Tuesday, December 22, 2009

AVG Antivirus is a pest!

AVG Antivirus is itself a pest in several regards.

Coming home to mom and dad for Christmas, I find that their Firefox is eating at least 50% CPU (of this admittedly slow machine) when showing a blank page! So an already slow machine is now really dead slow.

Using Process Explorer (awesome tool, link is to Microsoft) on the process, I find that some thread with start address in MSVCR80.dll is eating all the CPU, while the process also seems to constantly spawn dozens of new threads per second with this dll as startpoint (they die at the same rate, so there is no buildup). Googling around I find a tip: Disabling the plugin AVG Safe Search immediately zeroes the CPU load (and also the thread spawning - there is no threads showing MSVCR80.dll anymore. The dll is apparently nothing more than MS C Runtime Library - I have no idea why it ends up like this, maybe it is just the thread entry point?).

AVG installs two plugins, one "AVG Safe Search", the one that kills your machine, and one "AVG Security Toolbar", which gives NOTHING besides providing a Yahoo search box, obviously for hope of revenue from sending searches Yahoo's way, and eating lots of screen estate. Amazingly, I find that AVG also changes the Search box of Firefox to Yahoo, and that as long as AVG Toolbar is enabled, it is impossible to change the Search box away from Yahoo, not even over to e.g. Wikipedia!! And I now also found that AVG has also hijacked the default browser search engine (when you type something into the location bar) to Yahoo - an option that you apparently need to go to about:config to change back. Also, it is not possible to remove the AVG Firefox plugins by means of Firefox's own plugin manager - but you can disable it.

In this regard, AVG is nothing more than a seriously nasty "browser toolbar".

Besides this buggy code and annoying toolbar, AVG really takes a boatload of time to run through less than half a TB of disk (even though none of the files changed), daily, and pretty much pegs the CPU at full throttle, and also "thrashes" all the memory of all other running processes onto disk, since it races through files and probably hence churns the OS's cache. The end result is that my own machine is completely unusable when "AVG is running scans" - so if I sit at it when it starts, I have to kill it, and if I come back to it when it still is running, I have to kill it. To top it, sometimes the tray icon hangs, so it is not possible to kill the scanning by normal means either (although you can just kill it from some process explorer still).

And finally, there is the concept of AVG Free. That is all nice and well and good, but the point here is that it is only free for about a year. After that, you have to update. You can update to a new installation of AVG Free, but they hide this fact very good. The point is obviously that they hope and assume that people like me, "tech savvy nerds", install this onto computers of their friends and relatives - it is free and all!! However, after about a year, these poor friends and relatives will CONSTANTLY be bugged about their machine being at risk blah blah, and redirected to an AVG update page. This page will pretty much force them to pay (unless they themselves are savvy enough to understand that beneath one of the extremely small graphics on that page they might find a new installation of AVG Free). So, yes, my father is currently an AVG customer - which in itself isn't bad, but he has been lured into becoming one - and I was the unwitting sales agent for AVG.

This is a technique I find bordering on adware.

I will never recommend AVG again.