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What is Bloatware?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By everetra — On Jun 08, 2011

@allenJo - Bloatware removal also involves uninstalling malware in my opinion. All that junk you have in your Internet browser, those extra buttons that you agreed to install-get rid of them.

You don’t need any of that stuff on your system and it certainly is bloat in the purest sense of the term, causing your browser to run slowly and hindering your Internet experience.

By allenJo — On Jun 07, 2011

@nony - It may be productive to have this discussion about bloatware compilers, but it still remains a fact that much of the bloat that slows down a computer is not related to programming technology but rather the presence of unwanted programs.

When you buy a new PC there may be lots of little programs-the industry derisively calls them “craplets”-which come pre-installed and serve no useful purpose. The seller of the computer may get a kickback, I don’t know.

In either case you can buy a program called a decrapifier that will go through your system and remove these programs—trialware, etc.—to clean your PC. I used it right after getting my new computer so I could get off to a good start, rather than waiting months later to discover my computer was running slow.

By nony — On Jun 05, 2011

@Daid09 - Unfortunately, what you describe has now become the norm instead of the exception. The software industry responds by saying that computers are faster than they used to be and so they can accommodate the increased bloat. Removing bloatware is not as easy as it used to be, because so many applications follow this model.

You can try uninstalling applications that seem to be dragging down your system, while leaving the leaner applications in place. But bloat in many ways is here to stay.

By David09 — On Jun 03, 2011

I have a different take on what is considered bloatware. Speaking from a programmer’s perspective, bloatware occurs when you use programming technologies that do for the programmer what he or she should be able to do for themselves. For example, some programming languages come prepackaged with thousands of classes that encapsulate common programming algorithms.

In the past programmers would write these algorithms themselves, but these languages, in an attempt to make programming “easier” for the programmer, bundle these classes from the start. So, from a practical design perspective, the programmer has to do less coding, but the compiler builds larger executables because it has to process the libraries in the language in addition to the actual code itself.

You wind up with bigger programs that take longer to load and are slower than comparable older programs that were written without the need for these preloaded modules.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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