Today I decided I wanted to do something (anything!) besides AJAX-wrestling in the underground complex systems lab. So I broke out my netbook and worked on removing all the bloatware that came with it.
I worried that it would take a long time, because Toshiba has a reputation for bundling a lot of useless software. In the end, it wasn't too bad. Here are the steps I followed.
1. Apply pcdecrapifier to remove trial software and demos
PC decrapifier is free for personal use. It was very easy to download and install. It doesn't do anything you couldn't do on your own, but it streamlines the process a little bit.
I used it to get rid of trial versions, demos, and software I just plain didn't want: the Office 2007 trial, Toshiba's online backup, Bejeweled, etc. There were a few programs I wasn't sure if I wanted (e.g. windows live, Adobe AIR), so I kept them for now. Easy enough to purge later, and I'm not hurting for hard drive space at this point.
2. Use "Remove programs" to get rid of holdouts
PCDecrapifier wasn't able to get rid of everything, so I used "Remove Programs" in the windows control panel to get rid of the rest. Norton's demo was especially stubborn. Boo Norton.
3. Turn off startup utilities using msconfig
Acting on a suggestion from this forum, I ran msconfig from the ol' DOS prompt. I took the draconian action of disabling everything under the startup tab. My goal was to get rid of the useless utilities that run automatically on startup. (Most of these show up in the lower-right section of the Windows task bar.) Of course, I wasn't sure what else I would disable, so I immediately restarted the laptop to see.
The operation succeeded nicely. In fact, this is the step that made the single biggest difference for me. It didn't affect my wireless, USB functionality, etc. But it did get rid of a bunch of random Toshiba utilities, like the annoying webcam program on the left side of the screen. Most of these things are not worth the processor, memory, and battery life they cost to keep running. I'm sure I'll never miss them.
On the other hand, some of the utilities are probably worth keeping on, like the hard drive shock protection utility (anybody know if that really works?) and maybe the zooming and scrolling functions for the trackpad. The nice thing is that you can always go back and re-enable the utility scripts one at a time. Turning them off through msconfig doesn't remove them from the system. It just leaves them dormant until you want them.
4. Delete shortcuts from the desktop
This is purely aesthetic. If I want my desktop cluttered up with stuff, I'll put it there myself. Toshiba Assist can stay in the start menu where it belongs.
5. Change appearance settings
Finally, I used the control panel to change the system appearance. I went with "optimize for performance" to disable all the silly graphical things Windows does to make computers obselete faster. I don't need shadows under my cursors, thank you. I did stick with the windows XP look -- windows "classic" was ugly to the point of dysfunctionality.
That's it. Took me about an hour. And the system is noticably snappier and more responsive. Next up: partitioning the hard drive and installing Linux.
Assorted links that were helpful for information-gathering: