Are software installation fees a rip-off?

What exactly do you get for a $99 “setup” fee?



From the Summer 2011 issue of the magazine.



On a recent visit to my local Future Shop in search of a new laptop, I spotted a powerful-looking model selling for just $459. Sam, the sales associate who zeroed in on me, quickly moved into a pitch for Future Shop’s ConnectPro service, saying the staff would set up the computer for me for $99.

During a subsequent visit to Staples, the sales associate also offered to set up a new computer for $99, telling me the process would take “around four to five hours.” I was baffled. Didn’t these machines come with the software already loaded? What exactly do you get for your $99?

It turns out these computers do come from the manufacturer with Windows installed. So your $99 just gets a Future Shop staffer to click through the license agreement, install an anti-virus program and create a recovery disc to reinstall the operating system in case of a meltdown. They also remove some programs that are pre-installed on the machine by the manufacturer.

According to Francis Bourgouin, a Montreal-based computer consultant, the average computer user could easily do these steps in about 45 minutes, saving themselves a fee that adds up to about 25% of the price on the lower-cost machines. “The Windows setup is pretty easy to do,” he says. “Microsoft tries really hard to make it as simple as possible.”

But what about the anti-virus software? The offerings from Future Shop and Staples “are not a very good deal,” Bourgouin concludes. He says there’s a ton of decent free anti-virus programs available online, such as Microsoft’s Security Essentials. As for creating recovery discs, Bourgouin says it’s also simple. You just keep inserting discs in the computer “until it tells you to stop.”

However, Future Shop spokesperson Elliott Chun warns that some customers may have trouble if they don’t pay for the setup service. “Windows 7 is not intuitive for all consumers to set up and install on their own,” he says. Rick Atkinson from Staples also says his service is valuable. “This will save a customer time, or if they have never set up a computer before, save them the headache of doing it themselves. We believe this is a terrific value for customers who are not able to do this on their own.”

Indeed, if you’re computerphobic—or happy to pay a fee to save an hour or so of mouse-clicking—these set up services may be worth it. But for the average user, you’re probably better off skipping this high-profit add-on for the retailers and doing it yourself.

10 comments on “Are software installation fees a rip-off?

  1. This is obvioulsy a rip-off. That is why I don't shop at Future Shop.


  2. I bought two laptops, one year apart, at Future Shop in the last two years. Each time I only paid $49 for the set-up because the fee is negotiable. However, Future Shop would insist showing $99 fee on the invoice, but reduced the laptop price by $50. For example, my computer is $500 and the set-up fee $49 (after negotiation); total $549. Future Shop would punch in on the invoice as such: computer $450 and set-up fee $99; total $549. Lesson: negotiate on the fee. I hope this helps other Future Shop customers.


  3. Don't waste your money people! I am assuming you pay tax on top of this so there is more money out of your pocket.

    All you need to do is read the screens, click here and then make DVD's for recovery. Removing useless software is as easy as Control Panel> Uninstall what you don't want.

    Use the $99 to buy a good anti-virus program and the balance to take your a friend a nice lunch to show off your laptop. You don't have to be afraid of a computer nor uninstalling software. If you really really mess up use the recovery discs you created in step 1.


  4. I did work experience at Future Shop. I was in their Connect Pro tech room where they do this so-called "setup". They even let me do a couple for them (which at the time I thought was a real honor but I now realize it was just because it was super easy).

    The setup works like this:

    1) You turn on the computer and put in the final info you need to log into Windows (password and user name and whatnot).
    2) You stick a flash drive into the computer, which, pre-loaded onto it is a proprietary (to Future Shop and Geek Squad) program (forget what it is called) that runs you though a couple processes, the most notable being uninstalling useless software. There are a couple other things you do via the program, but they are so simple they aren't even worth mentioning.
    3) You then install MS Office and/or Kaspersky or Norton if the customer asks for them.
    4) Install Windows Updates.

    And yes, I watched helplessly as dozens of unknowing people got charged almost $100 dollars for this "setup", which they were told the computer would not work without.

    Customers, heed my warning: Do not let these liars deceive you into spending more money. They claim they want to fix your computer and help you but that is simply their method of sugarcoating the fact that they want to squeeze every last penny from you. If they offer to "set it up" for you, say "no, I can do it myself", and ask for them to give you the computer as it is. If they refuse to give it to you without setting it up, argue with them until they let you have it without them setting it up. If they refuse to budge even after you argue with them, refuse to buy the computer and go buy it somewhere else where good customer service isn't a mere thing of the past.

    All in all, Connect Pro computer repair is a scam, whether it be their "setup" or just general repairs (they charged a guy $59.99 to upgrade his computer from 1 GB or RAM to 2 GB!!).


  5. Thanks for sharing this information about antivirus software


  6. I understand it both ways… yes there is a small value to having someone setup the computer for you. Yes you can certainly try to do this all by yourself, but being a non-computer expert as most people are they would be hard pressed to know all the steps to do. If you just follow the screens you can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes to get to the desktop depending on the computer. Most of that is waiting for the computer to install the company branded "crapware" that comes on their new computer. Then, depending on the age of the computer model and how long it has been sitting around in the store there could be 100's of Windows updates to perform which can take a few hours to download and install. Then there is the fact that many of the programs that get installed by default are crapware and they could be left on the system for the customer to deal with… hey maybe the customer will like some of it… but it makes the computer run slower, can be annoying with popups that are confusing and all around make your experience unpleasant. That is the real reason they have the service. Of course I have worked at FutureShop and know full well that they oftentimes skip many of the steps if they are too busy, and that there procedure could be done alot faster if they were smart enough to listen to me… oh wait, that is another story altogether and one big reason I went into business for myself, to do the work much better and for cheaper than those who charge for services that are either useless or done improperly. So as I said, there is value in what they offer to alot of people… however, the amount they charge coupled with the likelyhood that they won't have done the setup properly anyways makes you want to email someone who actually knows what they are doing! Same goes for GeekSquad… did you know that it is their policy that when you bring in your computer for repair that they leave in on the shelf for a week before taking a look at it (no matter how busy they are)? Ridiculous!


  7. Most of the softwares are available in Internet for free. Some of them will be a cracked version. I think we should try to use only genuine software so that we can avail the full version of that particular software. Thank you so much for sharing this useful information.


  8. Why the discussion? No one offers to do anything for anyone else for a fee unless its good for them. Obviously.


  9. I think the money could be better spent transferring data from the old computer to the new one, setting up profiles, printers and networking can be a bit more challenging.


  10. I used to like Staples before I found out they were lying to me about where service work was done. They claimed that all warranty work would be done at the store in Nanaimo, if needed. Well turns out that was complete BS! They shipped my laptop to Vancouver for a month! All they did was format the harddrive, they never looked for the problem with the computer and never talked about it. I use the computer for work so this was a nightmare.

    Back to the 99 dollar or 149.00 set up fee, yes its a rip off and installing Windows 7 or 8 is simple. The computer walks you through it and the software is already on the computer you don’t get disk anymore. Installing virus protection is also easy and you must learn useless you are rich and can afford someone to do your software for you.

    Anyway I had a good working installation of Windows 7 before I took the computer to Staples in NANAIMO BC to be fixed in store (see bs above). They formatted the harddrive and wiped out all my data and two years of work which I back up myself but still a major headache.

    Now I find out after the warranty is up that they did not re-install Window 7 correctly and now Win 7 will not install the SP1 Upgrade! Automatic upgrade will not find it and will not install it which means I can install Internet explorer 9 or above I am stuck with IE 8 which messes up modern websites. Sure I will solve the problem myself and install the SP1 upgrade manually but should this be happening to me or anyone who trusts a computer store to look after there computer? Are their Techs competent? Do a little research about Staples and their Techs you will find many that worked there spilling the beans (truth of scam).


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