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September 20, 2004 12:35 AM

Broken: Antivirus renewal message

NortonStephen Murphy writes:

I hate the annoying message I get all the time from the antivirus software that came preinstalled on my laptop. The only choices given are "Renew Now" or "Renew Later", and the dropdown won't let you choose anything but to be "reminded" in 1 or 15 days. What I want is a LEAVE ME ALONE FOREVER button.


In that case you should just uninstall it. Antivirus software which isn't kept up-to-date is useless, given the rate at which new viruses come out.

Posted by: Alden Bates at September 20, 2004 01:41 AM

Still broken though. How should you close this dialog if you intend to then uninstall it? "Renew later" works, but makes no sense. And with no cancel operation, what are you to expect happens when you click on the "X"?

Posted by: josh at September 20, 2004 03:41 AM

There should definitely not be a 'Go away and don't bother me again' option. That would quickly become the most often chosen option, leaving millions of Windows machines without up-to-date virus protection. Which is a very bad thing. By not giving the option to leave the machine unprotected, there is a much greater chance that the user will either renew the subscription or at least bug their brother-in-law (etc.) who will more than likely uninstall the old AV software and install AVG. Either way, the laptop remains protected against viruses. And that is a good thing.

To sum up: this is not 'broken', it is an engineered behaviour. And considering that unsecured Windows boxes are one of the most dangerous things on the 'net, behaviour reducing their numbers is quite the opposite of broken.

Posted by: scott lewis at September 20, 2004 05:29 AM

Something that is broken here is unregistered products coming pre-installed on a machine.

Posted by: Bakkster at September 20, 2004 07:41 AM

Anyone who feels like working with me on a meta-analysis of whether 'This Is Broken' is, in general, broken, contact me. (dmd at 3 e dot or g)

Posted by: Daniel Drucker at September 20, 2004 09:01 AM

(Wonderful. I hit submit, I hit cancel immediately. I shift-reload several times, and my comment doesn't show up. I re-submit, removing my email address from the box, and adding it obfuscated to the comment box. I hit submit. Not only does it end up double posted, but it keeps my email address in plaintext even though Ethereal shows that it was NOT submitted as part of the form.)

Posted by: Daniel Drucker at September 20, 2004 09:03 AM

The comment board, and for that matter this entire site, is run on TypePad (see - I have no control over the internal code.

Posted by: Mark Hurst at September 20, 2004 09:55 AM

It seems to me that is Windows XP computer and it can be very hard to remove that Anti-Virus software when you are installing XP on your laptop. I agree with you that it is broken. So I could suggest you click on start and go to control panel then click on classic view and click add/remove program and find Anti-virus then remove it. I hope it should be working.

Posted by: Computer Expert at September 20, 2004 12:38 PM

Getting back to today's original post ...

I take issue with the idea that this is "engineered behaviour" and therefore not broken. First of all, I don't believe for a moment that the good people at Symantec have designed the dialogue this way out of concern for the welfare of the 'net in general. I think it's like those ridiculously complex opt-out procedures featured a few days ago: a deliberate attempt to make it difficult to go against the wishes of the marketing department. Whether such malicious behaviour counts as "broken" is a philosophical point I don't want to go into now.

But let's say I'm wrong, and their thinking was, as has been suggested, to gently prod naive users into making sure their system is virus-protected either by renewing their "subscription" or by consulting an expert. Then it definitely is broken, because that approach is self-defeating. Many (most?) non-technical users will learn that they can just keep clicking "Renew later" and the scary-looking message goes away for a while. Once they've done it a few times, it just becomes a habit, and as Alden Bates pointed out, out-of-date antivirus software is useless. I would say worse than useless, because it provides a false sense of security.

But it's even more broken than that! If we are truly concerned about the dangers of viruses and other malware, then surely we want to educate as many people as possibly about "safe computing". But as Stephen said in the original post, there's an obvious option (don't renew at all) that the Norton dialogue box doesn't provide. This is highly frustrating to the inexperienced user, and generally convinces them that they are "dummies" or "don't know anything about computers" -- and scares them away from trying to learn more. And that is truly dangerous.

Of course, it does guarantee techs like me a full-time job for the rest of eternity ...

Posted by: E.T. at September 20, 2004 12:43 PM

You should just download a free version of AVG antvirus. They also have free updates once a week, and even though it's free it works well.

Just Google Avg antivirus. Have a good day!

Posted by: Ben Civiletti at September 20, 2004 03:16 PM

Even more so this isn't broken becasue a new version of norton can be picked up for the average price of $0, after rebates at most office stores, which would protect the user and make the box go away.

Posted by: Vic Z at September 20, 2004 04:03 PM

Broken by design is still broken. Why have "update later" at all? What if you want to install a competitor's product? And the price of updates at the local store is meaningless, which option should you choose if you're gonna do that?

It would be simple enough to add a "never bother me again" option that had very scary words on it. "I do not wish to be protected from viruses and other evil nasty things, please uninstall this software and leave my computer open to attack."

Posted by: josh at September 21, 2004 03:39 PM

You're right; it is broken. There should be no option to "update later". It should simply force you to update immediately.

As for being confusing, this can be resolved by updating silently in the background without asking you first. Not only would this help solve the problem of people getting hit by viruses, but it would make them feel less confused by it all.

Posted by: Lionfire at September 22, 2004 01:54 AM

Lionfire: the problem with that is the reason for the dialogue is because for Norton antivirus you have to pay a subscription to get updates and the user's subscription has expired. Updating silently would not be an option in that case.

Posted by: Alden Bates at September 22, 2004 11:31 PM

In which case it makes sense to remind the user to either renew their subscription and download updates (for both practical and business reasons). Without updates, any installed virus checker provides little more than a false sense of security. This is, in many cases, worse than having no virus software installed. Users tend to click on things, expecting that the (expired) virus checker will catch any problems.

The interface is not broken, but running expired virus software with outdated updates is.

Posted by: Lionfire at September 24, 2004 02:14 AM

If you just set back you system clock to before your subscription expired then you can update your antivirus files.

Posted by: Christie at September 26, 2004 01:21 AM

This has stayed annoyingly on-topic, so I'm going to change that.

I'm not sure if this is broken or not-- I can see both side. What I *am* sure about is when "there is a new version of Java available" or "There are new updates to install" and there is no "bugger off" option. Especially that in both these cases the longest time I can wait for it to remind me is three days. As a developer, sometimes I *need* to have the old version. Go away.

Posted by: Simon Trew at October 2, 2004 11:36 AM

Yeah i got tired of that damn renewal box too, so i went out searching on the net for a solution and came across "Norton Live Update Until year" so i downloaded that replaced a single file (catalog.livesubscribe) and now no more annoying renewal box and free updates til 2043 :-)

Posted by: drbeerman at October 23, 2004 08:46 AM

I agree you should download AVG

the free edition is awesome and you really are playing with fire by not updating your software. I agree antivirus software should be free for longer than three months with a new machine, but your friends are all going to hate you when you get a virus and they start getting spammed with infected messages.


Posted by: proFeign at November 2, 2004 08:25 PM

yeah that is seriously annoying i had that for a long time on my computer. they just want more money try deleting it

Posted by: sonikuu at November 30, 2004 07:56 AM

That's why I use Mcafee.

Posted by: Shadyman at December 22, 2004 12:49 AM

At least you can set it to 15! I can only ever choose 1 day.

Posted by: Alec at January 3, 2005 07:46 PM

What is the difference? They disigned it to do what it does.... How in the world to you stop it....!!!???

I purchased Anti-virus but not Anti-spam...which gave me a trial..I did not ask for....the Anti-virus works great...but that annoying popup at the bottom left keeps asking me to renew....I going to purchase Norton...after I check to see if they do the same thing...


Posted by: cooper at March 7, 2005 11:01 AM

At least the AntiVirus software I use gives you the choice to not renew. I had set my system clock back for some reason and rebooted and when I connected to the internet, it said my subscription had expired three months before I bought the program and that if I wanted to keep it, then I had to renew, else I'd have to find another program. And then it went away. After connecting and having it autoupdate, however, it set itself right and I have service until December of this year.

Of course, the world would be a much better place if the programs all came with free upgrades for life. AntiVirus software is like sports simulation software: ie you just have to get a new version every year.

Posted by: Billy at March 15, 2005 02:38 AM

I paid $70 for Norton, only to have them force me to re-register every 15 days. Then, of

course, the program tells me its gonna cut my service earlier (when I got it, it was gonna last until next Feb., but now it says it'll expire in Dec.). Screw it, Im gettin freeware.

Posted by: Savvy at April 12, 2005 06:09 PM


I have a Presario 2100, It was many issues with my windows shutting down forever plus the pops ups and viruses I shipped my laptop to for free estimate... The price they give me is $75,00 for everything. But they told me that there is no warranty on this. Since this is software issue and I might have this again sometime. Can you guys give me your opinion ?


Posted by: Rita at May 17, 2005 08:46 AM

There can 'never' be a guarantee, that the problem will not return, when fixing a PC infected with spam and/or viruses. They can guarantee THAT PARTICULAR infection can be cleaned, but no more than that, because they have no control over whether or not YOU, as the owner/user, will actually update your antivirus software (the only problem in this thread, actually... is the user's knowledge is 'broken'), or your anti spyware (the cause of popups) software.

As a PC tech, the most common jobs I get, are cleaning infected PC's. I leave my customers with two things- AVG Free (, and AdawareSE Personal Edition ( Both are free, and work excellent. The only other options are to remain unprotected, like a pubescent teenager without condoms, or BUY THE SUBSCRIPTION. How do you think Norton pays it's employees? There is a 'go away' option, for Norton's renewal notice that started this thread- it's called, "un-install". =)

Nothing is actually broken, as discussed in this thread. Anyone that has any other problems, feel free to email me.

Posted by: Michael R. Wallstrom at January 11, 2006 10:32 AM

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