In today’s technology section, the New York Times confirms something that I’ve been hearing about from friends and coworkers for about a year now: rather than cleaning their computers of viruses and spyware, people are now throwing the machines away and buying new ones. At first, this struck me as completely odd, since I’d never had any problems using antivirus apps regularly, using spyware cleaning apps as needed, and practicing as safe computing as possible to prevent obvious installations of apps that’d break my machines. But I can’t deny the sense that adware is now embedded in far, far more apps, viruses are exploiting much more subtle holes, and the process of getting rid of unwanted or malicious apps is significantly harder now. (Hell, last weekend, it took me three antispyware runs and five reboots to get a single app off of my parents’ laptop, and I know what I’m doing!) When you add the fact that computer prices are dropping quickly (for example, you can get a fast Dell desktop with a 19” flat-screen LCD for $499 right now, and a more entry-level Dell with a 15” LCD for $299!), I can see why people are tempted to just trash their old machines and start over, even if it means figuring out how to get all their files moved over and set all their peripherals back up.

And worse still, looking at the situation from that perspective, why should computer manufacturers work hard to support their users by helping them remove adware or viruses, if the alternative is to convince them just to buy new machines? Seems like a no-brainer for them, which is all the worse for us end users.