• Newbie question: How to get rid of antivirus in Win10

    I should repeat this more often. From AB:

    Dear Woody:
        When purchasing a Windows 10 laptop, I noticed that some manufacturers have installed their own antivirus software. How can I uninstall their software and install Windows Defender? Does Microsoft offer free technical support for Windows Defender?

    Bundled antivirus is a rip-off. The antivirus companies pay the hardware vendors to install their crapware on new machines. Antivirus is a multi-billion-dollar industry and their primary infection vector is through new machines.

    The method for getting rid of it varies depending on the vendor, but in general you just need to uninstall it – right-click Start, choose Control Panel, then at the bottom on the left choose Uninstall a program. Double-click on the antivirus program.

    Once you’ve gotten rid of the junk, Windows Defender will kick in. You don’t need to do anything.

    Microsoft does support Windows Defender and in most cases support is free, all the time. Start at answers.microsoft.com.

  • Antivirus in Windows 8.1

    I steadfastly recommend and use Microsoft’s built-in Microsoft Security Essentials on all of my machines, including my main machine, which is running Windows 8.1.

    Many of your disagree, though, particularly in light of Microsoft saying that MSE isn’t expected to lead the pack in new protection.

    With that as prelude, EP just sent this to me:

    Hey Woody. Now that Windows 8.1 is officially out there’s one serious issue that has to be dealt with – Antivirus/antispyware programs and Windows 8.1 compatibility. 

    Spybot Search & Destroy version 2.2 is fully compatible with Windows 8.1 as announced here: http://www.safer-networking.org/2013/new-spybot-2-2-to-support-windows-8-1/

     Avira antivirus programs version 2014 (the newly released ones) are compatible with Windows 8.1 as noted here: http://www.avira.com/en/support-for-business-knowledgebase-detail/kbid/1495

    But the 2013 and earlier versions of Avira are not Win8.1 compatible. At least this time, Avira isn’t late to the party for Win8.1.

    Avast starting with version 9.0.2006 is fully compatible with Windows 8.1 as I saw somewhere in their forums site. The 2014 version of AVG is also Win8.1 compatible.

    Most major antivirus/antispyware products (like Symantec, Mcafee and ESET) have been recently updated to fully work on Windows 8.1 though some haven’t made official announcements on their web sites for Windows 8.1 compatiblity.

  • Windows XP at risk as antivirus vendors jump ship

    The latest Virus Bulletin VB100 results are troubling, for anyone clinging to XP.

    InfoWorld Tech Watch.

  • Antivirus and Windows 8

    You probably guessed that I strongly recommend against installing  any third party antivirus software  in Windows 8. The built-in Win8 package works great,and it’ll never beg you for money.

    That said, I just received a sobering  overview of  known AV problems from EP:

    Now that Windows 8 is out to the masses, there are some antivirus – internet security suites that are not yet compatible with Windows 8.


    The folks of Avira have acknowledged that their antivirus software is incompatible with Win8 and may cause blue screen crashes on Win8 if Avira is installed on there:



    Even a recent version of Avast antivirus software can also cause BSODs on Win8 as noted in these Avast forum threads:




    [a recent patch for Avast has been released to resolve the blue screen crashes on Win8] But the next release of Avast sometime in early 2013 will be fully Win8 compatible.


    and lastly the Lavasoft Ad-aware 10.x security software has some incompatibility issues on Windows 8 mentioned in this Lavasoft forum thread:


    I also read in the forum there that the upcoming Ad-aware version 10.4 will add full Windows 8 support, which will be due out in late November 2012.


    In the meantime, Windows 8 users should avoid using Avast, Avira or Lavasoft and switch to other internet security programs that are currently compatible with Windows 8.

    EP just sent me an update:

    a follow up on Avast.  It was already compatible with Windows 8 since version 7.0.1473, as noted on the Softpedia page on Avast’s history / changelog:


    I was not fully aware of this.


    Build 1473 of Avast 7.0 was released October 24 and build 1474 was released Nov. 1 to fix certain crashes on Windows 8.  A patch for Avast 7.0.1474 is made available here:


    this one should resolve more blue screen crashes with Avast 7 but this patch specifically requires version 7.0.1474 and won’t install on build 1473 or less.


    So Win8 users who have Avast 7.0 installed should upgrade to version 7.0.1474 and apply the aswnet.sys patch to fix most (if not all) of the serious crashes.


    You’ve probably guessed that I no longer use Avast – I’m Microsoft Security Essentials all the way in Win7, and use nothing besides the default (“Windows Defender”) in Win8.

  • Removing Antivirus 2009 and its ilk

    I get messages like the following one from CK at least a few times every week:

    I don’t know if you can help me but I don’t know where else to go. I have Vista on my computer. I use Norton as my antivirus. Yesterday I got this other system security site that keeps popping up. The icon looks like a shield. Background is yellow with black stripes. I went to add remove programs and removed it from there. I went to all programs and system security and deleted it from there. But the icon stays on the right hand side of my computer and keeps popping up when I am on the computer telling me there is 17 threats. I ran Norton and it was OK. This system security firewall alert tells me of the threats. If you go through to try and remove them it ask for a credit card number. I don’t know how to get this off. Do you have any suggestions?

    (Frankly, my first suggestion is to get rid of Norton and replace it with a smaller, free alternative, but if you’ve read my books, you know all about it. That doesn’t solve your problem, but it makes me feel better.)

    From your description it’s hard to tell for sure, but it sounds to me like you’ve been infected with a piece of cr*pware similar to Antivirus 2009. Norton doesn’t prevent you from installing Antivirus 2009. You get it when you install a program that says it’s detected a gazillion viruses on your computer, and for a nominal fee it’ll remove them all.

    Brian Krebs at the Washington Post has a slew of articles about this scummy program and others like it. The worst ones encrypt all of the files in your My Documents folder, and refuse to open them unless you pay a ransom.

    To get rid of it, there’s a removal program from PC Tools (a very reputable scum-busting company) that’s explained on the 2-spyware site. That’s a good place to start.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know of any product that will remove all of the Antispyware 2009 clones. You may have to re-format your hard drive and start all over.

    That’s the price you pay for believing the scare tactics these companies use. A good, free antivirus program will protect you from some of the pernicious scum. But even the most bloated and expensive antivirus programs (I won’t mention Norton and McAfee by name) won’t always save you from shooting yourself in the foot.

  • Antivirus 2009 holds documents for ransom

    An interesting article by Brian Krebs in the Washington Post tells about a new variant of the old (and very frustrating) XP Antivirus/XP Antivirus 2008 /XP Antivirus 2009 family of crapware.

    The twist? Antivirus 2009 encrypts the contents of your My Documents folder, then demands $50 for a key to unlock them.

    I’ve had so many people ask me for help with XP Antivirus. They just know their XP machines are littered with viruses because XP Antivirus told them so. And when they paid for the full version of XP Antivirus, they found that they couldn’t get rid of it.

    I hope the people behind XP Antivirus and its ilk rot in hell. Or in jail. Whichever comes first.

  • McAfee Antivirus & Internet Security

    Ed dropped me a line asking, “McAfee has just released a new version of McAfee Antivirus & Internet Security. Should we install this or wait? McAfee is asking to install right away. Any news or comments on this release that should stop me from installing it.”

    Personally, I don’t use any products that claim to provide both AV and “Internet Security”. That’s just too much ground for any single product to cover well. You’re probably best off following Brian Livingston’s advice in Windows Secrets Newsletter’s Security Baseline.

    What do I use? Glad you asked. I sit behind a decent hardware firewall (the Linksys router that Brian recommends) and I’m not overly concerned about monitoring outbound activity. I use Windows XP’s (inbound-only) Windows Firewall, GRIsoft’s free AVG Free, and Webroot’s Spy Sweeper. If I suddenly noticed unexpected outbound activity from my production PC, I’d install the free version of ZoneAlarm.

    You don’t need to spend a fortune on a big, cumbersome package. Stick with the simple, free products that work well. (Spy Sweeper is the only one in the bunch that costs anything.)

  • Is Microsoft playing fair in the antivirus/firewall world?

    This from my latest column in the Windows Secrets newsletter:

    I, for one, am getting more and more uneasy about Microsoft leveraging its monopoly in operating systems to unfairly compete with antivirus, antispyware, antiscum, and firewall manufacturers.

    It currently appears as if the US Department of Justice is going to roll over and play dead. At least, if there are any rumblings at DOJ, I certainly haven’t heard them. Whether the EU will take it lying down remains to be seen. There’s more than a little irony in the thought that the European Union may represent Americans’ best hope for consumer protection.

    This much I know for sure: If you’re paying Microsoft to protect your computer, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    UPDATE: On Friday, Microsoft made a 180-degree change in its previous plans for protecting the Windows kernel. I haven’t seen the details, so I’m not sure if (1) the changes will go far enough to restore a “level playing field” and (2) the changes won’t require re-writes of key parts of the Vista kernel, which could make the new operating system awfully buggy. It’s hard to imagine any operating system at the “Release Candidate 2” stage going through a massive change in its kernel without causing all sorts of weird hiccups.

    Reuters quotes EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes as saying, “Microsoft has to be aware that they have a responsibility to take into account the European regulations and European rules and I am expecting that they are doing that.” Microsoft head attorney Brad Smith has been quoted widely as saying, “Microsoft agreed to make a number of changes to Windows Vista in response to guidance the company received from the European Commission.” There’s a bit of a cognitive slip between those two statements, but nevermind: I’m sure we’ll see more about it later.

    So it looks like there are more changes to Vista coming down the pike – and these are deep changes, reaching all the way into the kernel. Nobody knows what effect this will have on the delivery dates. It’s also anyone’s guess how Microsoft will allow the good guys into the kernel and keep the bad guys out. (I talk about that in my Windows Secrets article.) I just hope they test the dickens out of the kernel changes. It ain’t nice to fool mother nature…