.  Good luck, and Happy Computing!

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