Tip: AVG Free Edition and Major System Upgrades
February 21st, 2007If you plan on performing a major system upgrade, like a motherboard swap, which may cause Windows to reactivate, here's a quick tip to save you a lot of headaches:
Uninstall AVG Free before upgrading your computer. When I rebooted after changing the motherboard, I had to reactivate Windows. AVG then reported its license was invalid and it needed to be reinstalled.
Now, I'm not sure if it was the reactivation of Windows or the motherboard swap that caused AVG to invalidate its license. I had no way of telling because I couldn't login to Windows prior to re-activating. But, when I finished activation, AVG reported that its license is no longer valid, and I must re-enter my license number or uninstall the program.
Now as you know, AVG provides you with a license number automatically during setup (it obtains one from their server.) So who would think to write this down? The problem is that the license number is not only needed to install AVG, but to repair and uninstall AVG too - which is a design flaw in my opinion. Uninstalling a program should be a no-questions-asked operation. It's just good manners!
So... I need a license number to start the program, re-install the program, or uninstall the program. Where do I find my license number? It's found by starting the program and using a menu option to view your license details ... see the catch 22 here? Of course AVG does not provide any help on their website for obtaining another license number, and they don't really support Free Edition either. I wrote their sales department (the only department you can contact without a valid professional edition license number) but have not received a reply in a few days yet.
Alright... so what's the next step? Manual uninstall. And let me tell you, this program is a byotch to get out of your system. At first, unsuccessfully, I tried deleting the GriSoft folder from C:\Program Files. All fine and dandy until you hit avgse.dll, the AVG Shell Extension. You also cannot delete avgse.dll in Safe Mode, because it's loaded then too.
Now with the program files contents (mostly) gone, AVG doesn't load up anymore. Great... or is it? So I try to install/reinstall... it's working! It plugged in my old license key for me again now. Awesome! But when you actually follow through with repair, install or uninstall, you'll notice that no files are copied - it just skips instantly to the end saying it finished successfully. Obviously it is checking the registry for the presence of certain keys and assuming that if they are present, AVG was installed/removed/etc. successfully. So it's off to see the Registry, the wonderful Registry of Bill...NOTE: Digging around in and changing/deleting registry items can seriously screw up your system. Don't do it if you don't know what you're doing.
Here's what I had to do to get AVG out of my system manually:
- Searched for all occurrences of 'avgse.dll', and deleted them.
- Searched for all occurrences of 'GriSoft' and deleted them.
- Searched for all occurrences of 'AVG' and deleted them - carefully!
UPDATE: I've just discovered a program called ShellExView which allows you to manage your Shell Extensions. This program can be used to easily remove avgse.dll from your computer and allow you to delete the program folder.
This software has a LOT of entries in the registry... under Classes, Software, etc. You'll be there for a while deleting entries which appear quite repetitive. Be careful with the 'AVG' entries as the word 'avg' sometimes appears in a larger sentence (or a random character / encoded entry) which is not related to AVG. Just make sure the key has something to do with AVG (e.g. AvgUpdManager and stuff like that.)
Oh yeah... there are also two system services from AVG. You need to remove those as well. You'll find them in the HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services key.
Once all of this is done, cross your fingers, take a swig of tequila, and reboot the computer. If all goes well, AVG should be completely out, and you can now reinstall the free edition. WHEW!!
Bottom line: It's a MAJOR pain in the ass to remove AVG manually from your system. It is MUCH easier to uninstall AVG the normal way before doing any major hardware upgrades on your computer. I haven't upgraded to Vista yet either, but I suspect this may be a good idea for a Vista upgrade too (that's if Free edition is even supported.)