Can I run more than one anti-malware program or firewall? Should I?

With regards to firewalls, anti-virus programs and anti-spyware programs; can I have more than one of each of these programs installed in my computer? For example, I run ZoneAlarm; does that mean I should I turn off Windows firewall?

In recent years this question has become more complex than ever.

There are certain types of protection you need, and getting all that protection may involve running more than one program.

On the other hand, running more than one program of the wrong type can, indeed, cause problems.

Let’s see if I can’t sort this out for you.

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What’s the Best Anti-virus?

What’s the best anti-virus program? There’s been so much talk on just how each one works and which has the best protection; it’s really hard to decide which one to choose. One day you might read a review that says one thing and the next day says another, so it really gets quite confusing.

This question comes up all the time. The problem is that it’s both trivial to answer and it’s impossible to answer. There’s a strong argument that says there’s no objective answer at all.

It’s all about opinion, so let me tell you mine: there is no best anti-virus tool. There are several good ones, but none are perfect. And in fact, one that works well for your friend may not work at all for you.

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Is anti-virus dead?

Hi, Leo. Do you have any observations, comments or advice about the recent Symantec talk given to Wall Street Journal? They seem to say that only 45% of computer viruses are caught. Are we as home users more prone to attack nowadays, or is this comment mainly directed to companies as an earnings increase tactic? I’m sure we’ll be interested in their falling profits.

Yeah, this actually made the headlines a couple of weeks ago. The headline that was being generated of course, was “Antivirus is dead”.


Antivirus is not dead.

In my opinion this is just another case where somebody chooses an exceptionally sensational headline or position in the hopes that it will get people talking. Apparently they succeeded, because here I am, talking about it.

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How do I safely switch from one security tool to another?


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.

Read moreHow do I safely switch from one security tool to another?

Do I Need to Deactivate My Old Anti-virus Before Installing the New One?


Hey, Leo. When I bought this computer, Norton anti-virus came with it. Norton anti-virus is about to expire and I don’t plan to renew it as I’ll switch to Windows Defender since it’s recommended by you and by others. My question: can I activate Windows Defender before Norton anti-virus expires or do I need to uninstall Norton first? Also, should I uninstall Norton after Windows Defender is installed? Finally, how do I activate Windows Defender? I’m running Windows 7, X64, on an HP desktop.

A note on product names: for Windows 7 what you’re really talking about is Microsoft Security Essentials. That’s the old name for “Windows Defender”, which is what you would use if you were running Windows 8. However, for Windows 7 and before, what we’re really talking about here is “Microsoft Security Essentials”.

Typically, the answer to your question is “yes”; you should uninstall the old anti-virus software before installing the new.

Read moreDo I Need to Deactivate My Old Anti-virus Before Installing the New One?

Will Anti-virus Programs for Windows XP Stop Being Updated when Microsoft Drops Support?

I just read your column where you talked about the ways that XP might be compromised after April of 2014. It was very good. Will any company provide anti-virus software for an operating system that Microsoft itself says has expired?

As it turns out, this is a very important question. Without Microsoft’s support, next to your own behavior, your anti-malware tools are your most important line of defense.

But there is a more nuanced issue going on here. Let’s talk about that.

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Why Doesn’t Malware Appear in the Add/Remove Programs List?

I have a page that somehow embedded itself with a corrupt software program that I downloaded from an American university. I understand that this thing is a parasitic browser that provides a route to viral contamination. With the help of Norton, I eventually managed to remove it. Why is there no indication in the Control Panel for removal? Using “search” brought out the offending program, but it did not allow me to delete it. What advice can you give for tracking an unwanted and intrusive browser? The normal Norton 360 failed to protect my laptop, but thanks to one of their online agents, after an exhaustive analysis of the registry, it was removed with a more powerful scan made available by them.

What you’re dealing with is a form of malware. It may not be the malware per se; meaning that it’s not doing anything specifically bad itself, but it’s a vector for malware. It installs itself on your machine, so malware can download without your permission or interaction.

I’ll talk about the malware in a moment. First, let’s talk about the Add/Remove Programs list.

Read moreWhy Doesn’t Malware Appear in the Add/Remove Programs List?

Do I really need to uninstall these programs to update my anti-virus?

I have Avira AntiVir Personal, free edition on Vista. I was recently offered a new improved Avira program and accepted because I like all of my security software to be as up-to-date as possible. When I tried to install the new version, I was told to uninstall two programs that I’ve had for some years: Spybot Search and Destroy and Trusteer Rapport. I assume that this means uninstalling those programs permanently rather than just while the new Avira is installed. So I declined to continue with the installation of the new Avira. Was this sensible? Spybot and Rapport both seem like excellent products and it’s counterintuitive to uninstall them both for the sake of the better version of Avira. What do you think the problem is? Should I look for an alternative free spyware program that is compatible?

Whenever you have a concern about installation, it’s always sensible to cancel and do a little research.

Avira is actually an anti-virus product. These days, they seem to be adding things to the utility to make it more like an anti-spyware product. I suspect that that’s why the installation asked you to uninstall the other programs.

Still, your scenario is interesting and there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Let’s talk about why Avira wants you to uninstall the other programs and what your options are.

Read moreDo I really need to uninstall these programs to update my anti-virus?

Windows Defender Offline – Scan Your Computer for Malware Without Booting Windows

One of the more difficult situations to find yourself in is to have a malware-infected machine that either won’t boot, or won’t allow you to run anti-malware tools because of the infection.

The most common next step is to download a bootable anti-malware disc, and burn it to CD or install it on a USB flash drive. You then configure your computer’s BIOS or UEFI to boot from the CD or USB, reboot, and instead of starting Windows you’re running the anti-malware tool instead that can then scan the hard disk in your system.

There are several, but my first choice is Microsoft’s own Windows Defender Offline.

Read moreWindows Defender Offline – Scan Your Computer for Malware Without Booting Windows