Report says Best Buy 'optimization' is a waste of money

According to a study done by The Consumerist, Best Buy's computer optimization service is "a big, stupid, annoying, waste of money." In fact, their conclusions were that sometimes, the service can even leave your computer slower than it would have been out of the box. For the study, The Consumerist sent out shoppers to 18 different Best Buy locations in 11 states to see just how "optimized" these computers actually were.

For $39.99, Best Buy tries to convince consumers to let them clean out and speed up their newly purchased computers. In some cases, the study showed that customers were lied to and forced to take the optimization package, or else they would not be allowed to purchase the computer. When expecting to buy a specific laptop, one woman was told that she'd have to pay the $39.99 extra because they only had pre-optimized versions of the laptop she wanted in stock. Since the optimization was already done, she was told that she could not buy the laptop without paying the extra fee. This specific customer managed to talk her way out of it, but unfortunately, most consumers can't.

This is what Best Buy claims of their optimization:

"Our Geek Squad Agents enable up to 100 system tweaks that improve PC performance and functionality, including optimized startup and shutdown, improved menu navigation, quick launch and taskbar cleanup and program shortcut creation."

One shopper sent by The Consumerist was told that the optimization makes the computer's processor 200% faster (a Best Buy spokesperson later called this claim, "a big aggressive"). As well, the person was told that, sure, they could optimize it on their own, but then they wouldn't be able to increase the processor speed. Other people were told that the computer was "incomplete" without the optimization and it would not come with anti-virus software or Microsoft Office.

Here is some of what The Consumerist found from the test models they received:

  • The job was sometimes rushed, leaving the computer in standby mode or in the middle of installing Windows updates
  • A power cable was missing
  • Papers for another computer were in the box
  • Desktop was cleaner, but the bloatware was never actually uninstalled (only the shortcuts were removed)
  • Windows updates had been downloaded, but one machine's Windows Defender was not up to date, because it was deactivated by the system's default factory settings
  • The other "tweaks" were basic things that any normal user can do, such as adding the status bar to explorer, or showing the file menu in IE

The Consumerist also ran a graphics benchmark and found that changes from the optimization were negligible, except on one of the laptops, where optimization caused it to score 32% worse than the non-optimized laptop. They were unable to determine the source of the performance change, but a commenter pointed out that this could have been due to the dedicated graphics card being disabled by the Geek Squad in the optimization process.

In a world where you can rarely buy a computer that's not pre-loaded with oodles of junk, it's unfortunate to see Best Buy taking advantage of people and taking their money without providing any real service in return. The Consumerist concludes that people should avoid Best Buy's optimization service. At the end of the report there's a list of free programs that a person can use to optimize their computer by their lonesome.

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