Uninstalling Norton Woes

I’m writing this from a new, beautiful, HP Envy ultrabook with Windows 8.  It’s a great machine and a great value… Almost perfect if it wasn’t for the bundled trialware.  Unfortunately in the Windows world, the subsidies that OEMs receive from ISVs to install their trial apps are too good to be ignored.  So on we go to remove much of the junk that gets pre-installed.  For what it’s worth, the situation has improved a bit with Windows 8.

The PC shipped with a 60 day trial of Norton something-or-other uber version.  I’m sure that Norton is a fine product, but I don’t want it on my system.  Plenty of reasonably good and free AV options exist, so there’s no reason I need to spend hard earned money on this.  Removing Norton was simple enough with the classic Control Panel | Uninstall a Program.  After a flash of confirmation messages from the uninstaller, Norton was (mostly) gone.  I also had to remove the Metro app that remained pinned to my Start screen.

Now that Norton is gone, I expected that after the forced reboot, Windows Defender — the native AV built into Windows 8 — would be automatically enabled.  Not so in this case.  Turns out that Norton (and HP apparently) don’t really care if you have AV protection after you remove their product.  Not only was Defender not enabled, but attempting to start it by running the Windows Defender control panel applet or starting the Windows service both failed.  Another reboot (for good measure) also didn’t get things working again.  A few Bing searches later and the common suggestion was to run the Norton uninstaller app from their site, but at this point, I didn’t even know what version of Norton I had uninstalled.  Turns out I didn’t need to do this anyway.

Re-enabling Windows Defender was easily done from the Action Center.  After the reboot, Action Center detects that there’s no AV product installed and gives you the option to re-enable Windows Defender.  This option worked and now I’m safely back and running with Windows Defender enabled.

UPDATE: I recently tried the same process on another new HP Envy and didn’t experience this behavior.  Perhaps I ran into an unusual situation on the first or HP has actually fixed something!

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