Superior Alternatives To Crappy Windows Software

Superior Alternatives To Crappy Windows Software

Whether it comes bundled with your computer, bundled with other software, or is just the go-to program for a specific task, the Windows ecosystem is rife with oft-used, yet craptastic software. We asked you what your most hated Windows apps are, and you gave us tons of shudder-inducing examples. We’ve compiled your answers into a list of our least favourite crapware, and the better programs you can use in their place.

Application to Avoid: Adobe Reader Indictment: Slow as molasses, insecure, and runs annoying helper app at startup Superior Alternative(s): We prefer SumatraPDF and Nitro PDF Reader , though Foxit Reader and PDF-XChange Viewer are also popular alternatives Notes: Adobe Reader isn’t great, but you may find that some PDFs — particularly those with watermarks, editable form fields, or other special features — work better in Adobe Reader than in other PDF readers. If you have to work with PDFs often, Adobe Reader might be unavoidable, but it’s a good idea to try something like Sumatra first just to make sure.


Application to Avoid: Adobe Flash Indictment: Slows your computer, causes frequent browser crashes, hogs resources, drains battery, makes laptops heat up and much more. Superior Alternative(s): None, sadly. Notes: It’s pretty hard to go without Flash these days. HTML5 is slowly replacing it in some cases, but a lot of sites still require Flash. The best solution is to install something like Flashblock, available for both Chrome and Firefox, which will let you load Flash only when you need it. Alternatively, you can uninstall the Flash plugin entirely and use Chrome’s self-contained version when you need it. This has the added advantage of loading HTML5 on some sites, like YouTube, when using Flashblock would just block the original Flash instead of serving the new HTML5 content.

Application to Avoid: Norton, McAfee and other premium Antivirus suites Indictment: Pricey, Slow, Bloated Superior Alternative(s): Microsoft Security Essentials Notes: Ever since Microsoft Security Essentials came out, you hasn’t had much of a reason to use anything else. MSE is lightweight, good at catching viruses and does all of its work in the background without bugging you. If you really don’t like MSE, though, you have a few other solid options.]

Application to Avoid: Internet Explorer Indictment: Always stuck in the past Superior Alternative(s): Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera Notes: IE isn’t horrible (in fact, version 9 has made a few improvements), but it always seems behind the times compared to every other browser in existence. Unless it’s the only browser that can load a specific web app, it’s not worth your time. Use IE to download a more extensible, feature-filled browser and forget about it.


Application(s) to Avoid: Browser Toolbars Indictment: I don’t even know where to start. They’ll change your home page, track your browsing habits, take up space, and offer you features you don’t want in return. Superior Alternative(s): Not installing toolbars. Notes: There are a few exceptions to this rule, but in general, you want to avoid browser toolbars at all costs. Toolbars often come packaged with other software and hijack the crap out of your browser, so any time you see a checkbox with the words “Ask Toolbar” next to it, do whatever it takes to keep that thing off your system.

Application to Avoid: Windows Media Player Indictment: Lack of format support, crappy interface Superior Alternative(s): VLC, KMPlayer, Media Player Classic Notes: Windows Media Player isn’t all bad, but rarely is it preferable over simpler video players like VLC and KMPlayer.

Application to Avoid: iTunes Indictment: Slower than a turtle with dumbbells on its feet, comes with the annoying Apple Software Update and the unnecessary QuickTime Superior Alternative(s): Winamp, Foobar2000, MediaMonkey and tons of others Notes: If you have to sync an iOS device, you might be stuck with iTunes. However, you can always use iTunes solely for syncing and use something different for actually listening to your music, which will help you escape iTunes’ bloat for most of the day.

Application to Avoid: QuickTime Indictment: Unnecessary, comes with the annoying Apple Software Update Superior Alternative(s): VLC, KMPlayer, Media Player Classic Notes: QuickTime isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be, and if you use iTunes, you have to have it on your system. If you’re not going to use iTunes, though, you can play QuickTime videos in VLC without a problem. VLC and Media Player Classic even come with a browser plugin on the off chance you come across a QuickTime-only format video embedded in a web page.


Application to Avoid: WinZip and WinRAR Indictment: Pricey, Unnecessary Superior Alternative(s): 7-Zip, among others Notes: WinZip is completely unnecessary on modern Windows machines, since it has ZIP support built-in. On the rare occasion ZIP isn’t good enough, RARs provide great compression, but WinRAR is shareware, and RAR isn’t that much better than 7-Zip’s 7z format.

Application to Avoid: Nero Burning ROM, Roxio Creator, and other bloated CD/DVD burners Indictment: Pricey, bloated Superior Alternative(s): ImgBurn Notes: Suites like Nero and Roxio are certainly more advanced than their freeware counterparts, but the majority of users will never need their more advanced features–especially considering their cost (both in dollars and in bloat). Plus, between smartphones and thumb drives, how often do you burn optical media, anyway?

Application to Avoid: Paint Indictment: Is it still 1995? Superior Alternative(s): Paint.NET, GIMP Notes: If you ever have to do any basic image editing, you’ve probably realised Microsoft Paint is an incredibly primitive (almost childish) program. Paint.NET will serve your basic image editing needs, while GIMP provides more advanced features.

Application to Avoid: AIM, Windows Live Messenger Indictment: Only support one network at a time, filled with ads Superior Alternative(s): Pidgin, Miranda, Trillian, Digsby Notes: We can’t recommend Pidgin enough, though if you don’t like it, Trillian and Digsby are also feature-filled, multi-protocol options. However, both contain either ads or bundled crapware, which is the exact problem we’re trying to solve today. They’re certainly better than AIM and Live Messenger, just be aware they’re still dangerously close to being adware and crapware.

Application to Avoid: Windows Picture Viewer Indictment: Doesn’t support every format, very basic Superior Alternative(s): IrfanView, XnView Notes: Windows Picture Viewer is OK, but if you want support for other formats and extra features like keyboard shortcuts, IrfanView is a great replacement.

Application to Avoid: Skype Indictment: Difficult to quit, runs at startup, horrible interface Superior Alternative(s): Google Video Chat Notes: This one’s a little harder to escape, since everyone else you know probably uses Skype. But it’s such a pain in the butt, it’s worth trying to get all your friends to convert, since Skype probably annoys them just as much as it does you.


Application to Avoid: Microsoft Office Indictment: Pricey, painfully slow, difficult to use Superior Alternative(s): LibreOffice, Google Docs Notes: Office suites have never been the poster children for blinding speed, but Microsoft Office is one of the worse offenders. It feels like you stare at that splash screen for hours before you actually get to start working. If you don’t absolutely need Microsoft Office, LibreOffice is a great, free replacement that can handle most users’ needs, though Google Docs will also get the job done for more adventurous users.

Application to Avoid: Notepad Indictment: Severely lacking in features Superior Alternative(s): Notepad++, Notepad2 Notes: It’s fine for one-off text edits, but if you ever spend any time in text editors, you know how painfully basic Windows’ Notepad is. Notepad++ is is packed with useful features that make it stand out over Notepad. If you really want to complete the transition away from Notepad, a few system tweaks can make sure you never have to deal with it again.

Application to Avoid: Windows Command Prompt Indictment: Annoying interface quirks, lacks real power Superior Alternative(s): Cygwin + Console2, PowerShell Notes: If you rarely visit the command prompt, Windows’ built-in offering is probably fine. But if you’re a heavy command line user, you’ll want something a bit more advanced. Users familiar with Windows commands will love PowerShell, which is bundled with Windows 7, while UNIX veterans will love the Cygwin shell coupled with a better terminal program like Console2.

It’s hardly an exhaustive list, but these are certainly the most annoying pieces of crapware you’ll find on a given machine. Got another program that we didn’t mention? Tell us about it (and its superior alternative) in the comments.


  • I agree with almost everything except the Microsoft Office. Office 2010 seems to start almost instantly, and no freeware so far that I have looked at seems to be able to match its features/the ribbon, which I happen to like.

  • I also agree on most of it, but I still use notepad, it’s quick, pre-setup and it suits my purpose for most txt jobs, anything more complex I use Libre, or for formatted viewing only, Note Pad is adequate! Plus I use picassa, don’t know why you left it off the list, it’s fast and works very well! #]

  • I prefer Windows Media Player over VLC for basic video playback. It’s a lot quicker and has a clean a simple interface. If I run into videos that are a little quirky with their codecs or are just a strange format I’ll got back to VLC, but it’s much slower than WMP.

  • If it was 2005 I’d agree with most of this but since it’s now 2011, many of these apps have been improved, RAM is cheaper than ever and even an i3 can out perform or match some high end 2005 era CPUs – so many of them are very bearable now or generally required depending on circumstances/environment.

    There are a few I’ll agree with whole heartily though. Anti-virus (though MSE is better at scrubbing than preventing), browser toolbars (gah! okay people, you don’t need 18 toolbars!!), paint (unless it’s a quick copy/paste there’s no need to use – at all) and notepad (notepad++ how I adore thee).

    Good round up overall but anyone running an i7, 8+GB RAM and fast access drive (SSD, Hybrid, 10k rpm) these days really aren’t going to notice any delay in loading times or performance. *hugs keyboard*

  • Application to Avoid: Internet Explorer
    Indictment: Always stuck in the past

    sorry lifehacker, you just lost all cred based on this comment – just cause something sucks in the past doesnt mean that it will in the future. IE 8, 9 and 10 are really good, and faster then Chrome and a FF!

    • Stuck in the past, means IE doesn’t bring out new features, until Chrome and FF have had them for months or years.

      On the same laptop at home, my wife uses IE8 and I use Chrome. I can click one of her links in IE, give up, get bored, then copy the link to Chrome and have it start instantly…..

    • Actually IE 8 sucks, though not as bad as 6 and 7. It was worse than the alternatives at it’s release and is definitely worse than the alternatives available at this time.

      IE 9 I can live with, it did improve and at this stage is a valid browser for people who just want to surf the net and don’t know much.

      I might be a little bias however as I work with the web and I see firsthand where IE’s pitfalls are at least in terms of a development point of this.

  • That the image used for Office is the 2007 splashscreen tells us all we need to know about that particular recommendation. Unfortunately, it makes me wonder about the rest as well. (Even though I do agree with a few of them. Yeah, I know.)

  • I mainly use itunes becauseIi have an iphone, And its actually blazing fast on my (new) windows pc, on my old pc (vista/quadcore) it would take up to 15-20 seconds to launch now it launches in 1 second.
    I use wmp to stream stuff to my ps3 though, vlc for everything else.
    I’m using Norton 360 only because it came free with my new pc, but I won’t be renewing it in a few years when it expires I’ll just go back to MSE. Also the one thing i dislike about norton is I can’t schedule scans (or atleast I haven’t figured out how..)

  • Camera / Printer / Handycam Bloatware. How can it possibly take 300MB+ to be able to use my HP MFP?

    When I go to help out a relative with PC problems, I feel sorry when I see 3 copies of different Photo “elements-style” editing software, various Kodak online photo printing, eight different types of CD burning tools, Video editors, DVD makers. etc etc.

  • An iTunes (and now bloated Winamp) replacement that is quickly gaining momentum is MusicBee.

    Highly intuitive and customisable, and most times you have a “I wish I could…” moment you’ll find the feature you want is already implemented. If it isn’t, the developer and community support is great.

  • Really, is Flash that bad as to need a blocker?

    I’ve always found Flash on windows to be smooth as butter. The only exception is on netbooks. On a Mac, however, Flash is freaking horrible.

    I get the feeling a lot of flash hate comes from it being the current ‘thing to hate’.

    The only Flash that’s ever bothered me is ads. And newsflash, ads still exist when you block Flash. They come up as images, animated gifs, or more commonly now, javascript/html5. I use an adblocker and never have troubles.

  • Hey, you say to avoid Flash but then use it throughout your websites.

    Office is great, especially since 2007 meant spreadsheets could have over 1m rows!

    And you may want to revisit IE – I know it’s easy to bash Microsoft, but you don’t seem to keep track of the browser market. Yes I also use Firefox, but IE is fine 95% of the time.

  • “If you have to sync an iOS device, you might be stuck with iTunes. However, you can always use iTunes solely for syncing and use something different for actually listening to your music, which will help you escape iTunes’ bloat for most of the day.”

    Just letting you know Winamp allows you to sync ipods and iphones just as easily as itunes now.

    It also allows you to copy music from multiple librarys without losing your previous data.

  • I happen to have found other solutions to most of the recommendations there, but not a bad list of recommendations.

    MS Office 2007 kicked arse for speed, and 2010 is even faster. Free alternative? Office Live! Unlike GDocs, 100% compatible with Office and (arguably) a more capable web application.

  • I agree in most cases, but still use some of them. Recently I’d switched from Adobe to PDF-XChange Viewer as the most stable and fully functional viewer amongst others for pdfs. Most of their features are free, even new excellent OCR (what pdf-viewer does have the same free feature?). Pdf-XChange Viewer has very small size, fast and non include annoying ads PRO-version is similar to Adobe Acrobat but no so expensive. Everyone can try all PRO-features without limited time (but with demo-label – be careful when you save pdf) and decide pay-or not pay for them.

  • I agree ! Office is the only software package that works beside other MS products that are somewhat fault/crappy including OS ! MS Os’s-es are like Swiss Cheese ! One doesn’t need a virus to seriously cripple it ! Tech today offers great virtualization protection but stupid MS doesn’t want to integrate it into win to have low level native installation untouchable and everything build up on it in secure user space regardles what is to install and use ! Forget about build in virtualization tech in win 8 as is crap ! I’m talking about isolated virtualized of every corner of windows so user doesnt have problems with all sort of troubles ! iCore Virtual Account Sandboxie BufferZone prove it as some others but integration in windows in larger scale is absolute necessary therefore MS should consider to adopt or develop his own permanent solution ! Why someone should ask as we have solution present as to day ? The answer is that virtualizing os in os to have virtual security for browsing internet is completely non sense as is 1000% system overkill as chromium based browsers and some others and one needs some sort of home supercomputer to run it without drawbacks ! Beside that fact is that MS OS is in lager scale over sized and as such in same category of comparable OS-ses to slow regardless on what hardware it runs ! MS has nothing learned from the past and security that concerns OS isn’t used nor implemented ! With third party security installed MS looses a bit of performance that is present without it ! And we have slow buggy faulty everything but performance app and OS-ses and with addition to other problems this one can in most of cases become a nightmare for common user ! One should ask why MS won’t secure win in such strong manor ? Only MS knows !!! I use OPERA virtualized browser but still get infection as browser is window to the outside digital world and as such huge security hole for all os-ses as is tamper os all ower the place ! But no one is to secure browser and ms to secure os !!!

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