How to remove bloatware from Lenovo computers

Lenovo is having a bad week, as news circulates that the PC maker has been preloading its laptops with potentially unwanted software persists even if the you wipe the machine clean and reinstall the operating system. That means that if you've just upgraded to Windows 10, the software is present.

By itself, the preloaded software might just be annoying. However, the mechanism that Lenovo used to achieve this persistent reinstallation opens a security hole that leaves your computer vulnerable to attack. Lenovo has posted a list of affected laptops and a disabler tool. And there's a separate page for Lenovo desktops built between October 2014 and April 2015.

If you own a Lenovo computer, you should check out those pages. (And yes, Lenovo is the company that made its customers targets for hackers last year by installing Superfish adware on its products.)

Lenovo isn't alone in preloading PCs with a lot of software that is of little benefit to consumers. And the company also isn't alone in using persistent installers. Whenever they detect a reinstallation or a new version of Windows, these tools will try to reinstall factory-provided drivers (probably good), system utilities (maybe good), and marketing software (not so good).

After upgrading to Windows 10, if you see a utility launch to reinstall manufacturer-provided programs you don't need, you can cancel it—if that's allowed. However, you might just have to let it proceed and then come back later to remove bloatware or uninstall the programs you don't want.

The procedure to remove bloatware has changed with each new version of the operating system. Here's a crib sheet.

Windows XP

The Control Panel item for this was simply called "Add/Remove Programs."

Windows Vista and 7

The Control Panel was changed to "Programs and Features" within a Control Panel group labeled "Programs."

Windows 8

To get to this Control Panel from the desktop view, you can open the "Charms" bar on the right of the screen, and select "Settings," "Change PC settings," "Control Panel." Or you can switch to the New UI (tile) interface and start typing "Control Panel" or "Programs and Features" until you see it come up in the search list. The Control Panel uninstaller will work only on traditional desktop applications; to remove Windows Store apps, you can right-click or long-press on the app's tile and select "Uninstall" from the pop-up menu.

Windows 10

Microsoft has unified the traditional and New UI programs into one list in the Start menu. You can right-click or long-press on one of the apps and a drop-down menu will open with the app's uninstaller. You can also uninstall from the Settings, System, Apps and Features Control Panel.

If there's an unwanted program you just can't find a way to remove, do a Web search on it with the word "remove" to see whether others have faced and solved the same issue. If not and you want to remove bloatware, it's time to take the manufacturer up on its offer of tech support.

—Dean Gallea

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