Saturday, August 14, 2010

ASUS X5EAE / K51AE Configuration: Bloatware Hell

ASUS X5EAE desktop beforeIn my last article I recommended the ASUS X5EAE laptop based on its features, build and aesthetics. In this post I will discuss the experience of removing all the extra unwanted applications and getting the system ship-shape and usable. This might benefit those with other computers as well, especially if you are new to this game. In particular I will present my list of valuable software (every product free of charge) I ensure is always on a computer.

Turning on the computer for the first time initiated the Windows configuration process. Unlike earlier OS versions, your super-long product code has already been entered by the manufacturer, so all that is required is a user name, password and machine name. After this I was prompted for Windows to grab updates and allowed it to get only those deemed "important" (for now). It found two security fixes. Once this was done, some sort of annoying introductory ASUS video played, which at least had the benefit of waking me up. I will spare you a shot of the menu but above you can see the initial desktop, clutter and all.

Yikes! That's a lot of rubbish to uninstall. A summary of what you might expect is helpfully provided in this bloatware guide.

The following apps I trashed for sure:
* ASUS AP Bank (trial software bundle)
* ASUS WebStorage (online storage)
* ASUS ControlDeck (3D control suite)
* ASUS Multiframe (multi-windowing)
* ASUS Fancystart (startup screen editor)
* ASUS Smart Logon (face recognition)
* ASUS Live Update (buggy and I prefer to do my own updates)

Then I had the joy of individually uninstalling a slew of game demos:
* Game Park Console
* Alice Greenfingers
* Dream Day Wedding
* Chicken 2 Invaders
* Piggly Free
* Smileyville Free

Next the insanely annoying and over-priced...
* Microsoft Office 2007
* Microsoft Office 2007 Activation Assistant
* Microsoft Office Live Add-In

But wait, there is more:
* Google Chrome (redundant)
* Trend Micro Internet Security (I have free equivalent)
* Boingo Installer (WI-FI access plan)
* Adobe Reader 9 (invasive and bloated)

By this point I was more than tired of bloatware. ASUS were doing their best to make me hate a computer I had previously thought was pretty good value. Even though there were another dozen apps I was unsure about, I stopped the extermination and instead turned towards installing necessary software.

First up was cccleaner, so I could zap the registry. Then I installed the following useful and superior products, many of them open source, all of them free. In this day and age there is no reason to pay for software for basic computer tasks.
* Firefox: web browser
* Panda Cloud Antivirus: like it says
* word processor, spreadsheet, presentation builder, etc.
* Gimp: image editor
* VLC: media player
* CDex: CD ripping and MP3 encoding
* Audacity: audio editing
* Skype: for free calls

And then some handy utilities:
* Foxit: a better PDF reader
* PDFCreator: print driver that makes PDFs
* 7-Zip: archive manager
* Free Disk Analyser: helpful to see where your HD has gone
* Image Resizer Powertoy: simple way of making desktop images

I would normally have installed Deepburner for burning CDs and DVD, since Windows' own utility is under-featured and confusing. But many computer brands come with a license for a commercial DVD burning application. ASUS includes CyberLink Power2Go.

I kept certain useful or fun utilities ASUS provided, such as Power4Gear to manage the power settings and a webcam app.

ASUS X5EAE desktop after Following this I moved the user folders to drive D, something I maybe should have done first. Then I could use the included AI Recovery utility to make a Windows restore disk, a process that took no fewer than five DVDs and many hours of my time. It's an important step, however, since computers never come with a Windows install disk (oh, remember the days...).

After this long and tedious process I had a computer I could start to use, though some sort of a backup solution is still required. At this point the C and D drives had 51 GB and 205 GB available, respectively, plenty for future endeavours.

To conclude this article, maybe I should re-evaluate the ASUS X5EAE. It is good value and still recommended if your time removing bloatware is worth nothing. Otherwise, if you can get something cleaner and much the same spec, let me know, it might well be a better solution.

ASUS, if you are reading this and want to reimburse me €200 for my time removing your crappy programmes, I'll mention your kindness in a follow-up post. In future, please leave all optional installs on a menu, so we can choose if we want them on our computer.

In my next post in this series, I will do some performance and battery testing. Thanks for reading and don't forget the donation button in the sidebar if this has been helpful, saved you time, or saved you money.



Unknown said...

So I pretty much uninstalled everything that you suggested but going into "computer" it is showing four hard drives. OS (c:), Data (d:), my external, and "microsoft office click-to-run 2010 (protected) (Q:). Since I no longer have office installed I wanted to free this partitioned space up, but it's protected. Does anyone know what this drive is all about and what to do with it?

robin said...

Wow, yet another reason to avoid Microsoft products! This page describes why it is there. I would guess you can zap the partition, but I have found no definitive info on this. If you have made a system backup, there is little risk in trying.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Robin for this article.
Indeed, I saved quite some time from your blog entry and the ASUS bloatware page you refer to.
I really can't stand all this finacial logic in which shitware is pushed on your desktop. Actually my preferred OSses are Linux based. But for the rest of my family I sometimes have to cleanup new hardware !!! Tkx again...

robin said...

I have never had so much cruft to deal with. ASUS set some sort of a record.

Besides that the computer has worked out very well. WiFi good, no bad battery surprises and so on.

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