I'm currently testing the fourth Windows laptop in my quest to find a replacement for the iPad Pro. After trialling a Lenovo MIIX 510, Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and now a HP Spectre, I'm remembering one of things that really annoyed me about Windows computers. All the extra software that I didn't ask for.
It's something I've commented on briefly in my previous reviews. For example, shipping a computer with security software that is either time-bombed or requires some kind of registration process is pointless, particularly as Windows Defender does a decent job of protecting your computer.
I understand there's a competition argument to be made here but I'm not convinced the approach taken by OEMs who partner with security software vendors are doing the best thing by their customers.
Another thing I've found is the number of games that are either pre-installed or have icons in the Start menu taking me to the Windows Store. While that might be okay for Windows 10 Home, it's bloody annoying when it comes to Windows 10 Pro - which is meant to be for professionals.
Take a look at the image of the Start menu at the top of this article. The only apps I've added to the Tiles are the four small Microsoft Office apps. All the other stuff was there after starting a fresh machine for the first time.
If I want a game, I'll go and get it myself. And I know I could uninstall the apps, delete the icons and all that, but it's a new computer. Why should I have to remove a bunch of crap to make it "clean"? That's an awful way to deliver a great out-of-the-box experience to new customers.
Just this weekend, it was revealed that a bunch of HP notebooks from the EliteBook, ProBook, Elite x2 and ZBook series were released with a keystroke logger. Here's what the security advisory from modzero reports:
Conexant's MicTray64.exe is installed with the Conexant audio driver package and registered as a Microsoft Scheduled Task to run after each user login. The program monitors all keystrokes made by the user to capture and react to functions such as microphone mute/unmute keys/hotkeys.
And HP isn't the first company this has happened to.
When I buy a computer I expect it to ship in a safe state. And if HP can't (won't?) test systems for keyloggers and other malicious software, how can most users be expected to?
Every piece of extra software installed on a computer expands its threat surface. It's time for OEMs to only ship systems with the necessary software and make everything else optional to simplify system maintenance and reduce the risk of a malicious attack.
Here's my expectation. When I buy a new computer I want it ship with the operating system. I want it to boot quickly and for the product registration process to be quick. I don't want to have to register multiple applications or be nagged to pay extra for a time-bombed piece of trial software that was pre-installed.
Is that too much to ask?