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In Use

To check for and remove viruses/malware, the technician used two programs, both of which were downloaded. The first tool, VRQ , shown in Figure 3, runs an extensive scan. According to a moderator on a Norton forum, “The VRQ Tool is an internal tool used to probe for potential infections. It does not use any virus definitions nor can it detect threats heuristically, and is intended for the sole use of a trained Symantec staff person in conjunction with an internal knowledgebase and other tools. This tool is not intended for general public use and has no documentation to support it.”

After launching the VRQ tool, the technician left a message on my computer saying that he was disconnecting and that I should call back when the scan had completed. I waited about an hour and the scan was still running, so I called in to check if I needed to do anything. Another technician connected to the remote session and advised that I should just let it continue to run. I let the scan run overnight. The following morning, the scan was still running, so I assumed that it had hung. I called in again, and another technician took over to finish the support task.

VRQ scans for potential infections

Figure 3: VRQ scans for potential infections

The technician reported that a piece of malware was discovered and eradiated. He also said that it had found a potential track 00 rootkit. He ran RootRepeal (Figure 4) and after a reboot, he reported that the computer had been cleaned.

RootRepeal

Figure 4: RootRepeal

The technician worked his way down the list and finished the checklist with the wrap-up tasks shown in Figure 5.

Solution Toolkit wrap-up tasks

Figure 5: Solution Toolkit wrap-up tasks

As one of the final tasks, the technician disabled and re-enabled system restore for both partitions on my computer. When asked, he said that stopping and re-starting system restore deleted old restore points and created a new one. Old restore points could potentially enable a user to restore the system back to a point where viruses existed.

Next, he uninstalled the Solutions Toolkit and installed NortonLive EasySupport (Figure 6). EasySupport seems to be very similar to the Norton Rescue diagnostic program.

EasySupport Home screen

Figure 6: EasySupport Home screen

It performs similar tasks, but has additional tabs for “My Account” and a tab that takes you directly to Live Support if you need to start another support session (Figure 7). It runs in your system tray, and automatically runs a weekly scan.

Getting support

Figure 7: Getting support

The technician also downloaded Norton PC Checkup 3.0. After my session had been completed, I ran PC Checkup as shown in Figure 8.

PC Checkup scan running

Figure 8: PC Checkup scan running

I found it interesting that PC Checkup found a security problem not found by EasySupport. Figure 9 shows that PC Checkup can’t determine the subscription (first line) even though it recognizes that Norton is installed lower down on the list. Perhaps that’s because I’m using a Comcast version of the Norton Security Suite, which doesn’t have an apparent expiration date. Clicking on “Get Protected Now” takes you to a “Buy” page for Norton security products.

Norton PC Checkup Scan Results

Figure 9: Norton PC Checkup Scan Results.

Closing Thoughts

Many people feel intimidated by not only their computers, but all of the electronic gadgets that are increasingly a part of everyday life. NortonLive's Ultimate Help Desk goes a long way towards helping people who would otherwise have no idea where to start when they encounter a problem.

As noted earlier, however, you have to have a working computer with an internet connection. As part of the review process, I called into a support representative before signing up and asked if they could help with a computer that wouldn’t boot at all. (I had diagnosed it as a bad hard disk with an unrecoverable track 0 error). They advised that I take it someplace and get it to boot and then call back. In all fairness, I didn’t really expect them to be able to help with that problem.

Like any tech support, your experience can vary based on the technician who is working on your computer. During the course of the review, I spoke with several technicians. All seemed very professional and instilled a sense of confidence that they would fix whatever problems I was having.

Many people will appreciate that the technician doesn’t keep you on the phone while fixing your computer. You can watch what he or she is doing, but for the most part, once the support session has been started, your computer's repair is a spectator sport. The initial support session, prior to the technician starting the VRQ scan, lasted about 1 1/2 hours. The final wrap up session was about 1/2 hour.

I did have a couple of disappointments, however. First, the support representative who took my order didn’t inquire if I had more than one computer, didn’t tell me about the family plan or even ask if I was interested. For $19.99/month, unlimited support for three computers is quite a good deal. Had I been pitched, I might have been tempted to spend the extra $20 setup fee.

Second, I was disappointed in the summary report. I had expected a more detailed report of the actions taken and the viruses/malware removed. Many people, however, may find the report unnecessary. For them, having a repaired computer may be good enough. For non-technical people who depend on their computers, the 24/7 NortonLive Ultimate Help Desk is a great safety net.

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