Bristling with energy, you race home, unpack your new laptop, and place the sleek machine on your desk. You can hardly contain your excitement as you wait for it to boot up.And wait.

Hold on a minute. Shouldn't this laptop be faster, you think? In fact, it should be--if it weren't for the barrage of crapware weighing down its performance.
Crapware (sometimes called "bloatware" or "trialware") refers to the preloaded software that comes with each new PC. We're not just talking about the odd trial for Adobe Photoshop Elements either. Some notebook manufacturers bundle more than 30 extra programs and utilities on their laptops. These added programs eat up hard drive space, swallow RAM, and impede startup performance. They also take up to an hour to uninstall. So why is crapware even on the systems if it's such a nuisance?
Because it's a multimillion dollar business for notebook vendors and the best marketing opportunity a software vendor can buy. In today's low-margin PC environment, it's increasingly difficult for vendors to earn enough revenue per computer sold. With competing retailers offering full-blown notebooks for less than $500, hardware vendors have been forced to find new ways to continue lowering prices while increasing profits.

In this special report, we go behind the scenes of this industry within an industry and scrutinize the major players: the notebook vendors, struggling with lower margins; the software vendors, whose market share is determined by preinstallment agreements; Microsoft, and its Vista OS; and last but certainly not least, the consumer, who protests the inclusion of crapware yet demands lower-priced notebooks with increased functionality and features.