Out, vile software

I removed the McAfee anti-virus and security software today.

The topic title comes from “Out, vile jelly” in Shakespear’s “King Lear”.  Google if you want more information on that.   “Vile” is probably too strong for the McAfee software, but I am glad to see it gone.Obviously this was from Windows — I did mention that I dual boot.  When I purchased the computer, it came with the McAfee software.  The license will soon expire, so I decided to remove it now.  I am not virus-prone, so I could probably do without any security application, especially since I don’t use Windows for much.  But I replaced it with the Microsoft Security Essentials, just to have something there.

The McAfee application is actually okay for what it claims to do for security.  It’s a bit bloated, but then everything for Windows is bloated.  What I didn’t like about it, is the frequent nagging to purchase an update, the frequent nagging that there are other computers on my LAN that don’t have McAfee, and the voluminous firewall logs I see on linux, due to McAfee probing computers on the LAN.

Here are the steps that I followed.

  1. Google “Microsoft Security Extensions” to locate the Microsoft page for that alternative software.  Download the MSE installer.
  2. Google “McAfee removal tool” to locate that tool on the McAfee site.  Download that tool.
  3. Login to Windows as an Administrator (I normally login as a limited user).  Go to the control panel, add/remove programs, and then remove the McAfee application.  This required a reboot at the end of that removal.
  4. Again login as an Administrator.  Run the McAfee removal tool to removal all vestigial traces.  Ignore warnings that the computer is unprotected.  This, too, required a reboot at the end.
  5. Run the MSE installer.

All went well.  The McAfee nagging has stopped.  But I expect my mailbox will soon start getting email about the license having expired.

During the period — just over a year — of using McAfee, it “found” one security threat.  And that’s already amusing.  I was reorganizing my linux partitioning, preparing to go with an encrypted “/home”.  So I backed up “/home” to a compressed tar file on a file system shared with windows.

cd /
tar zcf /windows/D/homestuff.tgz home

Then I went ahead with a fresh linux install (it was openSUSE 11.4 soon after that came out), selecting encryption for “/home” and for swap.  After completing the installing, and booting into the newly installed linux system, I restored from that backup to the home partition.

cd /
tar zxpf /windows/D/homestuff.tgz

All went well with the linux install with encryption.

A few days later, when booted to Windows, the McAfee application announced that it had found a virus infected file.  It was that backup “homestuff.tgz”.  I had finished with that file, so it didn’t matter that McAfee deleted it.  Actually, I think it quarantined it.

My first reaction was to laugh at the false positive.  But, on reconsideration, it is possible that there was an old virus infected email in a mailbox on my linux home partition.  So perhaps it actually did find a virus.



About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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