So my sister got a new laptop a week or two ago. I of course have the job of sorting it out, of which I'm only to happy to oblige. In the end she went for a Dell Inspiron 1720.

It has Windows Vista Home Premium on it, which is somewhat annoying as I have to actually work at the machine instead of being able to use Remote Desktop - track pads always make my fingers hurt after a while, luckily I've had a wireless mouse sat unused for about a year here, so what better way to try that out.

This is the first machine pre-loaded with Windows Vista I've got my hands on, my LE1700 came with Windows XP which was promptly replaced with Windows Vista, but typically higher-end machines aimed more at the corporate and health markets don't come with as much bloat installed - this is what I wanted to check out for myself, to see how bad things had got.

This is the machine next to my Motion LE1700 Tablet PC, it is not what I'd call a portable machine.

Motion LE1700 and Dell Inspiron 1720

Anyway, first boot was horrendous. The worst I've come across since the pre-historic Windows XP laptop I sorted out for a friend a few months ago. It took about a minute longer than it should.

Upon login you get greeted with a pile of crap. The Windows Vista Welcome Center opens as I would expect, along with some Dell window, and some update thing from McAfee.

Now the point of the Welcome Center is to put a stop to this, OEMs can put their own links and things in the Welcome Center. It is easy to use, attractively laid out and best of all easy to work out how to get rid of it, after opening the second time it has a check box you can tick to send it away never to bother you again.

Not the Dell application which loaded, it was slow, looked ugly and who knows how to stop it from loading all the time, several reboots later it would still open for no reason, seemingly randomly.

My first job however was to wipe out what I thought was slowing the machine down and screwing up my attempts to connect to a network. The McAfee Security Suite, almost as evil as Norton. That was done quite easily, luckily it wasn't Norton or I'd be trying to do it for about 20 minutes.

The next boot was much better there were no apparent long pauses like before, one screen flowed into the next like it should. The network then all hooked up like it should, I got the Windows Home Server connector software installed and connected properly - once I was finished I backed the whole machine up over the network so I can quickly restore the machine to my factory settings.

As this is my sisters machine I did install some anti-virus software, AVG Free on the box, which is more intrusive than I would like when it is updating but it'll have to do, this box, unlike my others, she'll have admin rights over and who knows what she'll install. I left the firewall and anti-spyware in Windows' hands - frankly they work without screwing everything up like so much 3rd party software.

Google Desktop was also installed on the system, this also went rather quickly, I don't need a replacement for Search, the Windows one works better. I also don't need a replacement for the Sidebar, the Windows one works better.

There were two other things installed which were on my hit list, something called Dell MediaDirect which looked like a cheap knock-off of Windows Media Center. Yes it was very much a cheap knock-off, it was crap.

There were also about a dozen Roxio programs listed in Add/Remove Programs. One of these was evil - it placed an icon on the system tray, which apparently was sharing my media, as well as the usual CD/DVD writing software etc. This was blown off the system.

A few Windows Live programs were installed, Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery. I also removed Works which came with the machine and replaced it with Office. Finally it was done. We have a machine that works.

Oh wait hang on, Dell changed Internet Explorer's title so it says "Provided by Dell", I just had to rip that out of the system. OK done, almost.

There's also a few Dell logos throughout the system I haven't worked out how to remove, there's one in System Properties which is annoying - it's so big it makes the horizontal scroll bar show up, forcing you to make the window bigger or scroll around.

The display also wasn't configured properly, the gamma was set way too high and washed the colours out too much, once that was adjusted in the graphics card options the display looked a lot better.

There are a few applications that were pre-installed that I've allowed to continue to exist, Dell's web cam software, and the weird track pad software which let's you use scroll windows quickly using the track pad.

What really bugs me is the amount of software installed that does things the system already does better.

  • Dell MediaDirect - Inferior knock-off of Windows Media Center.
  • Google Desktop Sidebar - Inferior version of Windows Sidebar.
  • Roxio media sharing stuff - Inferior version of uPnP sharing provided by WMP11.
  • McAfee firewall and anti-spyware. Inferior versions of the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender.

Pack it in. Stop paying OEMs to bundle your junkware with computers, if people want your stuff they'll install it themselves. When you buy a computer it should come with the operating system, and perhaps a few select additions, like Office. It should not come with dozens of programs which slow the machine down and duplicate existing functionality.