Searching the Haight for Signs of Life

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fighting Dell Bloatware

UPDATE: Dell responded... see my response here.

This is my story of helping the fight against Dell bloatware, which began because I read about a fellow citizen's fight, and because I had to call Dell about my battery anyway.

Thank goodness my battery didn't explode (it wasn't made in the appropriate 2-year timeframe), but it did recently just stop working. The battery in my new work Dell Inspiron 9400 quit after weeks of usage, so after procrastinating the inevitable call to India through the holidays, I emailed our salesperson Shawna.


Good Morning Shawna,

The battery on the Inspiron 9400 that my company recently purchased for me no longer holds a charge, so I guess it's defective.

How can I get this addressedd(sic)?



Shawna promptly called me back, apologized for me having to deal with tech support, and transferred me to Josephine in India. Josephine worked her IT magic on my computer, had me install some software so she could take control of my machine, and fiddled with settings. She had me remove the battery a couple of times and turn the computer on and off a couple of times. She seemed competent, and the whole thing took about 50 minutes, what with it being Windows, but it got done.

Then, inspired by the story I read about how I could make Dell get rid of its own bloatware, I requested a CD for my computer that just has Windows, and absolutely no other software. Josephine understood after I explained to her "as if I had bought a box of Windows in the store." She consulted with a supervisor, and then she told me that Customer Care could help me, and she would transfer me. Then, click. Lost in the void. I'm praying this was an accident, or Dell is in even more serious trouble than we know.


Dear Shawna,

I spent 50 minutes with customer support after you and I spoke. They are sending me a new battery.

After we went through all the stuff to get that, I had a second request.

I asked that the rep. to have Dell send me a CD with an OS image that doesn't have anything but Windows on it, since I do not want to have any of the other software that y'all bundle such as McAfee and Works and Desktop searching and whatnot. And I don't want to just delete them because that will foul up my registry.

After she understood what I was talking about, she said she would transfer me to Customer Care to handle that request. At that point, I was disconnected.

What shall I do now? I would just like to get a copy of Windows as if I had bought a box of software from the store, and not have all the rest of the stuff.



From Shawna:

I think there is a way I can do that for you. Give me a little time to find out.


Truth about Dell:

1) Dell's ground people are good. Yay Dell people! You guys are fine, human, but fine. Thanks Shawna and Josephine. Really, these folks are working enmeshed in a huge corporate bureaucracy that can't seem to get a realistic view on customer service. It takes forever and the sales people apologize for it, as they should. The people actually made me happy! I think they were better at their jobs than the people at the DMV.

2) Dell's bureaucracy is dumb. You would need good people like Shawna and Josephine just to keep that behemoth of an organization lurching forward. At 50 minutes to have me on the phone with someone in India fixing a problem, it would have been cheaper and less dreadful to have me fill out an online form, then have Dell sends me a new battery, and then they pick up my old battery with UPS. It's just common sense.

3) Dell's computers are junk. But they replace all the junk that breaks if you buy the warranty thing that makes them cost as much as everyone else's computers. So, this would be only a sort of crappy business model, and their customer service people might even push Dell to the top of the market. But they would need reasonable policies, for their good people, to fix their junky computers.

I blame the management.

I'll let you know if I actually get the clean image CD in the mail, and benefit from the changes alluded to in the Dell blog post link off the CRN post above.

You should join the fight too. Make your hardware provider provide you with a clean image, free of bloatware. And if you think that the OS is bloatware too, make sure you protest paying for that too. I'm tired of living in push-economy. I'll tell you if I need your stuff and I'll find you... just use the right keywords in your website.


At 4:51 PM, Blogger Dell Customer Advocate said...

If you have not already received them, I can easily send you the reinstallation CDs (OS, drivers and Dell applications) for your system. I would just need to get the service tag or order number for your computer (to make sure I send the correct disks) and the address you want them shipped to. I can be reached by email at (please add 'ATTN: Larry' to the subject to ensure it gets to me).

The reason some Dell systems shipped without those CDs is that some customers requested that as an option, and after looking at it a decision was made to give it a try as it would potentially save a lot of money.

Just recently that decision was looked at again, with the data from the last two years. It was decided that not shipping the CDs with those computers caused to many problems for our customers. As of October 2006 the option when ordering a Dell changed to include the CDs (the default), or leave them off the system order for a $10 savings (for those that don't want/need them).

The disks you are asking for are the Dell Windows Reinstallation CD (basically an OEM version of the standard Windows install disk), the Dell Drivers & Utilities CD, and the Dell Applications CD (for reinstalling Dell factory installed applications that don't have their own reinstallation disks). The OS and Drivers CDs are all that are needed to get the computer back up and running (although I highly recommend checking the Dell support site,, for the latest drivers for your system).

To address your specific "Truth[s] about Dell":

1) For the most part, the people I have worked with here at Dell have been above average (some well above) for tech support/customer care reps. The overall competency of my coworkers was actually a pleasant surprise, compared to some previous companies I have worked at, when I started working here.

2) Dell's bureaucracy isn't dumb, its just very large and effected by inertia. Policies are created to handle specific situations, but the computer industry can change rapidly, sometimes much faster than a large organization like Dell. I know from personal experience that when a problem with a policy is identified, steps are taken to correct things as quickly as possible. Sometimes that can be quite rapid, other times it can take a while.

3) Dell hardware is as reliable as any other computer hardware. This is because we use industry standard parts for all of our systems. The reason it appears to be a large number of failures is because of the even larger number of systems sold. My understanding is that about 2% of systems have actual hardware problems (anything from cracked plastics that don't effect performance to entire systems needing to be replaced). I believe Dell sells at least 40 to 50 million of each model of system during its product lifetime (a few months to a couple of years depending on the model). This adds up to a few million computers needing repair, even though that is less than 2% of the actual number of systems shipped.

As for shipping a system without any of the "extra" software, I believe that is being actively looked at as an option. My understanding is that companies pay the computer makers money to include this "extra" software, which is why it is so pervasive. It is basically paid advertising, like full page magazine ads.

If you have any questions about anything I've posted, just let me know. I'll be more than happy to answer them.

Dell Customer Advocate

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Goodsoul said...

Goodsoul on 18, 5:44pm, 2005
In the early eighties, the Age of Automation sprang from the shadows of miniaturization and big iron. Even small benefits relative to cost were readily absorbed by middle corporate America and personal computers proliferated faster than bill-boards in Houston, and it was all mostly marketing hype in both cases. After awhile, everyone had computers and the hype lost its value. People wanted computers to do something useful.

In the 90's, the Age of Abstraction, forth generation languages, programs writing programs, computer-aided you name it engineering, and oddly cryptic computer languages with very short and meaningless names spawned a generation of whiz-kids hacking and spamming. Trojans no longer protected us from viruses and (oops, couldn't resist that bit of crass irony) and the power to elect the leadership of the most powerful country in the world transferred from the people, to Corporate America, which oddly enough, didn't change a thing.

It is now the Age of Encryption, the progeny of some genetic manipulation of Digitalization, Identity Theft aided by Credit Bureaus, free and better Open Source Web Servers and Browsers.

What's next, the Age of Abandon? When we are all in some form or another paying for poor quality because that is what Corporate America mandates, even though we can get something better for less or even free, it ultimately begs the question: would we need Digital Rights Management if there had been or was now honesty permeating monolithic technology companies?


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