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August 27, 2020

Norton isn't what it claims to be -- an Anti-virus

I recently purchased an Acer Predator series laptop that came bundled with Norton anti-virus trial pack for Windows 10. I got this laptop for my development work and so I'm a little too crazy about engineering discipline. What does that mean? The first thing that I did was make a recovery drive from that fresh image of the laptop. This came to my rescue later as you'd find through further in this post.

So after a month of trial period of Norton, I wanted to uninstall it and install my choice of anti-virus (that is K7 anti-virus, for the curious). When I uninstalled Norton, it went thought without an error. But when I tried to install K7 anti-virus, it complained that Norton Security Ultra is installed in the system and that it needs to be removed before installing K7. But Norton is nowhere to be seen in my system's Control Panel > add/remove programs. As the world would have it, this seem to be some defacto unethical practice in play embraced by greedy anti-virus companies making them depend on it by force. They provide another software installable that needs to be downloaded to remove the tool the remnants of anti-virus from the operating-systems. For the curious, K7 lists such companies and their tools, from where the users can be download the software, to get rid of their old rogue anti-virus software that stays to spy on you possibly. So from being an anti-virus software they become the virus/malware themselves. This is shame!

Side-note: K7 won my heart in better user-experience in adopting their software. I never had issues deleting their software and using another one in their place thus far.

I tried to download the suggested anti-virus removal software (NRnR.exe) from Norton's website that claimed to have removed the remnants from my operating system when in reality it didn't. K7 anti-virus was still seeing the Norton Security Ultra in my operating system. When I googled for this problem, I realized that I was not alone but a lot of them have been through this same issue of finding it difficult to get rid of norton anti-virus software from their operating system. That left me wondering, how come no one sued this company for willfully causing a lot of pain and frustration. And how come so many other anti-virus companies embraced this unethical practice as a norm is beyond my understanding.

As a customer you have a choice to keep them at bay and not try them for free even. Like they say, "there is no free food". Beware!

I reached out to customer-care of both Acer, and Norton in vain. Acer's tech-support is just horrible. Norton's tech-support was plain dumb once and wicked the other time around. Norton seemed to have system automation for tech-support, that perhaps forced their team to reach out to me the second time only to make me feel more bitter with their wickedness with them plainly blaming it to be Acer's fault.

This seemed like a dead-end. I was about to download a fresh installable of Windows 10 and lo behold, Windows 10 provided an option to reset the PC without any of the bundled software. I'm starting to love you windows! It would have been much better if I have had the option to choose which of the bundled software I don't want in the process of re-setting my PC.

So here are the steps that you should follow to get out of this situation:

  1. System Settings
  2. Reset this PC
  3. Click "Get started" button
  4. "Keep my files" option
    1. Change settings
    2. Turn-off pre-installed apps
    3. Confirm
  5. Reset
This is the fastest was to get going with your system as factory reset without any bundled software. Windows is super smart that it spits out an "Removed Apps.html" file on your new desktop for your reference on the drivers and apps that came bundled with the operating system, that you may want to take a look and consider installing it on your system. This helped me to download the required drivers and apps as needed.

Hope this helps you too, should you have any of the rogue anti-virus software that remains in your PC on a stealth mode, possibly prying on you.

P.S: In case of Norton anti-virus, open REGEDIT in windows and search for the following terms to confirm if Norton is completely out of your system : "norton", "symantec" (because Symantec acquired Norton), "SymIRON", "SymEvent", "SymEFASI", etc. Do not try to edit/remove it manually or with any tools like CCleaner. You may end up with broken-registry as I had suffered. This may result in windows acting weird to crashing, forcing you for complete fresh install from external source.

P.S: Some of the ways I tried to uninstall Norton from Windows 10 are below (approach I took to preserve my existing setup and hope of minimizing my overheads):
  • Factory Reset. Uninstall from "Add/Remove Programs" in control panel.
  • Factory Reset. Uninstall from "Add/Remove Programs" in control panel and use NRnR.exe.
  • Factory Reset. Uninstall using NRnR.exe.
  • Factory Reset. Uninstall using CCleaner.
  • Factory Reset. Uninstall using Revo uninstaller.
  • Factory Reset. [Various other combinations of above]
P.S: I have no affiliation with K7 other than being their customer for a good couple of years now. You are free to choose your anti-virus software..just ensure that they too are not the ones that play rogue..Cheers!

Lastly, I'm hating Acer for bundling uninstallable Norton softwares with it. So should you decide to buy an Acer laptop, you now know what is the first thing you should do -- get rid of Norton without any second thoughts!

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