It seems a common trend is for many software applications to be bloated. What is software bloat? It generally means software with an increasing number of features that uses more system resources than necessary. Another name for this kind of software is bloatware.
Find a better solution
Image from Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net
Software Bloat Example – Application Foo
Let me give an example. There are two applications, Foo and Bar, that open and view widgets. Application Foo requires 5 programs running in the background all the time that autostart (automatically start), uses a 500 MB of memory and 10 GB of disk space, and takes several seconds to start. Now on the other hand Application Bar has no background programs, pops open in less than a second and takes less than 5 MB of memory and disk space.
If all you need to do is view widgets, application Foo clearly uses more resources than is necessary. Sure it may offer several extra features but you may never use or even know about them. Application Foo also probably takes much longer to install/uninstall. Having a lot of features also tends to clutter the user interface. The screen may be filled with tons of buttons/menus/tabs. In general, Application Foo will basically slow down your computer for no perceived benefit. It may even increase your electric bill slightly if the background programs are inefficiently polling. These effects are amplified if you have multiple programs like Foo.
How To Deal with Software Bloat?
One way to deal with software bloat is too look for lightweight alternative programs. In the above case if you new about Bar you could use it instead of Foo. In some cases there may be no alternative or you might have to try a few applications to decide. It might not be so easy to see how many resources an application is using. If you want to uninstall something later, you run into some of the problems we discussed last time.
The idea of software rotting might seem weird but it is an actual concept. The main way this happens is from installing too many programs over time. This might be done by installing free, trial, or beta software. Another source of installs are program updates. Even if you do not install many programs, most programs will need to install updates.
What is software rot?
Watch out for software rot
So what specifically causes software rot?
Most programs will install fine for the first time but usually they do not remove themselves that well. They usually leave tons of stuff littered on the file system and registry. It can be difficult or impossible to track every thing that is left behind. In some cases the only way to make sure everything is gone may be to “nuke from orbit” or reinstall the operating system and start over. Sometimes a bad uninstall can even cause problems reinstalling. Some programs especially trialware will intentionally leave items behind to prevent you from reusing the program.
The situation is almost like inviting somebody over your house to stay as a guest. When the person leaves your house, he leaves a lot of his stuff behind you are left to clean up. There are a lot of programs like registry cleaners that claim to cleanup your system. They take a long time and there is no guarantee of success. That would be like inviting someone who has never been to your house to restore your house to how it was before.
How should I best handle software rot?
You could also have a backup or use a program that allows you to restore to a point in the past or try/decide changes. This gets messy if you install multiple programs over a period of time and/or can’t decide right away to keep or discard something. Over time a fast computer is slowed down by old software remnants it will never need. As a result some people get in a habit of reinstalling Windows after a period of time.
Image courtesy of stockimage / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.