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Originally published Friday, August 23, 2013 at 5:24 PM

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Too much security software can slow down your computer

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: We have a 9-year-old Dell Dimension 2400 desktop. Lately, we’ve noticed the desktop is so slow and slower than usual. I remember once you that wrote running different security programs could make the computer slower.

Last night, I found we had Windows Security running, as well as Free AVG 2013 AntiVirus and McAfee anti-virus. Am I running too many security programs? Is that why it’s gotten slower?

— Ju-Chan Fulton

A: Yes, running more than one anti-virus program at a time can be a problem. The way anti-virus programs scan can be detected by each other as viruses. And yes, anti-virus and anti-malware programs consume computer resources, so running multiple programs can be a drag on your system.

I’d recommend running one anti-virus program and one anti-malware program. At the same time, be aware that no single anti-virus program or anti-malware program guarantees protection from all threats. So keep your eyes out for strange behavior or drops in performance. You may need to try other tools to get rid of specific threats.

Oh, and don’t forget to also have a firewall running to protect against hackers.

Q: After we use our home computer, we always run an anti-virus scan. However, we are experiencing a situation in which our computer does not shut down after the completion of the scan.

There is a command in our virus scan program to automatically shut down computer at completion of the scan. But often the computer does not shut down. After the computer does not automatically shut down, we have to manually shut down and restart it. When the computer restarts, it is very slow, sluggish and impossible to operate.

We have Windows XP and operate with Windows 7. Do you have any ideas or suggestions as to why this is happening?

— Hideko Go

A: Windows waits for all drivers and applications to close before rebooting. In my experience, it’s not rare for something to hang up the system. But what concerns me most is the sluggish performance after you reboot.

There are many possible causes of this, ranging from a corrupt program to malware. And tracking down the culprit would likely be very time consuming.

So if it were my computer, I’d take this as an opportunity to do a clean install. Be sure to reformat your drive when you reinstall Windows. And make sure that you’ve got a fresh backup of all your data.

I’d be really surprised if you don’t notice a big gain in performance. Even if you don’t currently have malware on your computer, you should see gains simply by eliminating drivers and applications you no longer use.

I’m not sure what you mean by “having Windows XP and operating Windows 7.” While you can dual-boot operating systems, I recommend against it for most users. And unless you have some reason that you must have Windows XP on the computer, I’d just go with Windows 7. It’s faster and more secure.

Q: I am plagued by chronic redirects while using Firefox. You recommend the add-on Redirect Remover. The online posts reviewing the add-on are mixed, as are the reviews for the sister add-on, Redirect Cleaner.

Have you reviewed both, and can you recommend one over the other? Are they largely benign, or am I importing a potential for a host of other problems? I employ Microsoft Security Essentials, with regular full scans.

— Bruce Northey

A: I have looked at both products, but I can’t recommend one over the other. They use slightly different methods to block redirects. But heck, because they’re free, why not experiment and see which works best for you? Or try both. I haven’t heard of any problems resulting from having both applications running.

Also, be aware that you can set Firefox to notify you before any redirection or automatic refreshing of a page. Call up the Options utility and click on Advanced. Then check the box that next to “Warn me when websites try to redirect or reload the page.”

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

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