Simple Questions: What is Microsoft Signature?

Some of our readers have asked us about Microsoft Signature: What is it? What makes it special? How much does it cost? Where can I buy it? In this article I would like to answer these questions and provide complete information about Microsoft Signature. If you are curious to learn more about it, don’t hesitate to read this article.

What is Microsoft Signature?

Microsoft Signature represents Microsoft’s vision of how Windows computers should be installed and setup by retailers and PC makers, prior to selling them to customers.

What does this mean? Zero software bloat, great performance and the basics you need, delivered out of the box.

The vision is summarized in the short video below.

Now that the “vision" is clear, let’s learn the technical details of Microsoft Signature.

What’s Different vs Other Computers?

First of all, there a lot less software bloat. You won’t see any trial, demo or commercial software installed on your computer. This translates into lots of advantages:

  • The first time setup should be done in up to 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes or more.
  • A clean desktop with no shortcuts.
  • Sleep is 23.1% faster.
  • The Windows startup is 39.6% faster.
  • Resume from sleep is 51.3% faster.

These numbers do look too good to be true but they are also confirmed by this independent analysis: The Crapware Con. Also, from my experience, removing all the bloat delivered by PC makers makes a huge difference in having a speedy system and a positive computing experience.

On top of removing all bloat, Microsoft Signature provides also the following:

  • All the appropriate drivers installed for the components of your computer.
  • The latest version of Internet Explorer.
  • The Microsoft Zune software.
  • The main tools that make up the Windows Live Essentials package: Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Family Safety and Microsoft Silverlight.
  • Windows Media Center and PlayReady PC Runtime. PlayReady PC Runtime is used for encrypting premium TV content or playing protected content.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials - Microsoft’s free antivirus solution.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader and Adobe Flash Player for Internet Explorer.
  • Signature Theme Pack to make your desktop pretty.

More technical details can be found here: Microsoft Signature - Under the hood.

Is There Really No Bloat?

Looking at the technical specifications above, you can’t help but notice that Microsoft is promoting its products (not surprisingly) and that some of the software installed can be considered as bloat, depending on how you use your computer.

For example, the Microsoft Zune software runs at startup and it is useful only to people owning other Microsoft devices such as the Zune player or a Windows Phone. If you don’t use such devices, you are better off removing Microsoft Zune. To learn more about this tool, read its Wikipedia page: Zune Software.

The Windows Live Essentials package is useful for most users but it does contain tools you might not use. For example, if you are not a blogger, you won’t be needing Windows Live Writer. Or, if your children don’t access your computer, you won’t be needing Windows Live Family Safety. Therefore, it is best to configure the Windows Live Essentials package and keep only the programs you intend to use.

Also, Windows Media Center will be useful to you only if you plan to record live television. Otherwise, you might prefer other media players.

All-in-all, there is little bloat and its impact is minimal, especially when compared to what PC makers tend to bundle on the computers they sell. Most of the tools provided with Microsoft Signature are actually useful and don’t negatively impact the performance of your computer.

How Much Does it Cost?

If you purchase your computer directly from Microsoft, the cost for Microsoft Signature is zero. You pay only the price of the computer.

If you purchase your computer from another shop, you can take it to a Microsoft shop and have it transformed into a Microsoft Signature computer. The price for the procedure is $99.

Where to Buy Microsoft Signature Computers?

Microsoft Signature computers can be purchased directly from Microsoft. You can order them online, via the Microsoft Store or from Microsoft’s physical stores. The list of locations can be found here: Microsoft Stores.

Unfortunately, Microsoft Signature is available only in the US and Microsoft has not yet made public any plans of extending this program to other countries.