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Bloatware Definition

What is bloatware? Bloatware—also sometimes known as crapware—is unwanted or hidden software installed by the manufacturer or vendor on a new computer, device, or application. Bloatware has no inherent benefit for the user, making it different from firmware, which your computer uses to run essential processes. It merely consumes space, slows down your computer, and sucks up battery power.

The commonly accepted bloatware definition is software the manufacturer or application provider installs for their own benefit. For example, some manufacturers want you personally invested in their hardware and software ecosystem. They want you to use their applications, often because they work well with their hardware, and vice versa. 

So a lot of bloatware, including weather applications or calendars, is installed on your device in the hopes that you use it, incorporate it into your daily life or workflow, and come to depend on it. But in reality, they may not provide any real value for you.

Bloatware Meaning: Why Bloatware is a Cybersecurity Threat

As you consider how to remove bloatware, you may wonder why it is a cybersecurity threat. After all, all it does is take up space, right? Not necessarily. Some bloatware also introduces vulnerabilities into your computer that can make it easier to infect with malware, including ransomware or scareware.

Another reason why bloatware removal is essential is that apps you do not need can make your computer run slowly. Keep in mind that your computer being slow does not necessarily introduce a cybersecurity threat, but it can effectively camouflage a legitimate issue. 

For example, a common symptom of malware is a slow computer. But if your computer is always relatively slow because of bloatware, you may not even notice when malware slows your computer even more. This can result in multiple types of malware inside your computer without you even noticing.

Types of Bloatware

The most common kinds of bloatware include trialware, utilities and applications, and adware.

Trialware

Trialware is software you can use for a limited time, such as 30 days, before you are required to pay for it. The vendor hopes the user gets to enjoy the app and start paying for it after the trial expires.

The problem is that after the trial ends, trialware stays on your computer. Not only does this take up space on your hard drive, but it can also consume processing power. This is because the application may continue running in the background while you use your device for other activities.

Utilities and Applications

Some applications that come with a new device can be useful to certain types of users. For example, many devices come with applications that make it easy to monitor stocks, specifically current and historical prices. While this can be helpful for someone involved in stock trading, it may have no value for those who do not invest in the stock market.

Also, some utilities are powerful, potentially useful applications, but they do not fit the needs of many users. For example, if you have a MacBook, when was the last time you used the Grapher app? Or how about the Digital Color Meter app? Granted, it may be hard to find another app that is as good at identifying specific hues as Digital Color Meter, but do you need it on your computer?

Adware

Adware is designed to place ads in front of users, with the intention of enticing them to click. If the user clicks, they are  taken to a product or service page. While the intention is generally innocent, adware can also be abused.

For example, some adware can spy on your browsing behavior, sending information back to attackers who can use it against you. Also, because adware often repeatedly throws banners up on your screen, it can mess up your workflow, becoming a nuisance that hinders productivity.

In addition, although some ads seem innocent, they can be malicious. For instance, when you click on an ad, it can bring you to a fake site that looks legitimate. When you go to the site, it may ask you to enter sensitive data that a hacker can then intercept and use to steal from you.

How To Identity Bloatware: 5 Best Practices

Identifying bloatware is relatively straightforward if you know what to look for or the steps to take. Here are some best practices for pinpointing bloatware on your computer or device:

  1. Look for applications that come pre-installed on your device and are hard to remove.
  2. Use a bloatware cleaning tool to identify and help you remove these applications.
  3. When adware pops up on your screen, check which applications are running to see which one is responsible for the adware.
  4. If you previously performed a search and then something related to that search pops up but your browser is closed, it is likely the result of bloatware tracking your search activity.
  5. If you get a message saying you have to pay to keep using an app you never actually used, that app is most likely bloatware.

Bloatware Prevention

One of the easiest ways to prevent bloatware is to be careful about which applications or features to install during the installation process. For example, when installing an operating system or application, choose only the most necessary apps. 

You may also be able to purchase a device that is free of bloatware. These may be a bit more expensive, but the better performance can be worth the extra investment.

Another option is to inspect all of the software on a device as soon as you take it out of the box. Uninstall anything you either do not recognize or feel is unnecessary.

How To Remove Bloatware

If you need to know how to get rid of bloatware, you have a couple of different options. For example, once you identify it, you can manually uninstall it. This can be done using the standard uninstall process for your device or computer because a lot of bloatware is just like regular software and can be removed in the same manner.

You can also use a bloatware removal application. This can identify and get rid of bloatware for you.

How Can Fortinet Help?

With FortiGuard Antivirus, you can identify and stop malicious or problematic applications, such as adware, that can impact your computer’s performance. Also, FortiGuard Antivirus can detect and stop attacks resulting from bloatware that introduces vulnerabilities into your system. As the malware tries to take advantage of the vulnerability the bloatware caused, FortiGuard Antivirus identifies the attack and stops it.

FAQs

What is bloatware?

Bloatware refers to hidden or unwanted software that comes pre-installed on a new device or computer. 

What are examples of bloatware?

Some common examples of bloatware include utilities and applications, adware, and trialware.

Is bloatware a form of malware?

No, bloatware is not malware, particularly because it is not designed to harm your computer or steal your data. But some bloatware can introduce vulnerabilities that malware or hackers can take advantage of.