Computer stuff my dad wants to know

Things we normally take for granted but he’s a little late to the party and has an 85 year old’s perspective…

To start, he got a new laptop and wanted to see what programs were included. He pulled up a view that showed the Date Installed which varied from July to September. His first thought was that somebody must have used this computer before because they all should have the date that the computer was made.

So how are factory program installs done? I wouldn’t think that each computer is actually started up and the normal lengthy install process performed.

I think they usually set up one system with the OS, all the programs, drivers etc. they want to ship on their computers. Than they make an exact copy of that HD and put it on all the systems. At least, 15 years ago that’s how a place I worked did it.

So I’m guessing the dates your seeing are when the software was installed on that ur-system, and those dates are preserved when the HD is copied onto the daughter machines.

Normally the baseline software will be part of an “image” which is copied onto each drive. However that image is often modified.

Dramatic oversimplification:
dell model xyz1000

Base software loadout completed
a few months later a buggy driver is replaced <newer date stamp>
a month after that a huge batch of windows updates come out. <applied, many new date stamps appear>

Contract dispute between software developer for “handy photo app” and dell. Dell replaces “handy photo” with “uber photo 1000” <new date stamp>

yep, each model has a “system image” which they write to the hard drive.

Tell your father that when programs are copied, the date is usually also copied. So if Microsoft creates a program on June 1st and then the computer is built on September 1st, the program is copied to the new computer on September 1st but it’ll still show up as created on June 1st.

And of course the first thing he has to do is uninstall Norton, Mcafee and any other stuff that is just taking up space and slowing him down. He can then install one of the excellent free antivirus programs, followed by a lengthy update for all installed programs he actually wants to keep.

It can work that way, but not always. It really depends on how the image was put on the machine.

CrapCleaner is great for this. (But I think they euphanized the name to CCleaner.)

They have a “gold image” or copy of the way the factory-shipped drive should be. Then they probably have some huge disk controller device that will copy (write) that image to a batch of hard disks at once before they are put into the laptop.

As mentioned above, there may be revisions to the master image over time. Not sure about Dell, but many images go through some sort of installation process (sysprep or something proprietary) where on first boot they obtain the necessary information to carry on - time zone, machine name, main user password, etc.

Much of the bloatware/crapware is there because the manufacturers are paid by the software makers - “maybe if we give them a free 180 trial of our antivirus software, they’ll buy it when the license expires.”

Computer retailers make a lot of money by loading up new computers full of trial versions of programs that scream at you all the time to upgrade to the professional version or, if they are ‘security’ products, that your computer is in grave danger from hackers.

When I buy a new computer, the first thing I do is wipe it clean and reinstall the operating system and then put my own choice of opensource software on it.