Thursday, 17 March 2011


Something we should all have. Surfing the internet without a good AV program is akin to having unprotected sex with multiple known HIV positive partners.

There’s a plethora of apps to choose from, some are free, some you pay for. I’m one of those people whose a firm believer in the principle ‘you get what you pay for’. I do not see how anyone can produce an effective anti-virus app, distribute it for free, and THEN KEEP IT UP TO DATE. Heuristic scanning can only ever be a partial measure.

So having made that statement, I’m going to limit this discussion to 4 commercially available apps, Symantec’s Norton AV, MacAfee, AVG, and Trend Micros’ PcCillin.

Many years ago, my first choice was Norton… Perhaps because of it’s long history dating back to DOS operating systems, and other software from Symantec, e.g. Norton Commander, without which a DOS PC was a nightmare.

So, until around 2005, Norton AV was used (I include the Internet Security packages when referring to an AV etc) Now Norton worked well, never let a virus or trojan through… but it conflicted with MS Office Outlook (and still does, at least with Office 2003), What it did was this – sometimes one will compose an e-mail and click send too soon. Now, it’s a simple matter to go to the outbox, open the mail for further editing, except Norton AV removes the ‘send’ instruction form any mail highlighted, and as soon as one opened the intended mail for further work, the next in line became ‘highlighted, and wouldn’t send…. Not a major problem, just inconvenient for most. Except for one customer who found it such a problem, I refunded her money for the purchase, and supplied MacAfee instead. Another thing about Norton, it rather CPU and memory intensive, and many (especially all of you running machines with entry level processors and minimal RAM, find it impacts on system performance heavily..

Around this time I was using Norton on my PC, MacAfee on the laptop, and nothing whatsoever on the Mac G5… Then I upgraded the PC to workstation configuration, running a RAID mirror drive system. Norton crashed the RAID…. It loads an ‘engine’ on boot up which will not mirror… In fact it appeared the only )decent) AV on the market that would ‘mirror’, was PcCillin. So this was duly installed….

While on the subject of changing from Norton to another AV, it’s a painful process. Norton writes numerous entries to the windows registry, and DOES NOT REMOVE THEM on UNINSTALL. Nope, you have to MANUALLY EDIT THE REGISTRY!, Not too great for all the non-techies out there. (Perhaps that’s the idea, make it so difficult/expensive to change apps, one remains locked into their product for the life of the machine)

PcCillin. What an excellent program. It has absolutely minimal impact on system performance. It’s stable, and after using it (and Server Protect from the same company on the companies server platform, the only infection it never blocked, was the HTML iFrame virus, which it detected, referred one to the Trend Micro website to download a tool, which then removes that problem in a few minutes online. I have used this app since 2005, and am still completely satisfied. In fact I was so satisfied I stopped selling any other AV app to my PC customers… if they wanted anything else, they got referred to a mall shop…. Yes there are a few things about PcCillin that not everyone will like. The main thing being it needs a bit of training initially… Not difficult, just a simple process of allowing or blocking certain things when asked. After a few days use, it sits nicely in the background, unobtrusively getting on with its job
No CPU heavy engine on boot-up, low system performance impact. Excellent!

Then this year I decided to try AVG. I had been asked on numerous occasion to supply it, but as I hadn’t used it, I would not. (I have a strict policy of NOT selling any software I have not thoroughly tested) Downloaded from the net, paid the licence fee on line, and installed. Right away there was an issue… It has a heavy impact on system performance, so some fiddling was in order – very few options by way of settings. Eventually, part of the app - ‘Resident Shield’ was disabled (I cannot live with a system that takes forever to open a large app like Photoshop, while an AV checks the program EVERY TIME it starts) However, website, e-mail scan etc is still active…. And, On top of it, the whole app CANNOT BE TURNED OFF, apart from for a brief 15 minutes.

Now, after 5 months use, for the first time in more than 10 years, I have found trojans on my system. Yes, AVG USUALLY finds such things on a scan, BUT IT ALLOWS THEM THROUGH, UNDETECTED. Now this is NOT a result of ‘Res Shield’ being disabled. A colleague runs AVD with all features active, and in the past 12 months has had to do a 2 complete re-formats of her system to repair the damage caused by multiple unblocked/undetected infections. So, now, and until this licence expires, I will scan every week, then use Trend Micro ‘HouseCall’ at least once a month to check the AVG scan. No, I’m not impressed, and will be very thankful when the licence expires, so I can go back to PcCillin, Thank You Very Much. (And before someone asks me why I don’t do it now, blame my celtic ancestry – I just despise wastefulness)

And guess what, AVG also conflicts with Office Outlook, the same way Norton does….

And it’s cheaper too (if one has 2 or 3 PCs to protect)

Now, I haven’t uninstalled an AVG app before, but I’m willing to bet it also writes entries all over the registry, and will no doubt need manual intervention.

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