Telephone consultation

Anti-virus software can make you sick.

The phone call came at 3 o’clock in the morning. Fearing the worst, I jumped out of bed, dashed into the living room, and answered the phone. No, it wasn’t my neighbor Norman. It was my Uncle Strife. “Lincoln, I’m having trouble installing that antivirus software.” I had snail-mailed him a copy of Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus after he’d e-mailed the entire family a message infected with W32.Badtrans.B, LittleDevil.2109, and Ebola.

“OK, what’s the problem?” I yawned.

“I don’t understand what’s on my screen. It says ‘Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus. You can A) Scan your hard drive for viruses, B) Normal startup, C) Read these instructions over again.’ And I can’t pick any of these; my mouse isn’t working.”

“Are you in Windows?” I asked.

“In what?”

“Does it says ‘Start’ at the bottom of your screen?”

“Uh, no.”

“Exactly what did you do?” I asked.

He thought about that. “Well, I turned on my computer, and I put in the CD, then this came up instead of, you know, that thing.”

I sighed. About a year earlier, I had talked Uncle Strife into buying a computer–everyone in the family had been complaining that he wasn’t reading his e-mail. I felt responsible. “Try rebooting.”

“Re-what?”

“Hold down the Control and Alt keys, and press Delete.”

“OK.” There was a pause. “Nothing happened.”

“At the same time.”

“That did it. My computer’s acting like I just turned it on. But wait … it’s the same screen as before.

I sighed. “Take out the CD, then press Control, Alt, Delete again.”

In a few minutes, Windows was up. “Now put the antivirus CD back in the drive,” I told him.

“OK,” he said triumphantly. “Now it says ‘Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus Installation. Click Next to install Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus.’ What should I do?”

“Click Next.”

“Wow! My mouse is working again! Now it says, ‘To continue with the installation, we must reboot your computer.’ The choices are Yes and No.”

“Click Yes.”

I waited a minute. “Now it says ‘Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus. You can A) Scan your hard drive for viruses, B) Normal startup, C) Read these instructions over again.'”

“Take the CD out of the drive, then press Control, Alt, Delete.”

“Here it comes,” Uncle Strife cried as Windows booted. “Wait a minute. It looks like some kind of error. ‘Installation aborted. CD missing.'”

“Click OK.”

“But it’s not OK.”

“Click it anyway.”

He did. “Now everything looks normal.”

“Great. Put the CD back in again.”

“OK, I’m back at ‘Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus Installation.’ I should click Next, right?”

“Right.”

“Now it says, ‘The installation program has detected that Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus has been partially installed on this system. Before you can install Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus, you must remove the previous installation.'”

I grumbled a few words Uncle Strife wouldn’t approve of. “Click OK. I know, but click it anyway.” I walked him through uninstalling Auntie Vera via Add/Remove Programs.

When the process was over, he read me the result: “Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus could not be removed. It appears not to have been a complete installation. Before you can uninstall the program, you must either complete the installation process or spend the next five years re-editing your Registry. Click Reboot or forever hold your peace.”

He clicked Reboot. “Now what have you got?” I asked.

“‘Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus. You can A) Scan your hard drive for viruses, B) Normal startup, C) Read these instructions over again.'”

I was curious. “Why don’t you select B) Normal startup?”

“OK, but … the mouse isn’t working.”

“What happens when you press the arrow keys?”

“Oh, you mean those? Hey, the down one works! Now the up one works, too!”

“Great. Press them until ‘Normal startup’ is highlighted, then press Enter. What happened?”

“It says ‘Remove the Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus CD-ROM and press Control, Alt, Delete.'”

When he was back in Windows, I told Uncle Strife to put the CD-ROM back in the drive and, at the first screen, click OK. “Now what does it say?” I asked after a long, sad silence.

“‘The installation program has detected that Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus has been partially installed on this system, and then partially uninstalled. Before you can properly install Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus, you must uninstall the installation of the previous uninstallation.'”

I was taking that in when he added, “Wait a minute. There’s something else here. ‘Alternately, you can do a complete and total installation, which removes all existing Windows settings that might affect the Auntie Vera installation.'”

I told him to try that option. I waited as the program installed itself, then asked him to click OK so it could reboot the system.

“So,” I said, hoping I could finally go to bed, “what does it say?”

“‘Auntie Vera’s Anti-Virus. You can A) Scan your hard drive for viruses, B) Normal startup, C) Read these instructions over again.'”

“Remove the CD,” I said, “then reboot.”

“I did remove the CD. That time it booted from the hard drive.”

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