Ask the Doctor: Security Slowdown?


After reading the “Powerful Protection” Doctor question in the July issue, I started wondering what kind of performance hit I was taking from the plethora of security programs on my system. I have two Dell machines: an XPS-600 and an older Dimension 8300 (Windows XP Home, SP3 and IE7). They are connected to the net through a Linksys WRT150N router. Both units also have AOL 9.1, McAfee Security Suite, and SpySweeper. I know this is overkill, but I have no idea what to keep or what to disable.

First, you should determine if your security programs are actually affecting your day-to-day use. To do this, install a benchmarking program like OpenSourceMark ( and run its full official test three times to establish an average score. Then disable or uninstall all of your security software and repeat the benchmarking process. Calculate the percentage difference (if any) between the scores to get an approximation of how much your machine may or may not be affected. If you see a huge performance loss, run this scenario with a single security program active each time to see which one taxes your system the most.

By the way, AOL 9.1 comes bundled with McAfee Internet Security Suite. It’s not clear from your question whether your install of McAfee is the one that AOL offers or an additional install. If you’re running it twice, that’s certainly overkill—uninstall one of the versions.

You should also consider the features each program brings to the table. It makes no sense to double up. McAfee’s product and Webroot’s SpySweeper both contain anti-spyware functionality and are similarly skilled at addressing that problem—simply choose the one you prefer. Eliminating application redundancies is a great way to ensure that your system remains secure and speedy.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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