AntiVirus Software

Over the course of the last week, I found myself removing Norton antivirus software from a couple of machines that belong to friends of mine. Both machines had similar problems with being incredibly slow. By slow I mean that they took far too long to boot up and then ran sluggishly for a while as the various startup scans took place.

When you are waiting to use your computer, this kind of lag is just brutal.

For many years when someone asked me what antivirus software they should get, my answer was also to get Norton or McAfee. This is not the case anymore. I happily used McAfee from the early 90's until about 2002 and then switched to Norton for a couple of years. In fact, the last copy of Norton that I bought for my own machine was Norton AntiVirus 2005 and I uninstalled it long before the subscription ran out.

In my opinion, both McAfee and Norton have gone astray in recent years. They both switched over to an annual subscription model and appear to have become a bit too focused on selling themselves. They crammed our computers full with little billboards advertising their application, trying to make it more important. Does the user really need to know that the antivirus program has downloaded a new update? Probably not, but the little ad pops up after the update finishes and reminds the user that the XYZ antivirus program has done some work.

And what is with the perpetual scanning all of the files? If an antivirus program scans all the files that you add to your machine via email, downloads, CD's, disks, and everything else, then why the hell does the software also need to do full system scans so often?

I get that the virus signatures change perpetually, but does the antivirus program really need to keep scanning the all 200,000+ files on my machine? Shouldn't there be some capacity for an incremental scan of just the changed files? My Maxtor backup drive does an incremental scan and just backs up the changed files. That takes less than minute to run.

Also, antivirus programs now install a toolbar for Internet Explorer. Does anyone really need another toolbar for IE? Is this toolbar something that the user is actually going to interact with? No. It is just another billboard.

These days I just install the free copy of AVG antivirus software, the free copy of ZoneAlarm for a firewall (mostly to see what is trying to go out), and use FireFox for a web browser.

Most of the antivirus and antiphishing really comes down to being careful about what you open and interact with; the software can only do so much. To avoid many problems, simply do not click hyperlinks in emails and do not open emailed files that you were not expecting.