What Does Shelfware Mean?

Shelfware is a term given to software that has been purchased but never used. Typically, software becomes shelfware when a user buys it on a whim because of a great discount or for future need but does not use or install that software.


Techopedia Explains Shelfware

Shelfware is not a derogatory term and may apply to any software, even those that are widely popular and used. Software becomes shelfware depending on the user and not on the software itself, but in the case of shovelware and bloatware, it also often becomes shelfware because there is often no need or desire to use the product. As a result, the shelfware stays on the shelves or devices without being used.

One major reason software becomes shelfware is when companies license more software than they actually need because of a good discount. For example, if a piece of software costs $100 per copy but would only cost $45 if 100 copies were purchased, then a company may buy 100 copies, even if it only has 50 employees. In this case, if they have bought 50 copies at $100, they’ll pay $5,000, but if they buy 100 copies at $45 each, they only spend $4,500, which is still cheaper. There also are a great number of copies that can be used in the future if the number of users increases. In the meantime, the other 50 copies become shelfware.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…