Deciding whether or not to use the included software…

Cameras, video recorders, scanners, wireless network adapters, printers, and other devices typically come with included software from the manufacturer. Here’s a quick list of points to consider when trying to decide what software to use.

Types of Software

There are a few types of software that might come with electronics:

  • Limited. Sometimes limited software will ship with a device. This means that it will do most tasks and functions okay, but you may end up wanting to purchase a version with more features.
  • Open Source. An LP turntable (record player), for example, might include Audacity software which is open source. It’s free, but support may be limited.
  • Proprietary. Some vendors include their own proprietary software. Canon or Sony video recorders may come with video transfer and editing software that’s proprietary to those companies. Such software may have nice features which become the determining factor in a purchase. A customer might purchase a Canon video recorder because they really like the included software.
    • Benefits. The benefit is that it’s free and supported by the manufacturer. It’s usually more likely to be compatible with your device. When getting support, the manufacturer will be more willing and able to help if the hardware and software is their own.
    • Drawbacks. The drawback is that sometimes manufacturers discontinue a software program, or switch to a different one — perhaps contracting with a different company to develop a solution. If you need to move to another software program, it might not be easy to get your projects or data transferred.
  • Third-Party. Some vendors will include the full version of commercial software. For example, it’s typical for scanners (or multifunction devices) to come with scanning software from the manufacturer, but the OCR (optical character recognition) software may be a full-version of commercially available software from a third-party (such as Readiris).
    • Benefits. The advantage to using commercial software is that there will likely be future versions released and support may be better. Many commercial software programs are designed to work well with others, so importing or exporting information may be easier. If it’s broadly used, then there may be more resources such as online forums where you can get answers or suggestions.
    • Drawbacks. If you’re using a third-party program with a device and have trouble, you may have difficulty getting support. The hardware vendor may say, “It’s the software you’re using.” The software vendor may say, “We can’t help you. It’s a problem with the hardware.”
  • Trial. Some devices come with trial software that will stop working after a certain time period such as 30 days.
    • Benefits. You get to try some software and see if you like it.
    • Drawbacks. You’ll need to purchase the software to continue using it.
  • Trojan. Sometimes a manufacturer will ship software with a device and the software includes other programs that are installed as well. Usually the vendor gets paid to sneak other software in without the user being aware. There will generally be some fine print explaining that you’re agreeing to other programs being installed on your computer. So, be careful when you’re installing to make sure you’re only installing the necessary software.

Download or CD?

Some equipment comes with software on a CD or DVD. Others require that  you download the software. For many, you get a CD and can also download the software if you wish. With a download, you’re certain to get the latest software that’s ideally suited for your operating system and device. However, on occasion, the downloaded software isn’t as fully featured as the software on the CDs. This may be because third-party providers don’t want their software publicly available for download. For example, a scanner may come with drivers, scanner software, and third party software such as ReadIRIS OCR software. When you download the software from the manufacturer, you’ll get everything except for the ReadIRIS software. For multi-function devices, the downloaded software may include additional software that wasn’t originally included on the CD. So, it really depends on the circumstance.

Types of Devices

Here are considerations for various devices.

  1. Audio Recorder. For a long time, Sony and Olympus audio recorders came with proprietary software from the manufacturers. You couldn’t get the audio off the recorders without the correct software. A problem people would have is that after a few years, the software wouldn’t be supported by the manufacturer and the old software would no longer be compatible with new operating systems. So, you’d be stuck with a non-working audio recorder, or you’d need to stay with Windows 98 in order to keep it working. Newer audio recorders can be read on any computer using a USB cable without any special drivers or software. They record to MP3 audio files, so no conversion is needed.
  2. Cameras. Most cameras don’t need any special software. However, compatibility could be an issue. For example, on Apple computers, you’ll periodically see updates that are intended to allow the computer to recognize more cameras. That’s good news, but it also means there are still some that aren’t recognized. Fortunately, with photos and videos recorded to memory cards, you can access your photos and videos by other means.
  3. Network Cards. Network cards, and especially USB wireless network cards, almost always come with drivers and special software. Often you’ll have a choice when installing to select drivers only, or drivers and software. If you select drivers only, you’ll be using the Windows software to connect to wireless networks. That’s a familiar interface. If you use the manufacturer’s software, you’ll have something new to learn, and it’s one more layer of complexity installed on your computer that could break down. The only reason to use the manufacturer’s software would be to take advantage of some special features. Maybe their software does something special. For example, diagnostics of signal quality and power would likely be better.
  4. Printers. Printers typically come with drivers, software, and third party utilities (if you have a multifunction printer). When you plug your printer in, your Windows or Apple computer should recognize it and allow you to do basic printing with the software you already have as part of your operating system. Some people prefer this because it reduces the software installed in your computer resulting in less to break down. Other people prefer to install all the software available for the printer. Often during the installation process, you can choose how much or how little you’d like to install. Software included with the printer may provide added features for checking ink level and being notified of the printer status.
  5. Scanners. Scanners typically come with drivers, software, and third party utilities. It’s sometimes possible to avoid using all of these. When you plug your scanner in, your Windows or Apple computer should recognize it and allow you to do basic scanning with the software you already have as part of your operating system. Some people prefer this because it reduces the software installed in your computer resulting in less to break down. Other people prefer to install all the software available for the scanner. Sometimes this even includes photo album making software. Often during the installation process, you can choose how much or how little you’d like to install.
  6. Video Recorders. It’s still true that some models of video recorders, such as some from Cannon, require special software. For example, with Cannon, you may need special software and drivers or the camera won’t be recognized on Apple computers. However, most cameras don’t require special software. You can connect them to any computer, and immediately view or edit the MP4 video files. It’s good to check ahead of time about compatibility. The AVCHD video format for HD video is becoming more accepted by various computer programs. In the past, it was a difficult format to work with.

Examples

Here are some specific examples of software to consider for use.

Dell Backup and Recovery Premium

Computers (and external hard drives) often ship with included backup software. The software is free, and typically works okay. With Western Digital hard drives, for example, the free software is full featured and there’s nothing more to buy. However, with Dell, a person must pay for the Dell Backup and Recovery Premium software. What’s ironic is that backup software often doesn’t do anything beyond what the built-in Windows backup program already offers for free.

With any specialty software, you need to ask yourself one simple question. If your computer indeed does crash, and you replace it with another from a different manufacturer, how would you ever get the backup software again? Is it available for sale in the store or online? Typically the answer is no. So, if you want your files back, you’re locked into purchasing from the same manufacture again — in hopes that they still offer the same software they did several years ago.

Ultimately, a person is better off paying for commercial backup software or paying for a backup cloud service if they need some features beyond what Windows already offers for free. Software like Acronis True Image can provide a backup solution with more features than a typical Windows backup.

Below is a screen shot of the offer you’ll see on a Dell computer for the Dell Backup and Recovery Premium software.

20151004su1218-dell-backup-recovery-software

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