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12 July 2006

How to uninstall McAfee SecurityCenter

I had the unpleasant experience of trying to uninstall McAfee SecurityCenter today. I needed to install it to test a website that was incorrectly being blocked by McAfee (due to a McAfee bug). So I installed McAfee, verified the said site now worked, then went to uninstall McAfee.

Actually, I wouldn't have been in such a hurry to uninstall it if I handn't felt that I'd handed over my PC at that point to the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter which decides on a whim whether you go this way or that and also takes as long as it wants to make its own mind up.

There I was using a twin CPU system and feeling I'd stepped back into the 1990s. All of a sudden, applications took 5 minutes to start. Web access was almost impossible. Applications started to hang with no way of correcting them. Web pages (including some on BBC news) were blocked at random. It was as dark as the darkest days of having to use the AOL browser on a 56K modem and believe me that's about as slow as a slow thing on a slow day during a siesta.

So I did the natural thing and went to uninstall it. You click add/remove programs, the uninstaller churns into action then aborts with the message "McAfee SecurityCentre is still running you have to close it first" Retry/Cancel.

No big friendly button saying "I can close it for you if you click here". Not even a big friendly link saying "Here's a link to the help on how to close it". It wouldn't even be as necessary as all that if there was a standard menu in a standard place that said "Exit". Top tip: It's usually to be found in the File menu or right click on the icon in the system tray.

10 minutes of scratching around in the application (you are in a maze twisty little passages, all alike, XYZZY) admiring the vast collection of data the application had been collating about me wasn't much help either. But I did wonder in amongst all the URLs listed why none of it showed the blocked access to the BBC site and what I could do to resolve it.

By this point my browsers were running so slow as to be just about unusable. So I had to resort to someone else's computer to see if this was a known problem. It was probably just as well I didn't try using my own PC as it took about 10 minutes of searching around the web to find the answer. Sites which appear in the Google listings, then you have to create an account and sign in to see the solution are of no use in a hurry.

Eventually I found the Given Solution here: How to uninstall McAfee SecurityCenter.

However, this was no use either. So I did the usual stop services and processes to kill it off - something the typical user shouldn't need to do and which in itself is risky unless you have a definitive list of which processes are relevant to kill.
I reproduce this info here for the gentle reader who doesn't have access to a backup PC to browse with while the main one has been over run by the treacle monster. Perhaps you could print this note off before you install the software in the first place?


Step 1. Try the official Given Solution
Step 2. Select Start->All Programs->Administrative Tools->Services
Step 3. Find anything with McAfee in it and set the startup type to Disabled and the service status to stop. You need to do both of these because the services will restart automatically.
Step 4. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to bring up the task manager. Select processes
Step 5. End task on anything beginning Mc. There is probably a definitive list somewhere of which processes you should kill but at this point I was rapidly losing the will to live. There is about 6 of them.
Step 6. Now fire up the uninstaller again and watch in glee as it uninstalls.
Step 7. Wonder why your PC is now wanting to reboot when the uninstall completes, when it probably didn't reboot on installation.
Step 8. Have a cup of Mountain Dew while your PC reboots. You've deserved it.

All of this is fairly straightforward to anyone experienced with PCs, however not so for the typical home user I suspect.
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