NOT Recommended!

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Sadly some in the IT industry are all brand and no trousers. This page is where I name and shame them...

Some of these manufacturers, retailers and products were once good, some not so good. Some have spread themselves too thick, and some too thin. There follows a list of companies and products I cannot in all good conscience recommend. These opinions are based on first-hand experience (what I have seen whilst working with / fixing hundreds of different systems over the past few years) NOT scientific bench testing so your mileage may vary...

Norton and McAffee icons NORTON and MCAFFEE ANTIVIRUS - Past their sell by dates

Imagine your computer as a nicely fitting pair of slacks. Now imagine Norton antivirus as a great big cake, say a wedding cake, and McAffee as an enormous plate of cream buns... Yum, they certainly look delicious don't they?

There was a time when these were both excellent products but for several years now both companies have been resting on their laurels. Over the years the efficient and lean antivirus products they used to make have metamorphosed into 'value added' bloatware suites leading us to a grand irony which would be quite funny, had you not just spent £35 on a Norton subscription! Namely: these products, which built their reputation killing off annoying virii that were causing massive system instability and slowdowns are now the chief cause of system instability and slowdowns on most peoples computers!

The solution of course is a crisp invogorating salad (Kaspersky AV - commercial), or a light but satisfying minestrone soup (Avast Antivirus - free). I really oughtn't tell you this, as my reputation as a miracle worker is partly due to it, but in many cases you can reduce a systems 'full boot time' * by over 60% by ditching these tubby suites in favour of the lean software listed above.

* full boot time: Microsoft want you to think their products are fast so when starting up, rather than wait til everything is loaded, a Microsoft Windows systems will give you the desktop and mouse pointer as soon as it can and then continue loading all the other crap in the background. Of course while your computer is still doing this it's going to be extremely sluggish and unresponsive i.e. not actually ready yet. The 'full boot time' is the time it takes the sytem to start up, load all the background programs and widgets then settle down and stop making those grinding noises. On systems running Norton and McAffee I have often seen this take over 5 minutes, sometimes significantly longer. By simply replacing these apps you can often get it down to nearer 2 minutes, sometimes less.

PC World icon PCWORLD - Okay so if there's an emergency at least it's there...

But OMG is it ever expensive, and in a sneaky way too! Their desktops and laptops are actually quite competetively priced for a retail outlet but that ain't where the cream's at, oh no. For example: "Here, have a free Lexmark printer" - of course once you've bought a set of cartridges off us you could have afforded a printer that's actually cheap to run instead but nevermind! "You want an 10 meter Ethernet cable with that? Here you go, that'll be £34.99" - lucky for us no-one told you about where they sell the same thing for £2.78!)

Image showing PC world's website charging over 10 times more than for a 10 meter Ethernet cable
High street robbery - VS - Jan 2008

Adobe logo ADOBE READER - You were so cute when you were little!

Adobe Acrobat Reader 2 would fit on a single floppy disk. Acrobat Reader 4 was only about 5Mb. Go to Control Panel \ Add Remove Programs right now and see how big YOUR current copy of Acrobat Reader 8 is... In fact - don't, I'll spare you the trouble, it's nearly 100 bloody megabytes! It takes an age to open fully (a clear minute on some systems I have encountered!). This is DESPITE the 'speed launcher' they built in to make it appear as if it was loading quickly when actually it was just loading at startup and hiding itself til you opened a PDF, hogging your memory and slowing down your whole boot process. Sadly the only concesion to brevity in the latest version is dropping the 'Acrobat' to make it simply 'Adobe Reader'. Well done them!

So why is Adobe Reader so large now? Frankly who the hell cares when there's free alternative that takes all of 2 minutes to download and install and loads PDF files from a cold start in a couple of seconds. It's called Foxit and you can find a download link here on my recommended software page.

HP logo ALL Bundled Printer Software (but particularly HP!)

Q: Why does a printer take half an hour to install these days?
A: It doesn't.
The printer itself takes about a minute to install; what takes 29 minutes is the several hundred megabytes of crappy photo / library / manager / editor / online publisher software that comes bundled along with it on the CD. For a start - Windows can already get the photos off your digital camera and display them without this kind of software; that's built in these days! Secondly - if you do yearn for an all in one photo library / manager / editor / online publisher thingy then download Google's Picassa - it's small, fast, beautiful and fully functioned. What nobody needs is the kind of software you get bundled with HP printers these days i.e. something LIKE picassa (minus the speed and the beautiful interface) weighing in at a lewd and unjustifiably portly 350 Megabytes! I don't care if it can print Christmas cards! I really don't, and neither do you if you think about it! Always bear in mind, in the world of computers, even the worst ideas have been realised so many times you have A BEWILDERING CHOICE of specialized software for pretty much any occasion at you fingertips, just google "free card maker" and install something WHEN YOU NEED IT AND NOT BEFORE. That way your computer might make it to Christmas without needing an upgrade!

HP in particular deserve singling out for their love of bundling unbelievably huge swaggering towering swathes of low quality software with both their printers and laptops, something that is not just annoying but also dangerous, as more code = more bugs = larger attack surface = more security problems. Sadly they are by no means the only ones that do this, just the worst. The best thing to do when you get a new printer is go to the manufacturers website and see if you can download just the plain 'print driver' and just install that. HP term this the 'corporate driver' presumably because no company in posession of their faculties would buy a printer if it was going to take half a day to install and then make their computers slower and less stable.

Right, there are more dreadful products and companies out there (Lexmark spring to mind) but I've used my daily bile quotient already so that's all the ranting I can be bothered doing for the time being. Hopefully you're now itching to get at your 'Add/Remove Programs' control panel! Please address all angry comments, rebuttals & legal threats to Nice comments about how much better your computer is running in the comments box below please :-)