Thursday, February 25, 2010

My (nightmare) experience moving from a Commercial Antivirus to a free one

The McAfee Antivirus (AV) subscription in my laptop expired. So I decided to try a Free Antivirus for a change, especially with news media and bloggers claiming that Free Antivirus software is as good as the established commercial AV software.

On searching the internet, I could understand that AVG Antivirus was standing out in all the reviews.

Also, in was on top of the chart with 1.7 million downloads.

Naturally, I went ahead and installed AVG Antivirus. My experience with AVG-AV was very short-lived - probably for 6-8 hours.

The experience was quite normal. There were no performance lags.

But I continued searching for more information on Free AV and for more justification/consolation for using AVG-AV.

Thats when I came across a review about Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). It was news to me that Microsoft has a free AV and even better, one of the studies claimed that MSE was as good as or in some cases even better than other established free and commercial AV. You read more about this study here and here.

I was pretty convinced with MSE and I thought I would rather go with a Microsoft product than with AVG-AV.

Now is when the trouble started for me. I started uninstalling AVG-AV. The uninstallation seemed to proceed well half way through and after which it was stuck for a very very long time. After much waiting (close to an hour) I decided to kill the uninstallation from the task manager.

After that, I checked to see if AVG-AV was still working or was it screwed by the uninstallation. It was fine. Thank God I thought.

I gave a second shot at the uninstallation and this time it was successful and I was prompted to restart the computer to complete the uninstallation.

On rebooting, I got a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) and the system rebooted instantly. But to my shock, the laptop wasn't booting into Windows Vista and it again rebooted. This happened again. Thats when I realized the seriousness of the trouble i was into. The thought of losing all the data because of my experimentation with AV was stupid and shocking.

After coming out of the shock, I decided to choose the repair option during windows startup. It took a loooott of time to boot into the repair mode after which I got my next big surprise. It was asking me to insert the windows recovery mode CD and then proceed.

Thats when I was cursing myself for having procrastinated so long from creating this Windows Recovery CD.

Luckily, after trying the System Recovery option (without the Windows Recovery CD) which took around 10-15 mins, the system rebooted and then booted back into Windows Vista normally.

It took a lot of time. I was trying to recover my laptop from 12.00AM to 3.00AM and then slept for sometime and then again from 8.00AM to 9.00AM.

Thank God! the laptop recovered. And what a lesson it was 1) Never ever kill an uninstallation of an Antivirus software halfway through (but to some extent AVG-AV was to blame for taking so long to uninstall). 2) Always burn the OEMs Windows Recovery CD and have it handy with you for any such recovery.

After my system recovered, my installed Windows Security Essentials. WSE has been a good experience until now. Just like AVG-AV, WSE's performance has been good.

One thing I really liked about WSE is its simple user interface. Its beauty is in its simplicity. Other AVs that I have used such as Norton, McAfee and AVG-AV are intimidating for a layman user (of course I don't belong to that category.. self-appraisal :)).

And I am happy to have discovered some free AV options. I have one more laptop whose Norton subscription expires couple of months from now, after which I am thinking of installing Windows Security Essentials in that too.