Friday, April 23, 2010


Has Microsoft McAfee Just Wrecked My Computer? Or, In Short: Help!

Update: If your computer has had horrible problems in the last few days, you're at your wit's end, and you're reading this on a different machine to distract yourself, this may well be the answer: follow the link in the comments, then get rid of McAfee Anti-Virus. I've used them for over a decade, but never again.

An update to my PC on Wednesday evening seems to have stopped it functioning properly. Anyone got any ideas? Taking a break from how ill I am, yes, now my computer seems to have come out in sympathy. So why do I think it was an update that did it? Because as well as stopping most of my programs from working, whatever did it has slightly redesigned Windows XP along the way. Anyone else spotted anything like that? Because it's a complete pain from where I'm sitting: I'm typing this on Richard's laptop, as nothing much on mine is working.

There's a bit of a cautionary tale here: my PC's five or six years old and I have no idea where any discs would be if I needed to reinstall anything; and, yes, I definitely regret not having done a proper backup for about six months. But here's where I start:

On Wednesday evening, Chrome collapsed a couple of times while I was browsing, so - as I usually do in such circumstances - I restarted my computer. It may have taken a little longer than usual, but once it booted up, that's when the problems started. I could tell at a glance that something was odd: the taskbar looked slightly different. It had suddenly boxed off the icons at the far right. And, checking, several other windows and bars had the same - a redesign that put in extra little demarcation lines, and sharper boxes. Don't like it, I thought, but Microsoft's done more irritating things.

And then it did them.

I opened Chrome - it couldn't connect to the Internet. Hey ho, I thought, switch off the router and let it cool down, and meanwhile I'll clear up my desktop a bit, having let it get very cluttered with manifesto pdfs and other thrilling accoutrements I've downloaded there for ease of access in the last couple of weeks.

I couldn't.

Suddenly, my computer no longer lets me drag and drop. Or right-click to cut and paste. Or use keyboard shortcuts to do it. Well, that's very odd, and a bit worrying, I thought. Let me run a virus scan just in case. Oh - my computer won't let me open up my antivirus, neither from icon nor program menu. That's not helpful.

I slotted in a memory stick. Maybe it just couldn't shift things about on the PC itself? Nope. Still no use.

OK, one more idea - I opened up Word. "Blong," went my computer, without the loudspeaker being on. That's not happened before, I though. I opened up a file. "This document could not be registered" popped up. Well, that's not reassuring. But I clicked "Save As" and, thankfully, that managed to pop a copy onto that memory stick.

Oh, yes, and that oddly redesigned Taskbar? Word didn't appear on it. So it's less of a "Taskbar" than a "Bar" now.

Being able to use "Save As" was a relief, I'll grant you. I've written a lot of stuff, and I'd hate to lose them all. But as far as I remember from last week's virus scan, I've got more than 600,000 files on my machine. That's going to take an awful lot of "Save As".

...Or at least it would, if any programs other than Word seemed to be working. Most of them that I've tried simply don't open up at all. I tried opening Excel this morning to add to my records; oh, crap. Excel opens; "Blong"; up pops "Cannot use object linking and embedding"; but then the program crashes before I can enter anything, still less save it anywhere else. Oh joy. I can't replace any of those records, either.

I left my computer on all night last night; my Virus Scan usually starts about 5am, automatically, every Friday. I thought, though I can't start it myself, maybe it'll do it on its own. Nope. Sigh. But back to the redesign: do I actually think it's a virus? I do not.

Aside from all my stuff being on my own machine, of course, there are problems using Richard's laptop: I get RSI and tendonitis, and while my own chair, desk and keyboard are carefully aligned to minimise this, Richard's aren't; similarly, I tend to swap my mouse frequently to my much clumsier but less painful left hand, and can't do that with Richard's; most importantly, my beloved might occasionally wish to use his own computer (imagine!).

Yesterday I spend the whole day being very ill and feeling weak as a kitten. I still feel very weak, but after getting a significant amount of sleep last night I have just enough energy to write this up and think about dragging myself out to accident and emergency. I would very much like a simple way to sort out my computer without having to take it to accident and emergency, too - because I don't know who'd be able to do it properly, or how much it would cost, and because if I totter up to the Royal London at Whitechapel for them to prod me, the sizeable porn stock in my head will not be embarrassingly accessible...

Any suggestions would be very gratefully accepted.

Update: As the comments below make clear, it was indeed an update, but turned out to be all the fault of McAfee. I am massively grateful to Phil, and wish fiery death upon all their motherboards.

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Do you have McAfee anti-virus? They had a major problem Weds, I was affected too.
There's a fix here:
Thanks, Phil - I do indeed! Brilliant! That sounds promising...

But, er, as Chrome won't connect, I can't open McAfee or IE, do you have any idea how I can get online to access the fix?
You have to download it using Richard's computer and then copy it onto a USB stick or CD so you can transfer it to the affected PC.

Also -- and McAfee doesn't mention this in their instructions -- you may find the normal file manager functions like 'copy' and 'move' aren't working. So (and forgive me if this sounds like gobbledegook) you have to open up a DOS command prompt to copy the file over.
Once you've done that I'd get rid of McAfee - it's notoriously horrible for things like this, as I remember from my days doing Windows support. AVG is far better.

Then burn yourself an Ubuntu CD. Not necessarily to switch from Windows - though you really should, freedom etc, insert rant here - but because when this happens again, you can use it as a LiveCD to recover your files and (with luck) your system.
Also, take care of yourself. I've been horribly worried about you.
It affected me too and I fixed it and removed McAfee:
Thank you enormously, Phil - that was marvellous. I followed the instructions (which didn't work as written, incidentally, but I was able to get by; I just ran it from the stick rather than using DOS, as I'd not read your reply at that point) and my computer suddenly looks and acts like it's supposed to.

I shall spend any free energy this weekend strapping a very large external drive to my PC for that delayed back-up, I think...

Thank you, Andrew, for everything. I've used McAfee (and Dr Solomons before it) for about 14 years now, but way to lose a customer. I'll take a look at AVG, thanks. And when I'm up to it, I'll investigate Ubuntu as well, at least as a reserve.

Still weak and ill, but feeling very much less stressed and depressed this noon!

I'm leaving all this up in case anyone who reads me has had the same problem...
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