New Computer minus the Pre-Installed Crap

I’ll be looking for a new PC soon - - moving my PIII-800 to the kid’s room. I may cobble one together with a new motherboard, processer and RAM and bits from my bit-box, but I’m also considering a pre-built one w/out a monitor.

My question: Do new computers from Dell, HP, Gateway etc still come pre-loaded with tons of cruddy demo software for photo editing, AOL or Earthlink, address labels, etc? And if they do - do they come with original CDs of Windows XP so I can wipe the disk clean, reformat and have a clean Windows install? The last time I bought a new computer, I got a Win 98 disk and was able to reformat and get rid of all the junk Dell installed and go with a clean W98 system. After I got my computer, I noticed that new systems started coming with vendor-specific “recovery” CDs that just re-install all the worthless junk, instead of plain old Windows CDs. Or does Windows XP render all that moot because you can now un-install programs without them leaving bits of themselves around to haunt the computer? (yes, I’m still chugging along on my 5-year old W98 CD, although virtually every part inside my computer has been upgraded).

Do any of the major vendors (or decent minor ones) offer just a no-frills Windows XP install? And do any come with a no-frills, basic Windows XP install disk? I’d think they could now, since you have to register each install, unlike the W98 days.


I think you could ask 'em to send you a computer without pre-installed software, but in my opinion, it’d be better to go to a local computer show/fair, find a good vendor to build you a computer, and purchase the software separately. Good luck, regardless. :)

All the Dell’s I bought recently come with a Windows XP CD that you can use to install the system fresh. I think the Windows Activation on those CDs checks the BIOS or something to make sure its a Dell as opposed to calling home to Microsoft, but that’s irrelevant.

However, its really easy to uninstall the “crap” that comes with the systems anyway. Its probably faster, and then you don’t have to go hunting around for drivers. That’s what I did with the Dell Dimension 2400 that my dad bought a few months ago. It didn’t come with a lot of crap either, but of course, configurations vary.

An even better way to go is to watch sites like for sales on a machine like the Dell 400SC.

It’s Dell’s low range server machine, but it’s a freakin’ phenomenal deal of a desktop machine. They typically go for about $300, if you get them on sale. Add your own RAM, video card, a bigger HD, and OS, and you’re good to go – at a fraction of what a preconfigured system goes for (keep in mind that you can buy full copies of Windows at lots of sites like NewEgg for the OEM price!)

Falcon Northwest sells some good budget machines these days, and they all come with a completely clean install. Nothing on the desktop, nothing in the system tray (well, except the volume control).

As much as I hate Dell for outsourcing wholesale to India, I think there preinstalled ‘junk’ is pretty swell!