Bits from Bill Pytlovany: Remove Your Anti-Virus Security Software


By Bill Pytlovany

What happens when you have four different security programs installed on a computer? It’s a lot like watching a slow turtle crossing the street. You sit, you wait, you stare and most of the time there’s a crash before it’s over.

I frequently have friends drop off their laptops along with the comment and the question, “It runs REALLY slow, do I have a virus?”.

Case Study: Bob’s Laptop

This week’s computer maintenance task was typical. There was no malware, trojan horse, key logger, virus or even rootkit on Bob’s laptop. So why did it take 10 minutes to boot and run so slow? Turns out there were four, yes four different security suites installed.

One of them was McAfee which had expired last year but was still running five different services. I suspect it came pre-installed when he purchased the computer two years ago. Even after running the uninstaller, I still had to manually remove more McAfee programs including a reminder service just in case Bob changed his mind in the future.

Next I started to remove the Anti-Virus packages which also hadn’t been updated in the last six months. First I removed Window Defender from Microsoft. I’ll elaborate more below but the newer Microsoft Security Essentials from Microsoft does what Defender did and much more.

When I removed CA Internet Security I immediately noticed a different in computer performance. I don’t mean to imply CA was the problem but at least we were down to a single Anti-Virus Suite. It still wasn’t as fast as I’d like but it was a vast improvement to be down to a single suite hooked into the Window kernel.

The last suite to remove was Symantec’s Norton 360. I’m not a big fan of Norton but there are some folks at Symantec who I respect for their support. They’ve become legendary in the industry but this creates a level of trust that makes some users blind to using their software properly. Well known security packages like Norton and McAfee create a false sense of security. Users bypass learning how to properly use the product and they fail to configure the software. They often miss out on updated signature files designed to catch new threats.

I had a personal experience of this over confidence from the mayor of my home town Village of Scotia. Once a week his computer sends me an Email with an link that I obviously shouldn’t click on. When I reported this, his response was “I’m sure my Norton will take care of it”. The mass mailer bot using his address book continues even as I was preparing this article.

Clicking on the link will take users to a page that appears to be an advertisement for Canadian drugs. Unfortunately,clicking the wrong click to escape and the ad will make an attempt to infect the next person helping to spread the malware.

I finally removed all the security programs from Bob’s computer and it ran fast enough for me to provide some regular maintenance steps needed to speed things up like deleting temp files, defrag his disk, and I used WinPatrol to remove all the crap that didn’t need to be auto starting every time he rebooted.

This post is excerpted with Bill’s permission from his So What’s the Answer?

This post is excerpted with Bill’s permission from his blog

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15 thoughts on “Bits from Bill Pytlovany: Remove Your Anti-Virus Security Software”

  1. I’m having trouble getting rid of McAfee from win 7 starter. It goes through the motions of uninstalling but, there are files that I can’t get rid of no matter what I try (taking ownership, enabling Admin account, using Mcafee’s removal tool, manually editing the registry). HELP!

  2. Believe it or not there were computers before Commodore. I first crossed paths with a “general purpose” computer in 1962 when HP was best known for test equipment like oscilloscopes.

    I heartily agree that multiple firewalls are bad news. I often wonder why ZoneAlarm recommends keeping Windows Firewall enabled but it doesn’t seem to cause any problem that I can detect. My biggest performance hit comes from things like VSMON that sucks CPU like it was soda pop on occasion. I don’t know who owns that module but I thought it was part of ZoneAlarm. Very disturbing…

  3. virus programs.

    I was told the Virus Programs are not designed to rid of all virus. By a major virus program. The AVAST tech said. We found the virus but aren’t obligated to rid you of the virus. said We are desighned to “FIND” the virus as we did. I prefer the virtuil virus program Returnil. It’s designed to catch viruses,ect BEFORE it can get in your computer. The very first thing is everything goes threw Returnil first.

  4. I recently uninstalled CA internet security plus 09 and installed AVG my laptop gateway microsoft windows vista came with norton i removed it after the trial period. How do i know if the programs before the installation of AVG are intirely removed?
    and you mentioned the start up removal of programs what programs should be left on the startup menu? I dont know what is suppose to be on or off but i do think i have some that are not needed. Is there a list of important startup programs?

    I would like to also uninstall programs i dont use but truthfully i dont even know what most of them do so when i look at the programs to install or remove i dont know what is important to keep or what is safe to uninstall.
    any help?

  5. Quite contrary to what “David A. Lee-Williams” states, the MOST IMPORTANT thing NOT to do, is run multiple firewalls!!
    That’s even worse than running multiple A/V products as different firewalls may treat certain ports differently and can really mess things up. Nowadays firewall programs use Whitelists, differing HIPS strategies, and different lists of known, safe Windows services, and all can be a little different than another firewall. Configuring multiple firewalls to treat all 65,000 ports in the same manner can be nightmarish and is completely unwarranted.
    A single, well established & configured firewall is always the best strategy, there is no need to run more than one. It doesn’t take 3 firewalls to block or allow a port access, more is not better. Comodo is still my recommendation for a personal firewall, and it’s free. And not a watered down free version either, it’s Pro version is Free and consistently ranked among the top 3 firewalls @ respected independent labs.

  6. I’m having the same problems (lockups, error messages and a really slow computer). All good advise above but I think the best is to GET YOUR PROFESSIONAL COMPUTER TECH TO DO THE WORK. I have been using computers since the first ones way back to Commodore and the old 8088s, and know enough to do some repairs myself, but I am going to get my tech to do most of it. Thanks for all the good advise. Diane

  7. Some people keep installing different antivirus programs without removing old one, unknowingly making the computer near useless. I use the app Decrapifier to remove unwanted or unnecessary programs at once.

  8. Hello Bill. I enjoyed the article. You mentioned your mayor’s mass mailer bot. I have the same problem from my brother’s hijacked e-mail address. Do you how I can get rid of that problem for him?

    Thank You,
    Al Winkler

  9. I received a call from my sister-in-law that her computer had slowed down to a crawl and couldn’t even do email. After she promised a good pork roast dinner we drove the 2 hrs up to her place and I fixed her computer. After removal of 4 spyware programs, 3 anti virus programs, a very dirty registry, temp files, internet files and hours later I got it up and running. She simply had watched to many internet ads that told he she needed “Their” program to be safe.

  10. David Andrew Lee-Williams

    I use winpatrol to disable things I dont need. It also tells me if anything untoward is happening in the background. Combined with another “freebie” Spybot, Most malware is prevented from entering the system. The features in Firefox have alot of filtering tools built in also adding to security. MOST important of all is to have multiple firewalls installed, Above should keep pc free of rubbish.

  11. McAfee, Computer Associates and Norton all at the same time? lol. Bob’s lucky he didn’t need Windows reinstalled from scratch.

  12. Vivian…you’re not removing ALL…your stopping a select few from starting up. The idea is to stop optional programs (i.e.; programs that don’t necessarily have to run…such as Adobe updates, etc.). All of these optional programs use RAM (Random Access Memory) and thus will slow down your computer. Just a word to the wise, don’t go stopping anything and everything. Some of these items are desperately needed for the computer to work properly/safely. In short, if you don’t know what you’re doing…don’t do it. Get someone who is knowledgable to help you. There’s a reason PC techs make $50+ an hour…they have learned the ins and outs (hopefully) and know what they are doing (again…hopefully).

  13. Good article – the first thing I always do to speed up people’s PCs is use MSCONFIG to disable all programs in the Start Up tab, which your WinPatrol program apparently does – I’ve never tried it yet. Once you disable all those programs from starting up, then removing all the other unneeded programs goes even faster.


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