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Best Buy $39.95 "Optimization" At Best a Waste of Money 504

DCFC writes "The Consumerist deconstructs the appalling 'optimization service' that Best Buy has been pushing on consumers in recent weeks. The retailer charges 40 bucks to give you a slower PC, and make bizarre claims that it makes it go 200% faster. 'We ran the 3DMark 2003 graphics benchmark on each laptop, comparing optimized and non-optimized settings. For two of our samples, the Gateway and Toshiba, performance changes were negligible. On the Asus laptop, however, optimized tests actually scored about 32% worse than the non-optimized setup. We have been unable to isolate the source of this performance change. On none of the three tested laptops did the optimized settings give a performance boost in our test.'"
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Best Buy $39.95 "Optimization" At Best a Waste of Money

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  • System tuning... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @05:33PM (#30646598) Journal
    Can you remember when system tuning was part of the sysadmin's job? A big part of it? Then you'll remember how often we got it wrong, before we rediscovered the science of minimum change + measurement of results. I guess good system tuners are so rare now that people pounce on anyone who claims the skill, and pushes an old trick of the trade out wrapped as high tech. Fail.
  • To be fair... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @05:35PM (#30646636)

    ...of course this is probably a junk "service," but it's unlikely that the reference PCs were bloated with the sort of crap that they MIGHT be removing in the service.

    Sure, they probably update drivers and "set aside" obvious bloatware, but other than that, they can't do anything -- and your reference PCs are probably least likely to get benefit from that, ahem, service.

  • Re:System tuning... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:01PM (#30646962)
    Deleting the (probably highly fragmented) pagefile.sys, defragging, then creating a static-sized pagefile can do wonders for a system with a low amount of RAM (1GB or less for Vista). That said, I doubt they even do that. They probably just defrag twice and call it done.
  • Re:3dMark??? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:05PM (#30647040) Homepage Journal

    It is possible their "optimization" is Windows update, updated drivers, and maybe removing some built-in bloatware. And that by swapping the video driver for another one, it can negatively affect 3D performance a great deal.

  • by Killer Orca ( 1373645 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:09PM (#30647104)

    (and not from the restore partition, which invariably puts all the crap back on there).

    Pray tell who or what is this store or manufacturer that will include actual Windows install discs on a new PC purchase? That has become a deciding factor for me personally on a future laptop purchase.

  • Re:Friends (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:26PM (#30647330)

    I check out Best Buy once every couple months, I have found a total of 2 good deals in the last 10 years. One was some half price ram a near the beginning of that period and the other was a 1080p 42 inch LCD tv for less than $600 last christmas. Every other time, all their stuff was over priced and underpowered in the rare case where they had something like what I wanted. And most of the time, they didn't have what I was looking for anyway.

  • Re:Friends (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:29PM (#30647382) Homepage Journal
    At least not if they plan on keeping the item.

    There might not be another option if you need something and you need it quick. For example, the motherboard in your computer blows up and all your media was on its hard drive. You're too broke to fix it or buy a new one, but you want to listen to all your music and watch all your movies. You have fifty bucks.

    So you go to Best Buy, buy a hard drive enclosure for 40-50 bucks(keeping all of the packaging intact), transfer your data onto another computer or just sit and wait until you can afford a new MoBo as long as the return grace period is longer than your repair time. Then neatly package up the enclosure and return it to best buy for a full refund* and tell 'em that you accidentally chose the wrong form factor.

    *True story, but YMMV so check the return policy in case it differs between items and to ensure you can get a cash refund instead of store credit. Casually ask an associate if you can return it if you pick the wrong one because you don't really know what you're looking for. Not like those monkeys could help you anyway :>
  • Exciting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:31PM (#30647412)
    We just ordered a PC online for "in store pickup" at Bestbuy.com. It will be interesting to see what they do, seeing as we already have a receipt and it says nothing about any extra services. I want the PC (Core Duo Quad with 8Gigs of ram and a Tb drive) but I almost want them to dick with me as we bought it across state lines and State Attorney Generals (State Attorneys General? States Attorney General?) just LOVE to dick with internet cases.... Still, I do want to walk out with my new box.
  • by yurtinus ( 1590157 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:39PM (#30647526)
    Having worked in a tech shop for a similarly hated company, I will say that there was no agreement preventing techs from removing auto-starts and other crapware from a computer after a customer has purchased it. The conflict of interest wasn't from modifying software from the OEMs-- it was from tying support income to sales income and sales management setting goals for the tech shops.

    Of course, the *reason* the techies don't remove autostarts and really do anything meaningful to these machines isn't so sinister. The staff at these places are generally high-school kids who typically lack the professionalism and experience to solve a lot of these problems (trust me... it's appalling some of the things I worked on that were so over my head). Don't get me wrong- it's great to get the bright kids next door to mow your lawn and fix your computer for $20 extra lunch money. Not so great when they charge professional rates for lackluster service.

    As always, your mileage may vary. My old shop had one extremely competent technician. He hit the top of the (very low) payscale quickly and moved on.
  • Re:Anonymouse Coward (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lost Race ( 681080 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:40PM (#30647544)
    Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
  • Re:Friends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Warhawke ( 1312723 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @06:47PM (#30647628)
    Any pseudo-interest I once had in Best Buy quickly died after some years ago when my parents bought me a new computer from there. At least, it was supposed to be new. When I opened the CD drive, I found a ghost file of the previous owner's journal entry that detailed how she was going to try to burn her journal entries to CD in one last test before she returned it to Best Buy because the CD drive refused to burn. After 40 hours of "negotiating" with Best Buy reps over the fact that they sold me a refurbished OOB computer as a new one, they deemed the most appropriate solution was to knock $50 off the price and cancel the $300 warranty. They are nothing more than a consortium of crooks hellbent on raping the wallets of the ignorant. This surprises me about as much as gravity.
  • Re:Jiffy Lube? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:06PM (#30647864)

    My brother bought an old Dreamcast game from EB for $2. The clerk said, "I have to ask in case you're a mystery shopper: Do you want scratch protection for $5?" So there's a good chance that they'll get dragged to the carpet / fired for not asking the right questions.

    I actually got mystery shopped on my very first day at Pearle Vision. I got good marks on everything except product knowledge.

  • Re:Best Buy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:10PM (#30647944)

    If you adequately explain what you are doing and then you charge a fair price for fair work, then you have no problems with that idea. I've made a fair bit of money doing exactly that, and it makes for a very good client relationship.

    The problem here is that they aren't actually doing any work, they've lost cables, and then they're forcing you to buy the service. That's not acceptable from either a moral or legal standpoint.

  • Re:Friends (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SimonTheSoundMan ( 1012395 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:10PM (#30647948) Homepage

    Best Buy is coming to the UK this year.

  • Re:System tuning... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:01PM (#30648566) Journal

    Well I offer my own version of "system tuning" here at my little shop and folks seem to like it enough that I can just get by on referrals now. Of course I found out what I consider the "true secret" to system tuning. The trick is thus: folks do NOT want faster, they want easier. So for $60 I give them a machine that autoupdates, automatically runs defrag and keeps up with the anti-virus, Auto-updating browser that removes ads automatically (Firefox). Install all the codecs, Flash, Java, etc. Basically I give them a toaster, they flip the switch and go.

    And that I have found is the secret to nirvana for the average Joe or Sally. They don't want to know how it works, or why it does what it does, they just want to flip the switch and go to facebook, Youtube, check their webmail, etc without needing to know jack squat. Hell my GF is always bragging on me to her friends and acts like I'm a computer genius just because I gave her a computer set up this way. She has a limited user account set set up for when her daughter and son in law come to visit, it is set to autoupdate and clean itself while she is at work, all she has to do is log on and enjoy.

    For home users I've been told my little system is as close to a "perfect computer" as they have ever had. Even the older P4 off lease office machines I sell end up with happy smiling customers because of my little trick. We geeks might like tearing into the guts of the OS and tweaking away, but the average Joe don't want to know about anything like that. Unfortunately Worst Buy is probably just fucking up the machine before handing it over. I have dealt with enough PCs that have been "fixed" by the Geek Squad to know I wouldn't wish those clowns on my worst enemy.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:06PM (#30648636)

    I bought a $450 HP laptop for a family member this Christmas, The hardware was pretty nice for the money, but the system image HP put on the machine was appalling.

    First - it's loaded with garbage, support links, trial versions, and a taskbar that has so much junk running, that fills half the width of the display.

    Second - no recovery discs, or operating system installation discs what so ever. You need to "make" the discs from a supplied utility and a utility partition.

    Hours later I had "de-crapified" the machine and burned her system recovery discs. After enduring that process, I can see how someone might want to pay to have this done.

    What is pretty underhanded is that Best Buy appears to have no inventory that would give a buyer the ability to "opt-out" of their offering.

    Apple seems to be the only major computer manufacturer that doesn't load up their systems with garbage, and they give you real OS installation discs, not system recovery discs.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:23PM (#30648892)

    None of the listed features of CCleaner will have any impact on your system. Deleting temporary files, cache, etc from your hard disk has negligible effect on the responsiveness and performance of your system. Most of the features are a duplicate of the disk cleanup wizard already bundled with Windows.

    PC Decrapifier is also a waste of time. It duplicates the Add/Remove Programs feature of Windows.

    I'm always confused as to why so many Windows "power users" or system administrators buy into the anti-* software scam. It doesn't matter how many applications you have installed on your system. They're not impacting performance just by sitting on your hard disk. It matters how many of those applications are operating in the background while you use your computer.

    At best, optimization and system cleanup tools are redundant and useless. More often than not, they're actually dangerous or counter-productive.

    Think of "memory optimizers" that unload shared libraries from memory while they're not in use. Now you have to pull those libraries back from the disk (very slow) when you want to use them again - all because you have an incorrect assumption that more free memory will result in a faster desktop experience.

    Registry cleaners may remove a few orphaned nodes from the registry, but it's not going to have any noticeable impact. A few thousand registry keys here or there is nothing to be concerned about. By using registry cleaners, you actually risk deleting or modifying keys in the registry that are still in use or have some importance. Backup mechanisms don't work either because your registry may change since the last backup and when you restore the backup, those most recent changes could be lost.

    These two examples only touch on the wide variety of system optimization and cleaning crapware available.

    For most users, all you need to do is use the add/remove programs feature to remove any junk you don't need that harms performance (system tuning tools, anti-* software, software which has useless tray icons, etc). If you need to keep software but wish to prevent it from starting with your computer, use Autoruns by Microsoft (formerly Sysinternals).

    Then of course, good system administration skills also play an important factor. Only use the administrator account when you're doing something that absolutely requires administrator privileges (installing software, etc). Keep your operating system and software updated on a frequent basis. Where you think you need to use a 3rd party system tool, try to find an alternative using just Windows itself or free tools released by Microsoft.

    I've had Windows XP running (admittedly a little slow) on an old 400MHz laptop with just 64MB of RAM. That wasn't a fancy setup - just a vanilla XP install with unwanted features/services of Windows disabled. Had I of installed tuning tools, system cleaners, memory optimizers, etc there would have been no chance in hell that the laptop would be usable.

  • Re:System tuning... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by epp_b ( 944299 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:27PM (#30648944)

    If you want to tune it further, try changing your performance settings to "Optimize for best performance" or whatever the equivalent is in Windows 7

    Personally, I find that simply switching off the fisher price UI in XP makes one the biggest differences of all. Not sure what difference it makes in Windows 7, but I imagine it's quite significant, judging by the bloated hog that is Aero Glass.

  • Bleh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mostly Harmless ( 48610 ) <<mike_pete> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:54PM (#30649290) Homepage
    These stories get on my nerves. Best Buy's purpose, as with every business, is to make money. The Geek Squad makes Best Buy money by providing services to people who do not have the same skillset as many here on Slashdot do. (Disclaimer: I worked at the Geek Squad for a few years after leaving a job as a network tech to afford me the opportunity to return to school.) Now, I'm not going to defend Best Buy/Geek Squad (I left for a reason, after all), but people aren't understanding the point of what the Geek Squad does, and what the Optimization service is.

    The concept of the optimization is to prepare a new computer in such a way that someone with little to no computer experience can take their new machine home and not have to worry about certain things. For example:
    • Placing My Computer, My Documents, Internet Explorer and Recycle Bin on the Desktop.
    • Disables the shortcuts to enable StickyKeys, FilterKeys and ToggleKeys.
    • Disables automatic system restart after a system failure (BSOD).
    • Download all current critical Windows updates.
    • Uninstall unwanted trial software.
    • Disable unnecessary startup items.

    Now, these might all seem trivial to you, but believe me when I say that way too many people came to the Geek Squad to complain about those exact things not being done. The target here should not be Best Buy, but the manufacturers who do a customer-unfriendly job of preparing new PCs for sale.

  • Re:Friends (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @12:35AM (#30651218)

    This happened to me with another large chain store. But worse, the hard drive was filled with the files from a business in England (including all their financial files) and I was buying in Canada. How it got here, didn't get wiped clean and was sold as new, was beyond imagination. The store took it back quickly and replaced it, but not before I gathered all the info I could, tracked down the owner in England and let them know what happened. I left it up to them to pursue.

  • Re:Friends (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jridley ( 9305 ) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @07:16AM (#30653312)

    I stopped shopping at Best Buy several years ago when they basically announced that they don't want well informed consumers, they only want suckers. They actually came out and said that they were trying to get rid of customers who buy stuff on sale and who always fill out the rebate forms in favor of people who buy at full price and forget to fill out/send in the rebate forms.

Information is the inverse of entropy.