17 August 2007

Norton Life Sentence

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This post is about Packard Bell, Norton Antivirus, Norton Internet Security and OEM bundling.  For many readers, those four are all "yuk" items already...

Formal maintenance

Every "WTF" (i.e. ill-defined complaints, or just in an unknown state) PC that comes in, gets the formal treatment; 24 hours of MemTest86 with substituted boot CDR to detect spontaneous reboots, Bart boot HD Tune, and Bart booted formal malware scans.

This laptop cannot perform the RAM test because it keeps switching itself off, presumably because it is "idle" (no keyboard, HD, CD, LAN, mouse etc. interrupts).  CMOS Setup shows no facility to manage such behavior, which is disabled in Windows already.  Strike 1, Packard Bell.

The hard drive and file system are fine, and absolutely no malware at all were found on multiple formal av and anti-"spyware" scans, nor in four anti-"spyware" scans done in Safe Cmd.  Spybot did note that the three Windows Security Center alerts were overridden, and this was later confirmed to be a Norton effect.

Specs and software

This is a fairly high-spec laptop; Mobile Celeron at 1.5GHz, 1G RAM (!), XP Pro SP2, but puny 45G hard drive with 4G stolen for the OEM's "special backup" material.  The date stamp on the Windows base directory is 17 March 2006, which matches that of the SVI and "Program Files" directories too.

It has Norton Internet Security OEM(90) and Norton Antivirus 2004 OEM(90).  That's from the Help in these products; the same Help describes using Add/Remove to uninstall them. 

Attempted uninstall

Both programs are definitely present and running; in fact, one gets nags every few minutes about antivirus being out of date, and firewall being disabled.  A check confirms both to be true; neither Norton nor XP firewall is enabled, and Norton's subscription has expired.

However, Add/Remove shows no Norton entries other than Live Update.  In fact, the expected slew of OEM bundleware are not there.  A lethally-ancient Sun Java JRE 1.4.xx was found and uninstalled.

Start Menu shows an "Internet and security" flyout with icons for Norton Antivirus and Internet Security.  No icons to uninstall these products from there.

What I did find in a "Packard Bell Support" Start Menu flyout, was a Smart Restore center, from which bundleware could be highlighted and installed or uninstalled.  There was an alert to disable Norton's protection before doing this (more on that later), but either way, clicking Uninstall did nothing (no visible UI effect) and clicking OK after that, appeared to install Norton 2004 again.

To be continued...

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