Category Archives: Computers and Internet

The Secret Guide to Uninstalling Any Anti-Virus Software

[NOTE #2:  I have made some small edits to the blog post for grammar and overall improved legibility.  2014-01-31 @ 1AM PST.  AG]
[NOTE #1:  I have updated Step #5 with additional information about Windows Safe Mode.  2013-06-11 @ 6PM PDT.  AG]

Preface

As a bit of background an old friend of mine recently contacted me looking for help in uninstalling his McAfee AntiVirus software. Since I used to work there, I figured “fair ’nuff,” considered it some karmic payback and did a bit of web spelunking.  I found the appropriate knowledgebase article on McAfee’s support site, McAfee Document ID # TS101331, “How to uninstall or reinstall supported McAfee products using the Consumer Products Removal Tool,” noted the link in the article to download their manual uninstaller (conveniently called the McAfee Consumer Products Removal Tool) and forwarded that to him with instructions to contact McAfee’s tech support if things didn’t go as instructed in the article.

McAfee, like my current employer, ESET, provides a perfectly serviceable set of instructions. As a matter of act, you can view them at ESET Knowledgebase Article #2289, “How do I manually uninstall my Windows ESET security product?” (complete with link to ESET’s manual removal program, the equally pedestrian-sounding ESET Uninstaller tool).

However, while both sets of instructions give the information and tools you need to uninstall their respective programs, they are strictly limited to those actions and do not take into account of the myriad steps one should take before or after removing any kind of anti-malware software for your computer.  While for most uninstalls, the process is going to go just fine, anti-malware software is used by hundreds of millions of people a day, and there’s always a possibility of something unexpected happening when dealing with that many computers.

And that’s why I wrote (and you are reading) this blog post, the Secret Guide to Uninstalling Any Anti-Virus Software. But before I continue, I want you to actually let you in on a secret:  The title of this blog post is something of a misnomer, and here’s why: Most of the malicious software (a/k/a, “malware”) one comes across these days is not “recursively self-replicating code that creates a possibly evolved copy of itself,” or, in other words, a computer virus.  In most cases, you’re not dealing with a computer virus but rather a bot, multi-stage downloader, rootkit, trojan, worm or some other form of digital pustulence.   It’s definitely evil, it’s definitely something you don’t want on your computer, but it’s probably not a virus. These days, viruses account for perhaps under 10% of threats seeing by anti-malware companies on a daily basis. The term computer virus however, is inexorably linked in the public’s consciousness, so I’ve used that term where it matters in the title for SEO purposes, even though the most technically accurate term to describe threatening software is malware and, correspondingly, the security software which protects against it, anti-malware.

With that verbal caveat in mind, the rest of this article can now serve as a guide around your existing anti-malware vendor’s removal instructions to offer a more holistic method for removing their software, especially if you come across a problem or unexpected system behavior.

Step 1: Checklist

Prior to uninstalling your anti-malware software, make sure you have the following equipment readily available:

  • The computer from which you wish to uninstall the anti-malware software. If the computer is a notebook, be sure to have the battery fully charged and the AC adapter plugged in.
  • An external hard disk drive and/or USB flash drive.
  • A trusted Internet connection for the computer which is behind a residential broadband gateway router. Or, in other words, not directly connected to your cable or DSL modem.

Once you have these assembled, you are ready to begin.

Step 2: Backups

Before uninstalling the anti-malware software, the first thing you should do is back up any valuable information from your computer. The reason for this is quite simple: All anti-malware software—not just McAfee’s or ESET’s but every developer’s—interacts with the system at a lower-level than most other applications. If a problem leaves the system unusable, you will be able to quickly resume operations.

If you already have a procedure in place for backing up your data, go ahead and do that now. If you do not, now would be the time to plug that external hard disk drive or USB flash drive, and copy anything which is important to it from the computer’s internal drive.

What sort of files are important on a system? That will vary from person to person, but in general, that would mean anything which is unique, rare, or would otherwise be impossible to replace, such as personal documents, pictures and videos. For example, you can always purchase a new computer with a new copy of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office on it, but it would not be possible to go to the same store and buy a copy of your old data, such tax documents, pictures of your family, personal correspondence and so forth.

In addition to all of that personal data, you should also make sure you have the license keys readily available for any programs you would need to install on a new computer. Depending upon where you purchase your software, that information might be on a certificate in the retail boxed packaging, sent via email, or in a mixture of the two. If you are not sure where the license keys for all of your software is located, you can use a programs such as Nirsoft‘s ProduKey, Magical Jelly Bean’s Keyfinder , NS Auditor’s Product Key Explorer or Enchanted Keyfinder to locate them.  As a matter of fact, it’s often helpful to use several different programs, in case one of them does not correctly detect a license key.

Be sure to print out or save the information so it will be available when you need it. You can even save the information to your external backup drive so it will be available in the even you need to reinstall them on another computer. These are the type of things which are precious on a computer and make it uniquely yours, so be sure to take good care of the backup drive.

For documents that are critically important to you (business documents or records, projects that you are working on, and so forth), consider making an additional backup copy (or two) to a USB flash drive and storing those in a safe and secure place.

After you have backed up your information, try restoring a few files, ideally on a different computer or to a different location on your existing one, to verify the backup was successful.

Lastly, please note that while backing up is a precautionary activity, it is an important one for any computer user to perform. The steps outlined above are meant to offer general information about backups. For additional information about backups, see Options for backing up your computer [PDF, 862KB] a vendor-neutral paper I wrote for my employer which provides a thorough audit of backup technologies for home and small business.

Step 3: Downloads

After backing up and verifying your data, the next step to take is to download a fresh copy of your current anti-malware software for which you are licensed, even if you are going to install a different program.

If you purchased McAfee, you can re-download a copy of your licensed software by visiting https://home.mcafee.com/Secure/Protected/Login.aspx in your web browser; for ESET, visit http://www.eset.com/download/ and so forth, for whatever company you purchased your anti-malware software from. Otherwise, follow the instructions from your computer manufacturer, Internet service provider or whomever originally provided it for re-downloading a copy. Save the file to a location you will remember, such as the Desktop, the Downloads directory, an external USB flash drive and so forth.

The reason for doing this is that if your installation of the anti-malware software is damaged and does not uninstall correctly, you can use the copy you just downloaded to perform a repair installation, and then cleaning re-uninstall it a second time once the damage is repaired.

If you are installing a different anti-malware program, download that to a location you will remember and have it ready for installation.

Lastly, go ahead and download the McAfee Consumer Product Removal (filename: MCPR.EXE) tool from McAfee’s web site at http://download.mcafee.com/products/licensed/cust_support_patches/MCPR.exe or the ESET Uninstaller (filename: ESETUninstaller.EXE) from http://download.eset.com/special/ESETUninstaller.exe and save it to location that you will remember. Just about every anti-malware developer has a manual uninstall tool to remove any remnants of their anti-malware software left on a computer after it has been uninstalled using conventional means. If you are unsure of where yours might be, check ESET Knowledgebase Article #146, “Uninstallers (removal tools) for common antivirus software” which provides a comprehensive, frequently updated list of manual uninstallation tools.

Note: Because anti-malware programs install themselves into the operating system at a lower-level than other types of software, it is not unusual for drivers, services and other settings related to the anti-malware software to be left over after a conventional uninstallation. While running a manual uninstallation tool won’t jumpstart your computer’s heart, it will remove any of these orphaned processes, registry entries and files that can cause problems when you install your new anti-malware software.

Step 4: Typical Uninstallation

Now that your system is backed up, and you have downloaded the tools you will need to (1) uninstall the existing anti-malware software; (2) repair a damaged installation; and (3) install your replacement software, we can begin the process of removing the existing anti-malware software from your computer.

First, begin by rebooting your computer as you normally would. This ensures that any pending file updates or operations on in-use files—including operating system updates—are performed as the operating system shuts down and then restarts.

Log in to the computer as you normally do, and then wait about five minutes. This allows any processes which normally run when the computer starts up to finish gracefully. Perhaps your anti-malware software will even download a last update.

You can now perform the following steps to begin uninstalling your anti-malware software from your computer:

  1. Run the Add or Remove Programs applet from the Control Panel, by pressing Winkey+R (the Windows key and the R key together on the keyboard at the same time) to bring up the Run dialog, entering “APPWIZ.CPL” as the name of the program to open, and press Enter or click on the OK button to start it. The Add or Remove Programs applet will appear. Note that the exact name of this applet varies based on which version of Microsoft Windows is running. For example, under recent versions of Windows it is called the Uninstall or Change a Program applet. The command to run it, though, is the same under all versions of Windows.
  2. In the Add or Remove Programs applet, locate the entry for the McAfee SecurityCenter, ESET NOD32 Antivirus or whatever your anti-malware software is called and double-click on it. This will start the uninstaller built into Windows, and telling it to remove the anti-malware software from your computer.
  3. Depending upon which anti-malware software is installed on your computer, you may have to click on Remove, Uninstall or a similarly-named option to begin the uninstall process. If asked to select which components of the anti-malware software you wish to remove, select (check) all of them.
  4. Allow the uninstaller to finish removing the anti-malware software from your computer. When finished, reboot the system, even if you were not prompted to do so.

At this point, you have completed a typical uninstallation of the anti-malware software from your computer, and you are now half-way through the uninstallation process.

Step 5: Manual Uninstallation

While  performing the uninstallation as outlined above via the Control Panel applet is usually enough to remove any anti-malware software from a computer, there is always a chance of issues occurring with orphaned processes and files that could affect the speed and reliability of the computer.

A second uninstallation, this time using the manual uninstallation tool is now performed to prevent any misbehavior from leftover remnants of anti-malware software on the computer. Here’s how to do this, step-by-step:

  1. Restart the computer as you did in the previous step, but this time start the computer in Safe Mode. If you are running Windows 7 or earlier, this can be done by repeatedly tapping the F8 key on your keyboard as the computer starts up, until a text menu appears with an option named Safe Mode. For Windows 8 or newer, see this set of instructions from Microsoft. Starting the computer in Safe Mode tells Windows to skip loading most programs which run when the operating system starts, loading only those necessary for the operating system to run. This special mode, used for troubleshooting system problems, provides an ideal environment for running anti-malware software’s manual removal tools.
  2. Locate the McAfee Consumer Product Removal (filename: MCPR.EXE) tool, the ESET Uninstaller (filename: ESETUninstaller.EXE) tool or whatever the name is of the manual removal tool that you downloaded earlier and run it as administrator by right-clicking on it and selecting the Run as Administrator option from the context menu that pops up. If you are not logged in with administrator privileges, you may need to enter the credentials for an administrator. The manual removal tool will now run.
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen to remove any leftover remnants of the previously uninstalled McAfee anti-malware software from the computer. When complete, a message will appear telling you whether the removal was successful or unsuccessful. For additional information, see the anti-malware company’s knowledgebase article.
  4. After successfully running the manual removal tool on the computer, close the program and reboot the computer once more to allow any pending changes to the system to complete.

At this point, there should be no remnants of McAfee’s, ESET’s or anyone else’s anti-malware software on your computer, unless you are running Windows 8, in which case Microsoft’s Windows Defender will appear; but don’t worry, it automatically disappears when another anti-malware program is installed. Keep in mind, though, that this also means your computer is now vulnerable to malicious software and other threats and it is not safe for your computer to access the Internet (unless running Windows 8, as noted).

Step 6: Final Steps and Conclusion

Since the computer is no longer protected, the first thing you want to do is to install your replacement anti-malware software.

Go ahead and install the anti-malware software you downloaded earlier and allow it to complete its installation per the author’s instructions. Allow the new anti-malware program to completely finish updating before you run any other network-aware programs, such as web browsers, email clients, instant messaging apps, games and so forth. Once it has finished installing—a reboot may be required—it is then safe to use programs which access the Internet.

At this point, you are done.  Your anti-malware software is up-to-date and you can now go online with your computer!

Aryeh Goretsky

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Changing the default Library Folder View in Windows 7

[An earlier version of this blog entry was published here at Scot’s Newsletter Forum.  AG]

Hello,

By default, the Windows Explorer icon on the Taskbar opens the Libraries folder view. If you want to open another folder, instead, you can change this by performing the following:

  1. Hold down the Shift key and Right-click on the Windows Explorer icon in the Taskbar.
  2. Select Properties from the context menu that pops up.
  3. In the Target: field, change the value of “%windir%\explorer.exe” to a different value. Some possible options include:
    • enter “explorer.exe ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}” to open the Computer View of all disk drives and network shares
    • enter “explorer.exe ::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}” to open the Documents folder
    • enter “explorer.exe ::{208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}” to open the Network folder
    • enter “explorer.exe ::{7007acc7-3202-11d1-aad2-00805fc1270e}” to open Network Connections
    • enter “explorer.exe ::{2227a280-3aea-1069-a2de-08002b30309d}” to open the Printers folder
    • enter “explorer.exe ::{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}” to open the Recycle Bin
    • enter “explorer.exe ::{871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}” to open Internet Explorer (or just use the Internet Explorer icon on the taskbar)

You can also specify “explorer.exe {path specification}” to open a specific directory, where “{path specification}” is the path to the directory, such as “explorer.exe C:\ProgramData“. Environment variables are also supported, such as “explorer.exe %HOMEPATH%“.

And if, of course, you ever wish to restore the default view of the Libraries folder, you can do so by changing the value back to “%windir%\explorer.exe”.

NOTE: In all of the examples above, the quotation marks (” “) are actually not entered.

Advanced tip: The long hex strings above are actually the CLSIDs for those objects. It’s possible that there are quite a few others which work as well. If you come across additional ones, please share!

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

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Windows XP Optimization Tips I

[Some minor edits to improve legibility.  2013-06-17 @ 8:30PM]

Hello,

Over time, file system fragmentation, applications (and services) which run at boot up can take their toll on performance on a computer running Microsoft Windows XP. The following list describes some of the changes I make to a system to help improve its bootup speed and responsiveness, as well as some changes I prefer for usability purposes. A couple of things to keep in mind:
  • This blog entry is intended more as a general overview than a step-by-step guide and is intended for moderate to experienced users.
  • Some of my recommendations in here are opposite Microsoft’s own recommendations and while I do not think they are harmful, may provide no gains for your particular configuration. Exercise caution by making one (or more) backups of your before attempting any of the changes outlined herein and verify the backups were successfully, ideally by restoring them on a different computer.
NOTE: This list specifically makes use of the utility programs provided by Microsoft and does not include the use of third-party tools. There are many such programs available to tune up, optimize or otherwise improve a system’s performance. Some of these work, while others may provide no gain or actually reduce the performance of your system. I do not typically recommend the use of such tools, preferring to allow Microsoft Windows to manage itself. Your experiences may vary.
  1. Move all directories except Startup from C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Start Menu to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu to de-clutter things. Windows (or perhaps some applications) seem to require that the C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Start Menu\Startup directory exist and can get confused when it is not present.
  2. Create a new directory named C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Startup – Optional and move the contents of both the C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Start Menu\Startup to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Startup directories to it. This stops all the programs which were launched automatically from these locations from running from running each time the computer boots up.
  3. Close the two Startup directories when done but leave the Startup – Optional directory open as you’ll need it in the next step.
  4. Run the Registry Editor (filename: REGEDIT.EXE) and open the [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run] key. Inside it are a bunch of string values for programs which also run on startup. Double-click on each string value to open it, copy the data (the complete program path and any arguments listed for it), create a new shortcut the Startup – Optional directory and paste the program in as a new shortcut. Delete the registry entry for a program when done and repeat until all the programs that used to run from that registry key now exist as links in the Startup – Optional directory.

Repeat for the [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run] key.

At this point, you now have a computer that, when rebooted, no longer runs all those programs which launched through the various startup directories and registry keys. There are, however, probably a few programs which you do want to run each time Windows starts (antivirus software, sound card manager and so forth). Copy the shortcuts running these programs from the Startup – Optional directory to the C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Startup directory.

You’ve now cleaned up the programs that run at startup, which should improve boot time. There are also services (think UNIX daemons) that run automatically as well. These can be manipulated via the Services Manager (filename: SERVICES.MSC), however, unless you know what services can be changed, I’d suggest leaving it alone for now.

The next thing to do is get rid of temporary files. Delete the contents of the following directories (e.g., leave the directories intact, but empty):

C:\WINDOWS\TEMP\

C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Local Settings\Temp\

C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\

The first is the temporary file folder used by the operating system, the second by your account, and the last by Internet Explorer. Even if you don’t use IE regularly, it may still have some junk files in it. Do not be alarmed if you cannot remove all the subdirectories or files, though. Sometimes there are background processes holding a file open or somesuch.

Now that you have gotten the startup operations and the temporary file folders cleaned up, it’s time for a disk defragmentation. This can take a while to run if it hasn’t been done, so I’d suggest starting it before going to bed. Command line option is “C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DEFRAG.EXE C: -F -V“. The F is for force and the V for verbose. The built-in Windows defragmenter is not the best in the world, and the effects can be somewhat cumulative. After it finishes, run it again. If it takes more than five to ten minutes to run, then it made some more improvements. Run it a third time and by now it should have done a decent job of defragmenting the files, even if it did not optimize their layout on the disk much.

You should now have a machine which runs faster, especially for booting up. You will want to periodically (every 1-2 months) check the Startup directories and Run registry keys for programs which may have been automatically installed by new or updated software (Adobe, Real, Sun…) and move them to the Startup – Optional directory as needed, as well as the file deletion and defragmentation to keep things running in good order.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

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How to simulate a “Classic” Windows XP/Windows 2000 style Start Menu under Windows 7

[The following is a copy of a message I originally wrote in the Windows 7 Tips & Tricks, Put your great tips here! message thread on Scot’s Newsletter Forums on November 9, 2009. AG]
 
Hello,

Here’s how to simulate a Windows XP "Classic"/Windows 2000 style Start Menu on a computer running Microsoft Windows 7:

  • First off, a little maintenance: Right-click on the Start Orb, select Properties from the popup context menu, click on the Taskbar tab and de-select (uncheck) the Lock the taskbar option.
  • Right-click on any empty spot of the Taskbar and select Toolbars → New Toolbars from the popup context menu.
  • When the New Toolbar – Choose a folder window appears select "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu" as the directory to use for a Toolbar and click on the Select Folder button to choose it.
  • After the new Start Menu toolbar has been made, drag it over all the way to the left until it is between the Start Orb and your pinned applications.
  • Move your cursor over the separator bar beween the Start Menu toolbar and the and drag all the way to the left until all that is visible is the "Start Menu »" text. If you click on the "»" glyph you should now see a familiar menu tree.
  • Right-click on the Start Menu text and select Open Folder from the popup context menu. The Start Menu directory will appear.
  • Navigate to the Accessories directory, right-click on the Run shortcut and select Copy from the popup context menu.
  • Navigate back to the Start Menu directory, right-click in any part of the empty window and select Paste from the popup context menu.

You should now have a "classic" Windows XP/Windows 2000 style Start Menu on your taskbar. Remember to lock the taskbar by toggling the Lock the taskbar option from the first step if you prefer a locked taskbar.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

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Initial thoughts on Malwarebytes versus IObit

Hello,

Malwarebytes accusation that IObit has infringed on their intellectual property has received a bit of attention in news and and blogs, and a good deal more discussion about what happened—or did not happen, or may have happened—is occurring in various web forums and mailing lists. 

Having worked in the anti-malware industry for a number of years (even so far back as *gasp* when it was called the anti-virus industry) I had some small interest in the matter, however, I have more interest, frankly, in clearing up what I see as a lot of confusion.  So, just to be clear, the opinions expressed are my own, and not those of my current or any past employer.  If I got something right, or there’s a part you agree with, that’s probably because of something I learned from one of my smart co-workers.  If, on the other hand, I got something wrong, or you disagree with it, violently or otherwise, well, that’s probably my fault.

As I understand it, there seem to be several related issues:

  • Malwarebytes has accused IObit of copying a percentage (up to 100%, it appears) of MBAM’s threat signature database and including it in IObit Security 360.
  • Malwarebytes has accused IObit of identifying threats using the exact same names that Malwarebytes uses to detect those threats.
  • Malwarebytes has salted their threat signature database with signatures for nonexistent threats, and claims that IOBit Security 360 detects files containing those signatures, identifying them with identical (or nearly identical) names used by MBAM.
  • IObit has stated that the detection of one of the salted false positives occurred because it was sent to them anonymously and that they used the name of the file as it was uploaded to them to identify it in IObit Security 360.

The anti-malware industry shares samples, meta-data about samples and for high-profile threats may share information such as reverse-engineering and detection techniques.  Anti-malware companies even swap product licenses with each other:  It can be helpful to prioritize the incoming firehose of samples not just with your own internally-developed tools, but with a competitor’s products as well.  These relationships often extend back for years and decades, and they continue to go on, unabated.

There is, however, a difference between copying a competitor’s naming conventions in toto, which indicates many things about the copier, such as laziness and not having enough resources to properly conduct threat identification, and reverse-engineering a competitor’s product to decrypt their signature database and import it into yours, which may be a civil law or a criminal law (or both) matter.

There’s nothing particular novel or new about what Malwarebytes has done with salting their threat signature database.  When I was at my previous employer in the anti-virus field, we regularly added fake entries to our virus signatures, and when those signatures appeared in competitor’s products, we had discussions with them.  Generally, all it took was a phone call (or a fax) to stop that behavior.  Those were done privately, though, and never reached a point where lawyers (or the public) had to get involved.

One thing I hope everyone keeps in mind is that this is a very complex issue, not just from a technical and legal perspectives, but from cultural and perhaps even geopolitical ones as well.  I believe Malwarebytes is an American company and IObit is a Chinese one.  As such, it very possible that IObit’s employees do not communicate as effectively as people who are native English speakers. If you are a native English speaker and reading this, think about how difficult it might be for you to respond to message in Cantonese or Mandarin.

I suspect this is ultimately going to be settled in a court of law, or at least by lawyers, rather than in the court of public opinion, and would caution people to try and take a cautious and balanced view of the issue until then.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

Sources:
Horowitz, Michael. ComputerWorld Blogs – IObit accused of stealing from Malwarebytes.
Kleczynski , Marcin. Malwarebytes blog – IOBit’s Denial of Theft Unconvincing.
Landesman, Mary. About.Com – IOBit Steals Malwarebytes’ Intellectual Property.
Mills, Elinor. CNet News – Malwarebytes accuses rival of software theft.
unknown. IObit blog – Declaration from IObit
unknown. Malwarebytes blog – IOBit Steals Malwarebytes’ Intellectual Property.

REV. 2009105.2312

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Before you install Vista SP1…

An acquaintance of mine who is a prolific vlogger collects user-submitted tips and records them. 
 
Normally, I do not do those kinds of things—I am more of a web-based forum-kind-of-guy—but I thought it might be fun to share (and perhaps expand a little) on the email I sent him.
 

A quick run down on things one might want to do before installing Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1 on your computer:

  1. Before making any major changes to your system, it is always a good idea to back up your valuable data files.  Vista includes a backup utility you can access by clicking on the Start Orb and typing "backup" into the Search field, or by using a Vista-compatible backup program such as Acronis True Image, NovaStor Novaback or Symantec Ghost.
  2. Download and install the latest device drivers for your computer’s hardware. Device drivers are small programs that allows your computer’s hardware to talk with the operating system.  When a service pack is released Microsoft sometimes makes small changes to the operating systems that can cause some device drivers to perform slowly or not work very well.  Check with your computer manufacturer or hardware vendor to see if any of the following have updated device drivers:
    • hard disk drive controller (especially if you use an add-on SATA or SCSI expansion card)
    • fingerprint reader (very important if you use one to login to your computer or protect the information on it)
    • network interface card
    • motherboard chipse
    • sound card
    • video card

    and so forth. Also, if you have an OEM-branded computer from a company like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Toshiba and so forth, check with them to see if they have any prerequisites for installing the service pack.

  3. Any software which interacts with Vista at low level may need an update as well.  Examples of software that might need to be updated include backup, CD and DVD creation software, disk defragmentation and security software such as antimalware and firewall.  Be sure to check with the authors of these to verify compatibility with Service Pack 1.
  4. Check your hard disk drive for errors before installing the Service Pack.   To do so, double-click on the Computer icon on your Desktop to view the hard disk drive, right-click on it to make the context menu pop up, and select Properties to open the properties window for the hard disk drive.  The command to check the hard disk drive for errors is located on the Tools tab.
  5. Defragment your hard disk drive before installing Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista.  Installing a service pack can be a lengthy and disk-intensive process as the service pack updates the all of the files which make up the operating system.  Defragmenting the hard disk drive reorders the files on the hard disk drive which can speed up access to them.  Vista includes a disk defragmentation utility you can access by clicking on the Start Orb and typing "defragment" into the Search field, or by using a Vista-compatible defragmentation program such Diskeeper’s Diskeeper, Golden Bow VOpt or Raxco PerfectDisk.
  6. If you do need to disable your security software before installing Service Pack 1, remember to re-enable after the service pack is finished.  Normally, this is not an issue since modern security software tends to co-exist with installing a service pack and the Windows Security Center should notify if your security software is disabled, but it is a good idea to keep track of such things, just in case.

Remember, it may take some time for the service pack to finish installing, especially if you have an older computer or many files on yours.  Be patient as it may take several hours to complete.

This list is just something I put together and is far from complete.  What tips do you have for preparing a system for service pack installation?

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Back from Virus Bulletin 2006

I spent last week in Montreal, Quebec Canada at Virus Bulletin 2006, which, as the name implies, is run by Virus Bulletin magazine, the anti-virus industry’s trade journal.  Despite having worked in the anti-virus industry from 1989-1995 and now from 2005 onwards, this is the first time I had ever attended this event, which made it, well, special, to me. Interestingly enough, what we define as a "classical" computer virus, a parasitic, replicating computer program, account for well under 10% of the threats we see and protect against these days, but there is little agreement within the industry about the definitions for Trojan horses, spyware, adware, dual-use tools which can be used for criminal purposes and so forth, that it is easier to say "virus." Besides, malicious software just doesn’t sound as sexy.
 
This was also the first time I had travelled outside the United States since 9-11, and while I had visions of things like endless lines, overzealous customs officials going through my luggage and ripping it to pieces and being interrogated by border guards under bright lights, I have to say it was totally uneventful and didn’t take long at all to go through customs in either direction.  All the agents were nice and professional and I think the most I waited in a line was about five or ten minutes.
 
While I had been to British Columbia and the Yukon when growing up and have fond memories of Vancouver and Victoria, this was the first time I had visited a province that wasn’t on the west coast and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I have heard many horror stories about tourists and non-French speakers getting ignored by locals in Quebec and especially in Montreal, and was expecting I might even have some trouble getting around town, but everyone I spoke to was fluent in English and very helpful to boot.  Also, while I had most of my meals in the hotel, the food we had about town was excellent.  One night we went for dinner at Cafe Alexandre, and while I am not very familiar with French cuisine, it was excellent.  There was also a restaurant we went to that served Czechoslovakian (or perhaps it was Czech and Slovak) food one night that was wonderful as well.
 
But, if you are reading this, it is not because you are interested in my travelogue of Montreal (which, alas, I did not see much of anyway), but because you are interested in the happenings at . As much as I do not want to keep you in suspense, though,  that will need to wait until a future blog entry.
 

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Filed under Computers and Internet