A momentous change in my personal computing environment yesterday, albeit partly to test the waters for my wife’s notebook:
After many years using Norton AntiVirus and, more recently, Norton Personal Firewall (and Norton Utilities/Norton Systemworks, but I never picked up Norton Internet Security as a suite), I switched to ZoneAlarm Suite 2007 yesterday.
I finally got tired of the five- to ten-second delay in opening a Word document while Norton scanned it (even though it was already scanning every email attachment and doing monthly full-disk scans). I was bemused by the extra minute or so on startup before Norton would agree that things were OK and free up resources for me to use. I found the monthly disk scans to be slower and slower… And while the firewall protection was good (in addition to the router’s hardware firewall, of course, and with Windows XP Firewall turned off), I knew that ZoneAlarm has a reputation for having an even better firewall. And for using less of system resources. (And it was time: my AV signature subscription only had 30 days to go, and Norton was hounding me several times a day…)
Economically, of course, this wasn’t the best choice. Depending on where I pick up TurboTax, I could probably get Norton Internet Security for next to nothing–or CA Suite, but I’ve seen the ratings for CA suite, so that wasn’t a realistic possibility. But, you know, sometimes you get what you pay for…
The real impetus was that, on my wife’s relatively slow notebook, it wasn’t five to ten seconds: It was/is up to thirty seconds to load a Word file–and sometimes, for no apparent reason, Norton would simply start using 99% of CPU resources for a few minutes. But she has 200+ days on her subscription, so wanted to make sure this was a worthwhile change.
I read the manual’s comment about five-minute install and connecting to the internet first, but I didn’t see anything about it automatically deleting competitive products, and I know what happens if you get two AV or firewall or spyware products running simultaneously. So I disabled the internet connection entirely, went through the slow, slow, annoying, slow process of uninstalling NAV and NPF (and disabling LiveUpdate–I’m keeping Norton SystemWorks 2003 for now, as a convenient way of cleaning the Registry and shortcuts from time to time), turned SpySweeper’s live scanning off…
And installed it. Started out with pretty much default settings, but turned off real-time spyware scanning (because most reviews say that SpySweeper is better), and reactivated SpySweeper scanning. A surprisingly fast install, at least after Norton’s marathon sessions.
The first restart felt like a disaster: The desktop background loaded–but no program icons, no Start menu, no Taskbar. Finally, after a minute or so, things showed up, and ZoneAlarm pretty much insisted on doing a full antivirus scan…all quarter million files (what are all those files? I’m responsible for maybe 2,000 of them). But it was only using about 14% of system resources, so I did some other light work while that was going on–and it was reasonably fast (maybe half an hour?). A spyware scan was very fast–less than five minutes–and flagged a few tracking cookies that had gotten past SpySweeper.
The second restart had another minute delay.
But the third one, and at least one since then, was back to normal, but better: Much less startup overhead. (OK, I did go through the whole msconfig Startup list, using web tools to check each name, and disabled a handful of startup things that I just don’t need). And it’s taking about two seconds for a Word file to open. ShieldsUp seems to think ZoneAlarm is doing a good job, which is in keeping with ZoneAlarm’s reputation.
So far, I’m happy. I’ll do another post in a month or so if I have other conclusions. And then, maybe, with crossed fingers, think about spending another $50 and doing the same for my wife’s notebook…
By the way, I’m now long past the point where my “new PC” has lasted longer than any other PC I’ve owned (two to three years was typically my cycle; this one, the least expensive PC I’ve ever owned, is now 4.5 years old)–and I still see no particular reason to replace it, at least until/unless Vista’s been out for a while, I’m not sure what that says.