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Do yourself a favor – check out Microsoft Signature Edition PCs

In the market for a new computer? Do yourself a favor–check out Microsoft Signature Edition PCs at the Microsoft Store.

 It’s time we discussed The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly about buying a new PC.

The Good is of course getting that new machine out of the box and up and running. Who doesn’t like new stuff? Especially a new computer–so fast, so clean, so shiny!

The Bad isn’t even all that bad: Knowing how much work you have ahead of you to get all of your favorite programs and extensions installed, and getting the settings just the way you like them. But even that’s okay; if you know what you like, it’s the price you pay for tricking out your new custom ride.

So you look at your shiny, new computer and you think, “This time I’m going to be organized and efficient! This is my chance to turn over a new leaf! This is going to be a clean machine!”

Oh, you. You’re adorable.

Because that is the moment when we encounter The Ugly of buying a new PC: bloatware.

First you watch your shiny new machine take several ice ages to boot, your excitement slowly waning.

But no, you tell yourself. That’s okay; new computers always take a minute to boot. It’ll be fine…

Then, once it finally does start up, you get to sift through a forest of icons you don’t recognize, a cascade of useless, ridiculous toolbars, invitations to try obscure gaming portals, and dubious anti-virus software offers that are seemingly impossible to get rid of completely.

Eventually you give up and decide you can live with the most stubborn of them, frustrated and disillusioned with your not-so-shiny-anymore, only newish PC.

And all this before you’ve even had a chance to accidentally click the “Yes” box on the McAfee pop-up on the latest Adobe update.

At this point, your old computer starts to look like it wasn’t so bad after all. Even that rusted-out old beater of a laptop might be preferable to this thing, chugging along at 20 miles an hour in the breakdown lane of the internet freeway–with you unable to even see the road due to all the advertisements slapped across the windshield.


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Why does it have to be this way?

Well, the short answer is it doesn’t. If you’re in the PC ecosphere and you want a clean machine without all the nonsense like random toolbars, obscure game portals and fake anti-virus software, all you have to do is shop for your new computer at the Microsoft store, either their brick-and-mortar locations or online, and ask for one of their Signature PCs.

The Signature Series is made up of machines that Microsoft sells directly to the customer, stripped of added bloatware, free from dangerous viruses, and ready to rock from the moment they’re first booted up. And that clean beginning to life with a new computer is a hit with customers and critics alike.

First of all they boot up very, very quickly. In benchmark tests, Signature Edition PCs booted 40 percent faster than PCs preloaded with bloatware. Resume was over 50 percent faster.

And customers notice the difference. The online store’s website is littered with testimonials.

“Everything about it is extremely fast,” said one man who works with film and other media for a living. “I was able to take it out of the box, plug it into the television, and be on Hulu in less than four minutes.”

Many customers point to this out-of-box experience. Whereas usually with a new computer there is some not-inconsiderable lag time getting everything configured, for Signature customers, that was time spent actually using their new machines. Instead of fighting with “Add/remove programs” and its apparent inability to do 50 percent of its advertised job, you can actually use the computer for whatever it is you bought it for in the first place, for example prepare for the Microsoft Certification Exam.

“I feel like if we had the Microsoft Signature Series PC I wouldn’t have to pester my IT husband so much and he could play with the kids more,” said one busy mom.

And  remember, some of that bloatware is much more than a mere annoyance. There is evidence that some of this sketchy software opens up gaping security holes by design–and that the companies selling you the machines that come with this malware pre-installed have been less than forthcoming about the dangers.

Recently Lenovo came under fire for selling computers that came installed with a particularly odious adware program called Superfish. This program installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate that can intercept encrypted traffic for every website a user visits. So, the result is that even though it looks like you are visiting a supposedly secure HTTPS website, if you have Superfish running on your computer, the site certificate is signed and controlled by Superfish. The program mimics the site’s actual website certificate, allowing someone with access to the encryption key to insert themselves between your PC and any website you are trying to access.

But you don’t have to worry about any of this with Microsoft’s Signature Edition, because security is also covered. There is guaranteed to be zero bloatware and zero malware hiding on any PC you purchase from them, only drivers and programs that you actually need.

For the record, this isn’t some love letter to Microsoft. The truth is there just isn’t any other service like this out there. Until now, it was just accepted as a given that if you bought a new computer, you were simply going to have to put up with these unwanted programs as part of the deal. And as adware, malware and other bloatware gets more and more sophisticated, even advanced users are having trouble getting them fully wiped from machines on which they come stealthily pre-installed.

But as frustration has grown among PC users with the ubiquity and persistence of bloatware programs pre-loaded onto new computers, a market for the kind of service Microsoft Signature Edition offers has been growing steadily.

Keep in mind too that even if you don’t buy a Signature Edition computer, Microsoft will take a PC you’ve bought elsewhere and for $99 bucks remove all traces of bloat, effectively making it a Signature Edition PC.

Customers weren’t the only ones impressed with the Signature Series. Representatives from the mercurial and often snippy tech press were also wowed.

Whatever joy you might feel on unboxing a new PC evaporates quickly if you have to spend hours setting it up,” said a reviewer at ZDNet. “The out-of-box experience with a Signature PC is strikingly better.

And PC World chimed in: “Microsoft’s Signature Edition laptops deliver the ‘clean PC’ experience you really want.

The truth is, with a computer you buy from a manufacturer, there’s no telling which or what kind of extraneous programs will come along with it. There are all kinds of things out there, some nastier than others. But with Signature, even “PC dads” who have some understanding of computers but do not consider themselves experts were impressed with the way the machines performed out of the box.

I feel like the Signature PC was a lot cleaner, nicer experience,” said one man who said he was the designated PC handyman for his family.

I’m used to seeing a lot of icons that you have to try to delete,” said another. “I think the [Signature Edition] machine ran faster, probably because there wasn’t a lot of crap on there. Businesses might like this actually, because it gives them a much cleaner install.

And sure, it might be easy to impress weekend warriors–the guys who get called over to the next cubicle to help Steve from accounting figure out how to clear his browser cache before his wife gets home from vacation–but some pretty serious advanced users were also not unimpressed.

I’m a game developer, a web developer, a very technical person,” said one young man. “I thought the Microsoft Signature PC was much cleaner than any PC I’d seen out of the box before. I would definitely recommend it to family and friends.

In fact, a full 88 percent of users said they would recommend Signature PCs, and buy them again themselves.

Keep in mind too, this isn’t just a new marketing angle for Microsoft-built computers. Their Surface line is available for purchase as a Signature Series model, sure. But Microsoft Signature Edition includes PCs from all kinds of manufacturers. PC brands including Dell, Acer, Asus, Toshiba and HP are available as Signature PCs, guaranteed free of extra bloat.

So whether you’re buying yourself a shiny new gaming PC, or you’re in the market for a new “email machine” for your crazy Aunt Doris, Microsoft Signature Edition is going to make your life a lot easier.

The fewer return trips you have to make to Aunt Doris’ to help her figure out which button takes her to the interwebz are, the better, right?

Heck, with Microsoft’s Signature Edition PCs, Aunt Doris might not need you at all anymore.



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