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It’s called “crapware,” or, in more polite circles, “junkware.” Some varieties are called “bloatware,” but the root definition is always the same: useless, ridiculous, unnecessary and annoying software that somehow gets into your computer.

Where does crapware come from? How does it get into ones computer, and how can it be stopped?

Crapware normally comes from one or all of three different places. The most innocent-looking type comes directly from computer manufacturers who, in apparent attempts to make their computers all things to all people, install mind-numbing arrays of cheaply-acquired, poorly written software programs that are supposed to help people get things done when, in fact, these programs are more likely to slow down and compromise a computer’s security.

Look through the programs list of any new computer from a major manufacturer and you’ll see what I mean. Trial versions of crummy antivirus programs that expire after a short period of time are one example of crapware that can leave unsuspecting computers users in danger. Smart phones and tablet computers are often loaded up with crapware, too.

Manufacturers install crapware on new computers for one reason: money. They are paid by software companies to install their software on new machines, pure and simple. Offering consumers more value for their dollar has nothing to do with it.

The second most common source of crapware is in the form of extra “add-ons” attached to otherwise necessary program updates. Install updates for truly useful programs like Java, Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player and you will come across the option to install useless extras from companies like Google, McAfee, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com.

Some folks think these items are somehow required parts of the update process, but they are not. These optional offers are there for one reason: all these companies have marketing agreements to promote each other’s products, and they get paid to trick people into installing products they never asked for.

Do not install the update “extras;” you don’t need them. They are just adding more crapware to your computer, so make sure you uncheck the little pre-checked box that gives these leeches permission to invade your system. Otherwise, you will someday find yourself staring at your computer screen and saying something like, “Google Chrome? I never installed Google Chrome. Where did that come from?”

The third and most insidious source of crapware is websites that host it, or that display ads leading to it. Ads and/or attractive banners blaring, “Your computer is too slow! Click here to speed it up!” or “Install our stuff and watch free HD video” are common. Other enticements include promises to update drivers, deliver weather alerts, play cool games, fix registry errors, find great deals on the Internet, locate shopping coupons, backup your computer, fix viruses and help browse websites. The problem with this flavor of crapware is that it often behaves like virus infections. This type of crapware can actually slow down and damage your computer, and can be difficult and costly to remove.

Be very cautious when installing anything found on the Internet. Just because a claim sounds good or a website looks legitimate means nothing. Use google.com to look up software and program names to learn more about items you are considering. Play it safe and be happy.