Modern Software Experience

2009-06-15

pre-installed

Norton Internet Security

Late last year I got myself a new PC. It comes with Windows Vista and several pre-installed applications.

I started by reinstalling Vista from the system recovery disks, but that mattered little. Hewlett-Packard cares more about getting a few Euro from the companies whose products they preinstall than consumer choice. Nowhere during the needlessly swap-DVDs-again install did they offer me a option to choose which applications I do or do not want preinstalled. Once the reinstall was done, all the peskyware was installed again. One of these is Norton Internet Insecurity.

Norton demoware

trial

What Hewlett-Packard marketroids pushed onto my machine without my approval or permission is not even a one year license, but merely a 60-day trial license. That is nothing special, Intel motherboards I bought in the past came with a trial version of McAfee.

good idea

Many ISPs offer fully licensed anti-virus and firewall software to their customers. Still, offering a trial license of some anti-virus software along with a new PC is a good idea. Pre-installing is good idea too, even if you fully expect most users to replace it with their favourite anti-virus package. After all, any anti-virus software is better than no protection at all.

replace

I definitely intended to replace this infamous piece of bloatware, but I initially left it on the system. There was no hurry, I had sixty days to replace it. Meanwhile, any security package is better than no security package - or so I thought at the time. I now lean towards the idea that everything, even no security, is better than Norton InSecurity.

restart

As I went about installing software, I sometimes noticed that the PC seemed to have restarted for no apparent reason. There was no discernable rhyme or reason, and I initially wrote it off as some Vista driver issue, some minor issue I would probably solve soon.

Norton Impossible System

When Windows starts up, system tray icons appear one by one in the lower right corner. Norton Infernal Security has such a system tray application, and its icon is not static, but is one of those that keeps changing to show some status, or perhaps just to distract and impress us.

As I started Windows again, I watched the icons appearing. As soon as the Norton Insensible Software icon appeared, it kept changing to show some activity. My first guess would be that it tried to connect to the Internet to check for updates, but whatever it did, the result was no good. The screen went black. Soon after that unexpected event, the BIOS sign-on messages appeared. As soon as Norton Incurable Screw-up tried whatever mischief it was up to, the system crashed - crashed hard. There was no dialog box, no Blue Screen of Death, just a hard reset. Of course, at that point the system starts up again, shows system icons, and crash again…

Norton Zombie

Thanks to the wonderful win-win deal the marketroids at Hewlett-Packard and Symantec had made with each other, my brand new machine had become a Norton Zombie.

As soon as the Norton Immediate Setback icon appeared, the system would reset, restart and show the icons again, but as soon as the Norton InStability icon appeared, the system would reset, restart and show the icons again. Over and over again…

Safe Mode

Starting in Safe Mode went fine. Safe Mode did not allow to me uninstall Symantec’s Shoddy Software, but did allow me to stop it from starting automatically.

Uninstall

I then rebooted normally to uninstall the so-called Norton Internet Security. That, however, is easier said than done. Symantec’s uninstaller is not of the industry-leading quality many people you expect from a company so big.

Complaints all over the Net make it clear that the Norton uninstaller is a less than functional home-brew piece of code. Perhaps it was cobbled together by a Summer intern who was secretly working for the competition.

foul up spectacularly

Uninstalling software is relatively easy when that software is not running, yet Symantec’s uninstall managed to foul up spectacularly anyway. At first it seems to uninstall, just extremely slowly, as if uninstalling this particular application is especially difficult, as if they are taking immense care do it right by taking it step by step. However, there is just so much to do, and it should not take more than a few seconds, at the very most a few minutes and a system restart.

lack-of-progress bar

The ostensible uninstaller for Norton InSecurity takes more than half an hour, during which the lack-of-progress bar creeps agonisingly slowly towards the end. Then, when it finally reaches the end, the uninstaller cheerily declares Install failed. Gathering error information. This may take several minutes..

Norton Internet Security Install Failed

It claims to need a few minutes to gather error information, but it is still gathering information (for whatever purpose) a quarter of an hour later, so the only reasonable thing to do is to kill it from the Task Manager.

There are several more error messages. My unfavourite messagebox is the one that demands that I solve the uninstallation issue by providing the Norton Internet Security CD - you know, the one which Hewlett-Packard never provided in the first place, because their marketroids decided that I would never need it if they preinstalled the product.

Norton Internet Security Please insert the CD we did not provide

Symantec’s Quality Assurance has obviously been more successful in making sure that the Norton uninstallation program uses yellow borders than in making sure that it actually works.

not unique

My experiences with Shoddy Symantec Software and its unreliable uninstaller in particular are far from unique. Many experienced system administrators hate the Symantec Slowdown with a vengeance. Complaints about Norton uninstallation gone awry can be found all over the net.

So I wonder; what where those Hewlett-Packard marketroids thinking when they decided to pre-install this troublesome product? That they did not know better? Is quick profit at the cost of major customer aggravation the new Hewlett-Packard Way?

solution

fix the uninstaller

The real solution the uninstallation problems - apart from using better anti-virus software - is for Symantec to fix the Norton uninstaller.
As far as I know, they still have not done so, but they do offer the Norton Removal Tool. They have been offering this for some time, but Symantec apparently still has not integrated its capabilities into the regular Norton uninstaller.

Norton Removal Tool

Anyway, on the download page Symantec promises that the Norton Removal Tool uninstalls all Norton 2009/2008/2007/2006/2005/2004/2003 products, Norton 360 and Norton SystemWorks 12.0 from your computer.. I can confirm that it removed most of Norton InSufferable, but have to add that I needed to run CCleaner to remove some residue - and then there is still some stuff that Symantec deliberately leaves behind…

best ever

Still, the Norton Removal Tool is the best Norton utility ever, and it just hasn’t been getting the recognition it deserves. Download it now to explore the promise of Norton-free desktop computing.

link