Sometimes referred to as elephantware, bloatware is commonly understood to refer to software that takes up a significant amount of space on a hard drive, but is used rarely or not at all by the typical user. Essentially, the concept is that the extra software is taking up space on the hard drive that could be used for more productive applications, causing the drive to be overloaded or bloated with relatively useless files and programs. Generally, bloatware is bundled in with features of software programs that are used regularly, making it somewhat difficult for the average user to remove the extras from the hard drive without impacting the function of the desirable features.
One of the issues of attempting to determine what constitutes software bloat is the fact that these extra features may have no appeal to one sector of the user market, but are very attractive to another sector. Thus, what some consider bloatware is highly regarded and regularly utilized by others. This makes defining bloatware from a consumer prospect somewhat subjective.
In order to find a happy medium, some software manufacturers have chosen to structure applications in a way that allows the end user to not install extra features when first loading the program. All the essential files and protocols required to run the basics of the application are included in a main segment of the installation process. These extras, sometimes referred to as plug-ins, may be circumvented and not installed if the consumer does not see a need for those features. To a degree, this has helped to mollify critics who claim that software manufacturers intentionally load extra features on newer versions of older software when the core features remain the same as before.
The advantage to handling the incidence of bloatware by creating plug-ins is that if the end user determines at a later date that a given extra feature is desirable, he or she simply loads the software disk, calls up the plug-in that is desired and adds it to the files saved on the hard drive. However, it should be noted that the configuration of some software requires that the end user overwrite the entire program in order to add plug-ins from the disk. While this may take a little extra time, many consider this approach to still be preferable to having to load extras in order to enjoy the core functions of the application.