The Trouble with Bloatware! Argh!

I happen to own what I consider to be quite a decent Hewlett Packard Notebook. One of the features I love to flaunt about my computer is the onboard WWAN card; this allows me to easily connect to Safaricom or any mobile data network without having to stick a USB dongle into one of my few ports. I really wonder why this feature has not caught on in mainstream notebooks yet. Anyhow, other cool specifications of my computer include a really large hard disk, a fast processor, tones of memory and nice speakers. It could do with a better graphics card but I suppose one cannot have it all.

Now with such a good machine, one would be surprised to find out that it could not run a 64bit guest operating system because the virtualization features of the processor are disabled by default in the computer’s Basic Input Output System(BIOS). A simple solution to this problem would be to go to the BIOS and enable the processor’s virtualization features; I mean, it should be a simple toggle setting – either enabled or not. Well, lets just say that it is NOT that simple, and thus the point of this post.

Many HP Laptops come with what I like to call ‘bloatware’. These are add-on software packages that you will find installed on your new pc in addition to the operating system. More often than not, most of these are trying to upsell you some service or product. Trial versions of commercial antivirus software are commonplace in this scenario. Sometimes though, quite some useful software is added onto the system, and these are the software packages that work well with specific hardware features of your computer; take for example HP Connection Manager that lets me easily manage all my networking devices.

In as much as I appreciate software that makes computing easier, the rule that a simpler a system is to use, the more complex it is to build and maintain, seems to have held, at least in as far as HP ProtectTools is concerned.

HP ProtectTools is a lovely piece of software that offers enhanced security for your HP Notebook while also managing your passwords and other credentials (fingerprints, face recognition, e.t.c.), device access, users and password recovery options (what HP likes to call the Spare Key). It is also a major headache if you intend to work with your BIOS. This is because it will in-avertedly prevent your from being able to edit your BIOS settings.

How does it do this? If the BIOS administrator password on your notebook is not set (which it wont be since your computer will be new), and HP ProtectTools security is enabled in Security Manager (which it is by default on new computers), then you will not be able to enter the Computer Setup utility at startup as a BIOS administrator who can make changes. You will only be allowed to enter the setup as a ProtectTools user with limited access.

Now, there is a way of solving this problem. It has taken me the better part of a month, and hours of chatting with HP support staff (who were not much help) to find the hidden customer advisory support communication that provides a solution. A solution to a problem that HP creates itself by installing bloatware on new pcs. For details on the fix that finally allowed me to enable virtualization on my machine, click here. In the mean time, check your PC and see if you can edit your BIOS. You never know when you (or your resident geek) might require it to sort out an issue with your PC or peripheral.

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