P.T. Barnum famously quipped that there’s another sucker born every minute.
Lenovo has been caught doing some shady things before, from installing the Superfish malware, to the infamous BIOS that took a Windows “security feature” and used it to keep reinstalling crapware no matter how many times the user deleted it, to blocking the installation of GNU/Linux operating systems in 2016, forcing me to take my case to the Attorney General of Illinois. Lisa Madigan, at the time.
To my surprise, her office opened an antitrust investigation and as soon as Lenovo and Microsoft heard the gears turning, they threw the transmission into full reverse and backtracked with a BIOS repair. But Microsoft and Lenovo are like the Shadows and their Dark Servants in Babylon 5. Every time they were defeated, they’d scatter their remaining forces, sleep for a while, and come up with a new strategy to slowly lick their wounds and then try to start problems all over again.
For Lenovo’s part, even though they’ve been smacked down by court proceedings and bad publicity, they have no idea when to stop trying to chase down a user for a quick buck after they’ve already bought an expensive computer. And Microsoft is obviously happy with what any decent company would consider slander, because Lenovo is selling “snake oil” subscriptions that essentially cost $30 a year to empty your recycle bin.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot of their “Lenovo Vantage” program.
17 issues! Holy crap! And they recommend paying them $30 a year!
But when you look into what the issues could conceivably be, none of them are very serious, and most of them are covered by a freeware program built-in to Windows itself for decades now, called cleanmgr. You can start it by typing cleanmgr into your start menu search bar, hitting enter, selecting “clean up system files”, checking everything (except maybe media thumbnails), and hitting okay. In fact, doing this every once in a while is really the only kind of “junk cleanup” that Windows is likely to need, aside from looking into removing applications you don’t use.
But that’s not where the sales pitch from Lenovo Vantage ends.
They want you to buy antivirus programs from McAfee, and a VPN from SurfEasy. To start out with, SurfEasy is based in a Five Eyes country (Canada), it only works with an official client that has no Linux version, and it’s more expensive than NordVPN even though there are less servers.
Just listen to what users have to say about SurfEasy.
And there are also sites that compare antivirus performance and protection, and McAfee has not scored among the top in performance or protection in a while now, though it is pretty expensive. It’s likely to be worse than BitDefender Free, which is actually free and not spammy, but McAfee paid Lenovo to hawk their stuff, so that’s all that matters, right?
Freeware antivirus companies have a vested interest in keeping your computer clean, although many of them try to regularly pitch their paid products (BitDefender doesn’t seem to annoy you). That is, if Windows gets so snowed under with malware that you can’t install an antivirus program, which is a situation that still routinely happens with Microsoft Pretender (even though it puts up fake security screens to make you afraid to use products that compete with Microsoft), you may not be able to install an antivirus product and then pay for it, even if you wanted to.
When you read about your currently installed Antivirus, Lenovo Vantage simply scrapes Windows for the name of what you currently use and then says “offers you basic protection”, and then goes into some sales pitch for McAfee, which costs $50 for your first year, and then $130 annually from there on. Yikes! That’s more than a license for Windows 10 Professional OEM, I think, each and every year. For some dodgy antivirus program that doesn’t even score well for what it does!
To make the friction of switching higher, Lenovo still includes a trial copy of McAfee as some of the shovelware on a new PC. This fat piece of junk takes up 2 GB of your SSD and should be uninstalled immediately.
Daniel Aleksanderson wrote a blog post trying to figure out what Lenovo WiFi Security by Coronet does, but was unable to get anywhere except some marketing blurbs and the impression that it was a shady Israeli company and that the product itself may be spyware-like.
Worse, it didn’t seem to actually detect insecure WiFi networks like it says it does when he put it to the test.
It’s shameful to see major OEMs doing this.
In my opinion, although I doubt it meets the legal definition of fraud, I consider it to be bordering on fraud.
Lenovo Vantage is obviously set up to trick elderly people and novice computer users into paying for things that aren’t really all that valuable and which they don’t need.
For that matter, you don’t even know what you’re paying for because Vantage won’t tell you exactly what the “issues” are until you’ve paid for at least a year. LOL! Fat chance.
Microsoft, for its part, turns a blind eye to all of this garbage that their OEM partners try to pull on people, because Windows isn’t free. It’s not even cheap. It adds at least $50-80 to each PC, and the OEM has to recover that somewhere. If they can get a conversion for McAfee or for Microsoft Office, or just extract $30 a year for some completely unnecessary “optimization software”, they can claw a lot of that back. Customers hate it, but it goes right on happening.
In fact, on systems they sent out with more storage, hard disks, they were infamous for sometimes putting in three or four dozen pieces of crap that the user had to go in and remove. In many cases, doubling the time that it took Windows to boot until the user rooted through the Uninstall menu blowing it away.