Monday, February 19, 2007

Not So Suite

This past weekend was one of those Weekends From Hell that computer users run into every so often.

It began with the Wife talking about her computer having issues connecting to her online banking program. Seems she's had issues with that for a bit. Because the bank had some issues in late 2006 with their online banking application, I figured it was the bank and not her computer.

This followed her earlier complaints (also in late 2006) that her computer was running slow.

But things actually started earlier than that.

The Background: Security Suites

I've used many different methods of securing computers. I try many of them out so that I can 1) use what I think is best, and 2) be able to give honest, first-hand advice when called upon regarding Internet security applications.

My personal favorite has always been products from what used to be Peter Norton. Now, Norton is a part of Symantec.

When Symantec bought out Norton, I wasn't thrilled with what they did. At first. But, they eventually worked some bugs out and things got better.

Another early favorite was McAfee. At least, back when it was John McAfee's first company. After the merger that formed Network Associates, things went a little downhill.

All in all, though, I had nothing to say bad about the quality of their product. Just the user interface.

Oh, the products did the job. I just didn't like dealing with their products. They were nag-ware. And you couldn't get rid of the darn things.

I always liked ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm firewall. It was always the highes-rated software firewall.

And, Computer Associates was, by default, considered a good product. Since they actually were the technology behind the ZoneLabs suite of products.

Suites. Right. So What?

Now, what's all this got to do with the Wife's computer and the Weekend From Hell?

Well, when Norton expired, I had a multi-system license for the ZoneLabs suite. So, I installed it on her computer.

And, some time around Thanksgiving, her computer began to act up. I did the thing that any husband would do when his wife's computer acted up. I wondered what she did wrong. Being a guy and all.

After being unable to find a cause for the problem, I removed the ZoneLabs suite and bought the Computer Associates suite. Same technology, different name. And I had the chance to get it at a good price. So I bought a multi-system license and installed it on her computer.

Things immediately got better.

Except she started getting alerts about the Anti-Spyware portion of the application. Like it wouldn't start.

I tried and tried to figure it out, but couldn't. I made sure she did have other anti-spyware software installed.

Then, on Thursday, after her complaining again about it "slowing down," I looked at her computer. And I discovered a serious problem with her computer.

It wouldn't let me sign on with the Administrator account. Incorrect password.

I fixed that. I set the password on the account. Yes, on Windows XP, it's possible to do that if you have another administrator account.

Then it wouldn't let me sign on with the Administrator account. Account restictions.

So, I decided to roll back to an earlier setup.

There wasn't one.

So, I removed Computer Associates suite.

Only, it wouldn't let me. I didn't have "permission" to remove it.

Wrong thing for a piece of software to tell me about my own computer. Okay, the Wife's computer. But you get the idea.

We backed up all of her documents onto DVDs, verified the files were copied (that took a while), then did an operating system repair on her computer.

The repair didn't help.

That meant drastic action.

Just Like Starting Over

I took the original discs that came with her computer and blew everything away.

Essentially, started over.

Which meant installing Windows XP Home SP1. Then upgrading to XP Pro. Then upgrading to SP2. Then all the critical updates (not much more than 100, by the time everything was done) for Windows XP.

Then installing software. That's still not completely done. But the most critical pieces are done. And the critical updates for those.

Then putting her documents back. Okay, that's still to be done. Well, some of it is done. But not all. Lot more to do.

Ayway, that meant a long Friday night. And a long Saturday.

How long did Saturday last? Until 5:30 Sunday. Not Sunday morning, but Sunday afternoon.

Once I realized just how goofy I was Sunday (I turned to the Wife and said, "I have no idea what I'm supposed to do now."), I took a shower and went to lie down. I woke up about 6:45 Monday morning.

Still more to go before everything is done.

And when I put Computer Associates suite back on her computer, it seemed to run just fine.

Then, I saw an alert from the folks at

Problems Remain?

Seems that Computer Associates sent out an update in November that has adversely affected many computers.

One of the things it did was "grind a PC down to a snail pace." Yep, that sounds familiar.

So, could it be that my Internet Security Suite from Computer Associates was a problem for the Wife's PC?

With it acting all uppity ... not letting me remove items because I didn't have "permission" ... I'm inclined to believe the problem did indeed reside with that program. Or suite of programs.

So, I'm looking at returning to Norton. I would have considered McAfee, if they didn't act like spy-ware ... or CA ... themselves.

How About You?

Anyone else have any Internet security suite horror stories they want to share? I'd love to hear them.

You know, suites that leave a sour feeling in your stomach. Things to avoid.

I don't mind so much when things go wrong, if I can use the opportunity to learn something and help others avoid pitfalls.

But I'd love to hear about the issues you've run into. Not just to assure me that I'm not alone, but to help me (and, hopefully, others) benefit from experiences.

Tell me your computer security suite horror stories.


  1. Interesting -- I just did a "start over" on our laptop because it slowly began denying me access to programs, and then finally wouldn't start up at all (BSOD). Being a woman, I blamed it on Hubby's unsafe downloading and surfing practices :) However, I also have ZoneAlarm installed. Hm.....

  2. Hubby uses Zone Alarm for some reason, on top of Norton Internet Security. I won't use McAfee and wonder why it is still even making money? I haven't had any stories like that here - but hubby didn't have as much security on his lap top while in Afghanistan as we did on his PC. I don't touch the laptop -- well, he had to completely reinstall and we purchased him a copy of the Norton Security. In the middle of the desert, I'm walking him through a complete reinstall from the US. Go figure.

  3. I have never had a problem with McAfee. I guess. Hell, I don't know. My computer runs fine. I don't do a whole lot of secure transactions on it, however. I don't do online banking. Rarely do I buy stuff on the internet. When my computer seems buggy or slow, I reformat the hard drive and start fresh. As a matter of fact, I still write batch files to back up the stuff I'm too lazy to back up. So, in case of that rare trojan, I'm set.

    So much porn, so little time.

  4. Have you tried the AVG suite from Grisoft? I have been using their free anti-virus for years and recently sprung for the pro suite. Seems to work great with little slowdown. PC-Cillin is also a good one. I currently have AVG on my home PC and PC-CIllin on my kids. I prefer AVG personally but PC-CIllin suite gives me more control over their website viewing as it has parental controls built in.

  5. Go Help Basil...

    Basil's been tearing his hair out and losing sleep over reinstalling Internet security suites on his wife's PC. So if you have one of those, and have recently experienced serious performance problems with said applications, go there and lend ...

  6. [...] couple of weeks ago, I spent the weekend fixing the Wife's computer. If you recall, her computer had issues with [...]

  7. I use CA Internet Security Suite 2008. It scans my computer for viruses and spyware. I also use the parental controls with my kids. Last year the product did not perform well. This year I have had no problems, and they update the product every month. It works for my needs.


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