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Debuggering Computers 1: Symantec

People have asked “Could you have a look at my laptop? I think it’s buggered”, so I’ve spent the occasional weekend evening fixing their issues and what could be called “debuggering”.  It’s cheaper than going out to pubs, clubs and the like.

IT people are often quite opinionated and I’m no exception (you might have gathered that already).  I’ve noticed a few common factors in the machines I’ve taken care of over the last couple of years.

Top of the list by a long way is Symantec security products.  I can remember the time when any techie had a set of floppy disks with the Norton Utilities on them.  Back then Norton was a well respected name and the Norton Utilities fixed the vast majority of problems people encountered with their PCs.  Norton Anti-Virus was a well respected product, challenging Dr Solomon’s for top dog status (OK, I’m probably showing my age there).  Now though, Symantec seems to have forsaken the efficiency of the Norton Utilities for a resource hungry, PC slowing, bloatware approach.

A friend asked me to accompany them out on a trip to buy a new laptop.  There was a good offer in a well known and heavily advertised chain store for a basic laptop.  Basic but ideal for my friend’s needs.  The sales person tried to sell my friend the Symantec suite and a (very overpriced) memory upgrade to go with it and was more than a little surprised when I advised her that neither were needed; there are a number of excellent freeware products out which don’t slow machines down and need extra memory.  My standard build does not include Symantec or Norton products.  I saw the look in her eyes as what I told her contradicted her programming.  I’m not the only one who feels that way…

Symantec Sucks is a blog detailing one person’s struggle with Symantec’s products and their move to non-Symantec products.  A cursory Google search of the phrase “Symantec sucks” shows several sites and articles.

Removing Symantec’s products isn’t always that easy.  On some occasions uninstalling Symantec Anti-virus and Norton Internet Security has been known to stop programs accessing the internet.  Like the PC I am typing from at the moment.  A thorough rebuild is sometimes the only way to erase every trace of Symantec products, and this PC has been thoroughly rebuilt.  And is all the better for it.

At my guess I’d say this PC is now running consistently 40 per cent faster than when it was running Symantec products.  It no longer sounds like an Eagle transporter spacecraft taking off and the owner of the PC is very impressed that the PC runs a lot faster.

Many ADSL routers come with a firewall as part of the product.  If yours doesn’t or if you want to add another level of protection then you might want to consider a software firewall.  Windows Firewall comes as part of Windows XP while SoftPerfect have a personal firewall product that is free.  I used to use Sygate Personal Firewall, which I found to be excellent but it was bought up by Symantec and I assume it was assimilated into Norton Internet Security.

As far as anti virus software is concerned, AVG and Avast are the two products I have recent experience of using and I would say they are fine basic products (and if you stick to getting the basics right you can’t go far wrong).

I’m not a fan of bloatware.  Any software that makes your computer sound like it’s an Eagle spacecraft trying to take off and slows it right down is software that I would look to replace.  Software manufacturers would do well to remember to stick to the basics and keep the “optional” garbage to a minimum.

Symantec products work for lots of people who are happy with them.  That’s great – if it works and does what the customer wants then that’s super.  My experience is different.  That’s why I suggest people look elsewhere for anti-virus and firewall products.

More on “debuggering” computers to come.

Published incomputers