The headline tells the story of this Microsoft Knowledge Base article:

Severe system performance problems occur on a Windows Vista or Windows XP-based computer after you install HP printer software, version 11 (Microsoft KB960673)

To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this problem in the real world. “On a Windows Vista or Windows XP-based computer, you install the HP Customer Participation version 11 software that is included with Hewlett-Packard’s new printers. After you do this, you may experience an overall slowing of your computer performance because of an error in this application.”

But I know that HP has been doing a terrible job of supplying software with their printers for the last few years, so this is just an extreme example of a bigger problem. HP’s installation and uninstallation programs take waaaay too long, they install useless and unrequested services to monitor registration and ink cartridge status and software updates and customer satisfaction and phases of the moon, and if you’re lucky you can also print. Typically there are no options during setup to reduce the amount of clutter installed from the CD. Sometimes (but not always) there are simpler drivers on the HP web site for people willing to take manual control of the process.

The result is that I’m not too keen on HP printers lately, because the quality of the hardware doesn’t matter if the software brings down your computer. It’s not like HP is the only offender – I’ve spent hours trying to squash a nasty little Epson status monitor that slows things to a crawl if a shared printer isn’t online. The biggest reason to prefer Brother printers for the last couple of years is the simplicity of their software.

Remember one of the important rules for being responsible for your computer: always do a custom install of any software and take the time to understand the options and decline items that don’t apply to you (especially unrelated products included because one big company paid another big company – Google Desktop/Google Toolbar/Windows Live Toolbar/Open Office and so many more.) You won’t avoid all the unnecessary stuff but you can minimize it that way.