NOTE: This blogpost is a revised version of an article requested from the author by Lenovo. This version has been updated with additional information specific to ESET software, as well as more general information about other computer manufacturers. Click here to view the original article.
If you are a regular reader of WeLiveSecurity or the ESET Blog, you may use ESET software on your computers to protect them against malicious software. ESET has several different security programs for this purpose depending on which operating systems you use and the type of security you need. While this article is focused on the consumer versions of ESET software for Microsoft Windows, the ideas and concepts behind it apply to other operating systems and even to security software from other vendors.
ESET software normally falls under the “set it and forget it” category, with the default settings used during installation being optimum for the overwhelming majority of users. It’s one of the reasons people keep renewing their software year after year—it just works out of the box, so to speak. But the past few years of work have been anything but normal. COVID-19 required a massive shift for many, from working at an office or going to school, to working and learning from home. And the changes to support that might also have included making changes to your security software.
If you have been using the same computer for a couple of years (or more) after switching to a work-from-home or learn-from-home situation, it is entirely possible that you have made some changes to your security software, especially if it is self-managed. You may have created an exclusion to download a new videoconferencing client, created new firewall rules to allow it internet access, and so forth.
While these various changes and rules may have been necessary at the time, as you go back to the office or school, or finally settle on which set of tools to use for group chats, videoconferencing, and so forth, you can end up with a lot of changes made to your security software for programs that are no longer installed on your computer and for networks you no longer access. While this may not be causing any observable problems with your computer, it could have some security consequences that may not be apparent at first:
- If hostnames, IP addresses, or ports are excluded (left open or bypassed) from scanning, an attack or probe that would typically be blocked could succeed.
- The performance of the security software may be decreased due to increased processing overhead for rules that apply to software that is no longer used or installed.
- The effectiveness of the security software may be decreased due to issues involving its misconfiguration, such as disabling an entire protective layer or feature to provide compatibility for software that is no longer used or installed, or a rule created for software that is in use but instead is applied to the entire system and so forth.
Obtaining peak performance from your security software
So, with all of this in mind, what can you do to get your security software back in optimal shape? You could spend time looking for and reverting all those changes. However, if your computer is in good working order, it is often quicker and easier to uninstall your security software and then reinstall it.
While the exact steps are going to vary depending on your security program, here are the general steps to do this for the Windows versions of ESET software for the home:
- Before you do anything, make at least one backup copy of all important files. It is a good idea to do this regularly anyway, but it is definitely something you should do before making any significant changes to your system. For a primer on backing up your computer, I recommend reading our Backup Basics blogpost and its accompanying paper. While the paper is a little dated in terms of storage costs and capacities, it has withstood the test of time remarkably well and is still quite useful in determining how to preserve your data.
- Download the latest installation program for your security software and save it to a location you will remember, such as your Downloads folder or a folder on your Desktop. Here are the web pages for direct downloads of ESET software:
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus for Windows
- ESET Internet Security for Windows
- ESET Smart Security Premium for Windows
If given a choice between downloading a smaller “live” installer and an advanced option of downloading a larger “full” installer that contains the whole application, download the full version. The live installers are “stubs” that download the remaining parts of the program from the internet, while the larger full installers contain the entire program.
Using the full installer will allow you to quickly secure your computer when reinstalling the software without having to be connected to the internet while unprotected.
- Download the ESET Uninstall Tool from the ESET Knowledgebase and save it to the same location as the installer. While on the web page, you can also save or print this Knowledgebase article for reference. While it’s unlikely you will need to use this tool, having a copy of it along with instructions for its use can be helpful.
- Visit the ESET Knowledgebase to review the How do I uninstall and reinstall my ESET Windows home program article. You might also want to save or print this article for reference.
- Log into your ESET Home account and make a note of your license key. It’s located on the left side in the Overview column. Then, go to the License Usage column on the right side, select your computer from the three dots “⋮” menu icon—sometimes called the kebab icon—and choose the Disconnect option. If you do not have an ESET Home account, you can retrieve your license using the Lost License page or contact support for further assistance.
- Open your ESET program from its icon in the system tray notification area and select the Setup option at the left of the ESET user interface window. At the bottom of the window is an Import/Export settings option. Choose this, and export (save) a copy of your current configuration to the same location as the files you downloaded. If you need extra help, see the ESET Knowledgebase article Importing or exporting the ESET configuration settings in Windows home programs.
At this point, you have completed all of your preparations and are ready to begin the reinstallation process.
- Disconnect the computer from the internet and uninstall your existing security software. Depending on the Microsoft Windows version installed on your computer, this can either be done by right-clicking on your security software’s icon from the Start Menu, and selecting Uninstall from the context menu that pops up, or by running the Uninstall or change a program (filename: APPWIZ.CPL) applet from the Control Panel, right-clicking on it, and selecting the option to uninstall it from the context menu that pops up.
One (or more) restarts may be required to finish uninstallation. Even if a restart is not required, it is recommended to perform one to finish any pending disk and file operations the operating system was waiting to perform on the next restart.
- In the unlikely event you receive any notifications or warnings, go ahead and follow the instructions to manually run the ESET Uninstall Tool to remove any remnants of the software left over after uninstallation. Manual uninstallation tools can get rid of orphaned files, directories, and processes that can interfere with reinstallation of the security software. Again, a reboot (restart) may be required to finalize removal of these digital leftovers from the operating system as they may stay on the system until it is restarted.
As a reminder, Windows can be restarted from the Start Menu by selecting Power and then Restart. Do not select Sleep, Shut Down, or other options, as restarting the computer is not the same as shutting it down or turning it off. Many modern computers do not fully power down when turned off but instead enter a low power mode until turned back on. This allows the computer to be ready for use more quickly, but pending changes for things like removing programs or installing software updates may not be finalized.
- Reinstall your ESET software using the file you downloaded earlier (refer to step 2, above), and activate it using your license information (see step 5, above). Depending on the program and type of installer, it may need to download additional updated components, so now is the time to reconnect your computer to the internet. When the installation finishes, a restart may be required for the software to be fully functional.
And that’s it! You now have a fresh installation of your security software optimized for your computer. At this point, I recommend running your most important applications to verify that everything works properly. Depending upon how your security software works, you may be prompted to allow various programs to access your webcam or the internet, just as you needed to when the software was first installed. Go ahead and set up (allow) the rules for these as you did before.
Congratulations, your security software is running in top shape!
If you have any questions or comments about reinstalling an ESET product, feel free to post a message in the ESET Security Forum or contact your local ESET reseller, distributor, or office.
Distinguished Researcher, ESET
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