If you ever help friends and family with pre-load junk, here's Mark Russinovich's tale of a broken Security Essentials install, and the promise of Microsoft Signature

Posted by Paul Braren on Jul 6 2012 in
  • Productivity
  • Windows
  • MicrosoftSignature

    On July 4th, an 2-3 year old eMachines $200 laptop from Costco was presented to my older son and I to tweak. This is how we celebrate our freedom on this particular holiday, by fighting battles with crapware.

    The number of toolbars preloaded into in IE was hysterical, as were the stories of multiple companies asking for credit card info for buying various antivirus products. Anybody out there like what this junk does to your personal time? This average PC user knew enough to work hard to clean that crud out, as best as he could.

    These out-of-the-box experiences convinced this particular extended-family member to uninstall stuff he didn't want or need (when allowed), and to skip IE entirely. He went with Firefox and the utilities CD from Cox. That CD included McAffee antivirus, without the credit card nagging, and Yahoo for the home page. Typical enough. But really silly, when you think about it. So eMachines gets the prospect of the user entering their credit card, thus obtaining a profit. The saavy user doesn't give in, and eMachines makes whatever pennies they could make off the price they charged Costco. Costco probably ate the loss, making up for it in sales of other products during that same visit. And Cox makes a buck pointing to Yahoo.

    Yes, I believe this $200 laptop was sold at midnight as part of some big holiday event. So the consumer did ok here frankly, surviving at least 2 years on a $200 system that still works. But we all paid for that low price in the end, with those hours of cleanup, and a tarnished view of Windows PCs. The industry and Microsoft all suffer in the end.

    We spent some minutes doing the usual tweaks to stop some stuff from autostarting, and fixes to bookmarks, then quickly resumed enjoyment of the rest of the holiday. Bullet dodged.

    How many times I've had to spend holidays diving far deep into installer routines, or even hacking installer MSI files with CorFlags, as punishment for pushing the family to 64 bit computing a bit too soon, at a time that 32 bit installers still sniffed out (and failed) to install on Vista x64. Ah, those were the days.

    When I came across this story, I just had to share it, a great piece of work. The mental image of the famed author of sysinternals tools himself, Microsoft's Mark Russinovich, also hunkering down on his holidays, somehow makes me feel better. And he used that experience to try to further improve Security Essentials, something we can all appreciate, giving us all hope for Windows 8, which seems to automatically have much of Security Essentials goodness baked right in.

    Enjoy Mark's tale here:
    The Case of My Mom’s Broken Microsoft Security Essentials Installation

    It's this hopeful tale, of Mark doing something about his pain to make a better Microsoft, that gives the rest of us hope.

    See how Microsoft is fighting back now with the Microsoft Signature PC, only at Microsoft stores for now, where you'll pay higher prices for service, but a (hopefully) better out-of-box experience:

    Microsoft Signature
    makes your PC fly.

    Many new PCs come filled with lots of trialware and sample software that slows your computer down—removing all that is a pain, so we do it for you! Every PC the Microsoft Store sells is put on a software diet and performance is tuned to run the best it can. 

    We call this process Microsoft Signature.


    I've been to the first Microsoft Store a couple days after its grand opening in Scottsdale, AZ in October of 2009. It was a very Apple like, pleasant-enough experience, with many laptop displays that actually allowed you to kick the tires. Perhaps soon, it's time for me to check out the new one, (we missed the grand opening last month). More interesting will be what my family thinks of the place, right near the Apple store in the same mall, of course.