Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is your Anti-virus app slowing down your computer?

I received a call from a customer the other day where they were complaining that their computer was running extremely slow. The customer would start typing in a document and there would be an extreme delay. It would take several moments for the computer to ‘catch’ up to their typing. This issue had been going on for months and the customer was finally livid with the situation. In fact, he was already willing to fill out a purchase form to buy a new computer because he was convinced that the problem was due to it being several years old. I quote, “This old computer is slow as molasses!” I thought to myself that surely there must be an explanation. What was causing the slowness? An investigation ensued. Let the games begin!

First, I had the customer reboot and log back in. After doing this, I was able to remotely control the computer and take a look at some things. After 5 minutes, the computer was back to running very slow. We rebooted the computer a second time, but the slow performance returned after 5 minutes just as before. At first, I suspected virus activity. However, after looking at the running processes, the problem was not virus activity. It was the Anti-Virus program doing a full system scan! The app was eating up 80% of the CPU usage sometimes spiking to 99% and the hard drive activity was off the charts. This explained everything.

On this specific computer, antivirus was set to run a scan at 12 midnight on Friday. If the scan was missed, Anti-Virus was configured to kick off the full system scan 5 minutes after someone logged into the computer. In addition, if the full scan was interrupted (such as a system reboot), then the scan would run again until a successful pass completed. These are some very common default settings in an Anti-Virus program and these settings are not the problem. In fact, the problem was that the person didn’t know to leave their computer turned on overnight in order for the scan to finish successfully. Rebooting the computer only made the problem worse Smile.

So to fix this ‘problem’, I trained the customer on what was going on and I changed the full system scan day to Wednesday. The customer was now aware of what was going on with their computer, the Anti-Virus settings were now set to work around the customer’s schedule, and the computer would no longer run slow during the work day.

And now the conclusion: Are you aware of how your Anti-Virus software is configured on your computer? If not, I suggest that you look into it. You need to know when your software is set up to download updates and when it is set up to run system scans. If you don’t know this information, you may end up just like the customer I helped with the same situation – confused, angry, and needlessly wanting to buy a new computer.
Beyond this, make sure that you are using the latest version of the Anti-Virus software. I do not mean to go out and buy the latest edition at the store. Vendors constantly fix bugs and add enhancements to make their software run faster and more efficiently. Check to make sure that you have the latest version of the current edition of the software installed.