Computing - general 16 Nov 2005 10:43 am

Goodbye Norton

Norton Internet Security: you have stuffed up my home PC for the last time. You’re outta here.

Some time ago, Simon wrote about his decision to remove Norton AntiVirus from his PC. I commented at the time that Norton Internet Security had given me problems from time to time — forcing a complete re-installation (of NIS) about five times in the last two years.

Well, it tied itself in a knot again last night — for the LAST TIME.

NIS has an auto-update subsystem called LiveUpdate (LU). Most of the time, LU downloads virus definitions and signatures to help keep track of and block or eliminate the nasties. These downloads usually happen in the background and don’t cause any drama.

LU can also download program updates (new modules of the NIS software that use the virus definition files). These downloads usually call for a system restart after they have installed themselves. One such download happened last night.

After the restart, none of the software on my PC was able to access the Internet (email, browser, IM client, etc.)

I had changed no settings, and NIS hadn’t asked to make any changes or given any warnings.

Nevertheless, I checked the configuration, and all seemed to be OK. I checked the activity logs (where the software is supposed to record every instance of a blocked Internet access). Nothing. I tried to run LU, to see if a further update was required (this has sometimes been the case). LU reported that it was already running in the background and couldn’t start again. Started to get pretty grumpy about now.

Turned off NIS software. All Net access instantly restored. Surfed to Symantec web site to look for clues. No useful information. Restarted PC, just to see if this would clear the fault.

Still no Internet access. Still not able to run LU. Still no settings to suggest anything is blocked. Still no reports in the activity logs.

OK — tried to find a way to turn off LU running in the background (which is obviously gummed up in some way) and then run it again in the foreground to see if an update needs to be loaded or reloaded. Turned off NIS, surfed to Symantec site. Read instructions for shutting down LU in background (use ‘end process’ in Task Manager). Did that. Process didn’t end. Tried again. And again. And again…

Surfed back to Symantec site. There is ‘step B’ to shut down LU in the background if it can’t be shut down in Task Manager. Tried that, too. LU still running in background.

By now, very frustrated.

Made decision to uninstall software. Went to Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. Selected NIS and pressed ‘remove’. PC says it can’t do that because LU is running in the background. (I knew that!!!!)

Surfed back to Symantec site and downloaded special NIS uninstall tool for use when Add/Remove Programs doesn’t work. Ran special program. It says it can’t uninstall NIS because LU is running in the background. (I knew that!!!!!!!!).

Tried to find a switch to stop LU running in background (using X-Setup Pro). Nothing. As usual for NIS stuff, it’s all hidden away to try to make the suite ‘safer’ from Malware that may try to turn it off.

Started PC in Safe Mode, to be sure that LU would not run. Tried to run special NIS removal tool. Tool reports back that it can’t be run in Safe Mode. AAArrrggghhhhh.

Restarted PC. Same again. LU running and can’t be stopped. Tried stopping other NIS processes. Dire warnings from PC about instability ahead. Finally managed to get LU process to stop. Immediately uninstalled NIS. Made mental note to never install NIS ever again.

What now? PC magazines all seem to like and recommend ZoneAlarm Security Suite. There’s a free trial.

Downloaded ZA (a MUCH quicker download than NIS).

Installed ZA (a MUCH quicker install than NIS).

Ran through ZA configuration and setup steps (a MUCH quicker process than with NIS).

Downloaded latest ZA virus definitions and Adware signatures (a MUCH, MUCH, MUCH quicker process than with NIS).

Set ZA to work.

* PC starts quicker
* PC seems to run faster
* MSN Messenger now reliably connects to the Internet on startup (which it never did under NIS, despite having every possible NIS permission)
* ZA toolbar in Outlook remembers where it has been put and goes there next time Outlook is started (whereas NIS toolbar doesn’t).

This seems like good stuff.

Clicked on the ‘upgrade licence’ button to see what happens… Got a window offering $US20 discount if I buy a full licence straight away (makes it $A68). Pledged my plastic.

So far, all is very good. ZA seems like a much ‘lighter’ product than NIS, although, by all accounts, it’s just as good at anti-virus, anti-spam and firewall stuff.

Based on limited experience so far, the Flying Nerd recommends ZoneAlarm Security Suite — especially to disgruntled Symantec/Norton users.

4 Responses to “Goodbye Norton”

  1. on 17 Nov 2005 at 6:30 (Sydney) 1.Neil said …

    Ah, another ‘no-Norton’ convert… nice to see. Although in my books ZA is still overkill. 😉

  2. on 21 Nov 2005 at 11:44 (Sydney) 2.Darren Leffler said …

    Very interesting. My father had Norton Antivirus 2000? (Dell OEM version) and was up to date with subscriptions. Ond day, after Norton took his money, it said that his version of LiveUpdate was no longer supported. He tried to get through to Symantec via phone/email etc and failed. So he went out and bought a new NIS 2004 (at the time), I uninstalled the old Antivirus, installed new NIS2004 and when I tried to do a LiveUpdate – it said LiveUpdate 2000 is not supported. To this day, after many reinstalles and uninstalls we can’t get NIS2004 to run LU2004. I suggested removing NIS and going with McAfee which seems to work OK on Nadja’s new Dell. Should I go with ZA instead, downloaded on web? His machine is running Win 98 and that’s a whole new issue – not sure is his PIII supports an XP upgrade.

  3. on 22 Nov 2005 at 10:19 (Sydney) 3.Richard said …

    Greetings, Darren.

    I would not be comfortable recommending AV or Internet Security software for an old Win98 machine. Win98 has passed so far into the dim recesses of my mind that I can scarcely remember it!

    However, a couple of comments:

    1) Visit the Symantec web site. Go to the consumer knowledgebase and search for things like ‘LiveUpdate uninstall’. There are several special tools available to uninstall Norton software that can’t otherwise be uninstalled. In fact, I think there is a version for uninstalling LU, to allow a later version to be installed. Going through this process may allow your Dad to install what he’s already paid for.

    2) My ZoneAlarm experience continues to be good. PC still running well and seemingly quicker. AntiSpam component much better than Norton. No gotchas so far.


  4. on 28 Nov 2005 at 13:42 (Sydney) 4.Richard said …

    St George Bank customers can buy ZA Security Suite for $A69.95. Look at the notice on the Internet Banking logon page.