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

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

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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.

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What’s the Difference between Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender?

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I use Windows Defender Offline on a flash drive both at home and at work. On the computers themselves, however, the screen sometimes says Microsoft Security Essentials and other times, it says Windows Defender. I forgot to check if the Windows Defender has Microsoft Security Essentials installed. Does it really matter which one shows up?

Microsoft’s product naming frustrates me to no end. They seem to have an incredible knack for picking the most confusing names possible.

While the names Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender seem innocuous enough, what they mean has changed over time. And therein lies the confusion.

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Do I Need to Stop Using Microsoft Security Essentials?

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I read an article last week that basically said Microsoft had give up competing with other anti-malware tools and that Microsoft Security Essentials wasn’t going to be any good any more. The article recommended that I quit using it immediately and switch to something else. What do you think? Do I need to stop using Microsoft Security Essentials?

No.

No you don’t. If you’ve been happy with it, you’re perfectly welcome to keep on using it as you have in the past.

To put it a different way, I’m not changing my recommendation. Microsoft Security Essentials remains my recommendation for most people. I’m also not changing what I use myself, which is MSE.

As it turns out, the majority of the “journalism” on the topic over the past couple of weeks has simply been repeating a single source of information. Worse, the repetition included not only a couple of quotes without full context from a Microsoft spokesperson and also additional speculation by the author of that original piece. As the story was repeated, even more speculation was added and assumptions were made.

The result was quite the kerfuffle.

Now, I don’t call myself a “journalist” – I’m just a geek with a voice on the web trying to help people use their computers. But even I know that just repeating and embellishing what others are saying about what others are saying isn’t the right way to approach something like this.

So I took a different approach. I went to the source and contacted Microsoft directly for clarification.

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

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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 is Microsoft Security Essentials constantly saying potentially unprotected?

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Quite some time ago, I installed Microsoft Security Essentials as per your recommendation. I liked it right off the bat, but lately after turning my computer on, a small icon appears in the lower right-hand corner of the tray, telling me “Potentially unprotected” and that my virus protection is turned off and that my computer may be at risk. This happens occasionally, but now it’s happening every time. When I go to Microsoft Security Essentials, I see that my real-time protection is on and virus and spyware definitions are up-to-date. To get rid of this icon, I have to manually do an update every time. Once this is done, the icon disappears. This never used to happen until about three months ago or so. Do I have a virus in my system or malware or spyware wanting me to use their protector?

I’ve seen it, too. It seems to be fairly common.

I’ve run into several theories about why this might happen.

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