This is getting to be an old, old story.

The story is: a manufacturer forces unwanted software on consumers, and the software slows down or breaks perfectly nice devices.

This time, the villain is HP. The device is HP’s version of a Windows Home Server, called the HP MediaSmart Home Server.

Microsoft finally delivered an important update for the Windows Home Server software, potentially a turning point for devices that should be better known and more widespread.

HP released an update at the same time for the proprietary software that runs on top of WHS, enhancing some of its features and controls. So far, so good.

At the same time, HP is also automatically downloading two addins – McAfee security software for Windows Home Server, and third-party software for media streaming.

Windows Home Server installs a little icon down by the clock on each networked computer to report on the “network health.” If a hard drive on the server fails, or a backup isn’t completed, it turns red and shouts that the network is “AT RISK!”

HP’s automatic download of the addins causes the icon to shout that the network is “AT RISK!” The reason for the warning? The addins have been downloaded but they have not yet been installed.

Does that sound to you like your network is “at risk”? It doesn’t to me. Maybe that’s the only way that HP can call attention to this wonderful gift, but it’s annoying and scary.

It gets worse.

The media streaming software is unnecessary for many or most people using the server, and I’ve seen criticism that it’s poorly chosen in any case. There are reports that it can take more than 24 hours of disk thrashing to complete an index of media files, during which time the server console is unusable.

And sure enough, McAfee lives down to its reputation. If you install it, multiple reports confirm that it will slow your server to a crawl, making the console slow or crashing it. Here’s one place where this is being discussed, and here’s another. HP is forcing down a trial subscription to a paid service. It’s a long trial – 7 months – but it’s just a trial, nonetheless.

HP’s MediaSmart servers are shipped with an adequate amount of RAM to support the WHS software, but nowhere near enough to support these addins.

The addins can be uninstalled, but wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t put in this position in the first place? As I’ve said before: You already know about the bad guys, but in the long run, we can’t trust the good guys either.

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