I’ve had AVG, the free version, for years. In the last two weeks or so, even prior to my update a few days ago, I suddenly have to reload my Gmail several times a day because I get a notice telling me my Gmail connection is lost and it starts a countdown to reconnect and never succeeds so I have to reload. I use Chrome and my Chrome browser is now very slow where it went lickety-split before, as recent as two weeks ago.
Now I’ve read where you recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, so I figured I would go that route assuming AVG is what’s causing all the problems listed above. My question to Google got me nowhere. It seems the root of the problem can’t possibly relate it to Gmail or Chrome. Can you tell me the step-by-step instructions I need to follow to safely remove AVG and replace it with Microsoft Security Essentials? I don’t want to leave my computer exposed to threats while I make the changeover.
I want to start by saying that there are many possible reasons for the symptoms you are describing with Gmail and Chrome. The anti-malware tool is one, but it’s not the first one that comes to mind for me. So, while I’ll absolutely walk you through the steps to make the switch (they’re actually pretty simple), I will warn you that this may not resolve your problem.
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The update process
Step one is to download the anti-virus program you want to switch to.
In many cases, it’s a single download, and that’s ideal for the preferred approach we’re about to take. Download it; don’t run it. That means you “Save As” if you’re prompted by your browser or right-click on the download link and choose Save As. Save the download somewhere you’ll remember, perhaps your Downloads folder or your My Documents folder.
Next, shut down most of the programs running on your PC. In other words, close your browser, your word processor, your email program, your game: whatever it is you’re normally running when you’re using your computer.
This next step I consider optional, and that’s disconnecting from the internet. Unplug the cable or disable the Wi-Fi if you can. This will make certain that while we’re switching things around there’s simply no chance of outside interference.
It may not be necessary if you have proper security in place, but I’ll talk about that in a minute. Some actually consider it a little too extreme, and as we’ll see in a moment there are scenarios in which being disconnected will actually cause what we’re trying to do not to work, but it does provide absolute security.
Now, uninstall your existing security software completely. In most cases, that means simply going to your Control Panel; looking for Ad/Remove or Programs and Features; right clicking on the security software in the list, and then clicking Uninstall.
In some cases, anti-malware software can be a tad trickier to uninstall. You might need to run a tool like Revo Uninstaller; or perhaps follow some manufacturer-specific steps or run a tool that you get from the manufacturer. And that might mean temporarily connecting back to the internet to get things like Revo or that specific tool. But ultimately, the goal here is to remove, completely, your existing security software.
The next step, of course, then is to install the replacement. Locate that file you downloaded earlier and run it. That should install your anti-malware tool and start it running. Now, if you’ve disconnected from the internet, it’s possible that it might complain about the lack of connectivity, and there are a couple of reasons that might happen.
One is that the program you downloaded might be what’s called a stub or a downloader. There’s really no way around this. You simply need to connect to the internet to allow that little stub to download the actual anti-malware tool.
The other thing of course is that the program will at some point complete the installation, and it will start to look to the internet to update its database of malware. This is actually good because it’s exactly what I’d expect it to do. In either case, the thing to do is to connect back to the internet and let the software do its job.
Once that’s complete, you’re done. You now have new security software.
Is disconnecting really necessary?
Now, as you can see, there’s this possibility of a window in time where you connected to your internet but the new program hasn’t completed installing or hasn’t yet completed its own update or initial scan. As long as you have two things in place, I believe that’s okay.
One, you should be behind a firewall: your router or the Windows firewall being turned on will typically be more than enough to meet this requirement. And second, don’t do anything else while the switch is in progress. In fact, allow the software to finish its installation, download its update, and complete its initial scan of your machine before you open other programs.
Those two things combined – being behind a firewall and not using the computer for anything else until the switchover is complete – are typically more than enough to let you perform the entire operation with the internet connected.