My experience too
I bought a refurbished Inspiron 1501 from the Dell Refurbished site three years ago, and it was very clean. No trial programs at all. I got full re-install DVD for Vista, one for Works 8, and one for Roxio Creator, and the full drivers CD. Plus, I got an extra Vista home premium OEM key for free.
Just like you, I upgraded the hard drive (80GB to 320GB) and upgraded the memory (1GB to 3GBs). I did not buy the new parts from Dell, but from Newegg.com for a much better price, yet they worked just fine. In fact, the Inspiron 1501 is not even supposed to support 3GBs of memory, only two, but it worked. And, I didn't even have to put the Vista key back in when I re-installed after the HDD upgrade. It somehow saved it.
Now, that said, my sister just bought a brand new Compaq laptop from Wal-Mart, and it had the biggest mess of trail software I've ever seen. I worked for two hours to remove it all. I had to remove Norton, office trial, some weird pack of games, a trial of roxio creator, and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember. Then, I realized it didn't include ANY re-install media, only instructions on how to create re-install disks. I was about ready to send it back to the store, but my sister didn't want to because it only cost $300 (some kind of sale or something).
Anyway, my point is, this isn't the way it used to be. You used to get the computer, open the box, and use it. Computer manufacturers need to either put full programs, or none at all. If they want to advertise for the companies who make the software, then they should put paper ads in the computer box or something, not install a program that's going to be worse than worthless in 30 days.