Q: Like many Comcast/Xfinity customers, I imagine, I was disappointed to learn that the company is ending its free offering of Norton Security. If I understand correctly, it sounds like our options are to: a) rent the company’s xFi gateway for a monthly fee of $14 (which includes “free” online security); or b) stick with our current modem/router setup and use the free Microsoft Defender software (currently disabled on our PCs); or c) keep our current setup and purchase third-party protection. I’m hoping you might be able to share the pros and cons of the various options.
— Rob Lovitt, Kenmore
A: As it happens, I also used to rely on the free version of Norton Security that Comcast offered. That’s because Windows Security, which comes free as a part of the Windows operating system, rarely scored very high in comparisons of anti-virus and firewall programs.
Over the last few years, however, Windows Security — known as Windows Defender until recently — has improved significantly. While I haven’t myself done a formal review of Windows Security, others’ reviews have convinced me and I just rely on it now. The one exception is if I suspect that I have a piece of malware on my computer that Windows Security may have missed I’ll run a scan with Malwarebytes’ Cybersecurity. Fact is, there isn’t a single anti-malware program I’m aware of that can be counted on to catch and disable every piece of malware, so in some cases you may need to scan with more than one program.
That said, if the xFi Advanced Security proves to be effective — and I haven’t yet seen any detailed reviews of the software — the big plus of using it is that it runs on the gateway and not on your computer. That means you shouldn’t run into any conflicts with other programs and it won’t be using up your computer’s system resources.
The main disadvantage of relying on xFi Advanced Security is that, yes, you have to rent the Comcast router instead of buying your own. You can buy a decent cable modem for around $100 and your modem rental will pass that milestone in less than a year.
On the upside, however, if you have a hardware problem with your rented Comcast modem all you’d have to do is exchange it.
What will I do? I already have a third-party cable modem that is working well, so I’ll just keep it and use Windows Security. If I run into any performance or security issues then I would consider renting Comcast’s xFi gateway.
Q: Recently I started getting blue screen failures. I started down the rabbit hole that Microsoft suggested and gave up when it got deeper and deeper into the weeds. Not having installed anything new that I knew of, I had no other idea of where to look. Malwarebytes and Kaspersky full scans revealed nothing. I figured I’ll just deal with it and save, save, save. Then I learned that my wife’s separate PC had the same problem. Now it seems that the latest Microsoft upgrade may be the problem. Any thoughts?
— Dave Mitchell, Renton
A: Yes, it’s entirely possible for a Windows update to result in the “blue screen of death.” But it’s generally not the fault of the update or a virus.
When the BSOD appears just after a Windows update, a third-party driver for an attached device that was developed for an earlier version of Windows is the most likely culprit.
Check to see that you have the latest drivers for all your attached or installed devices. Start with your graphics adapter and go from there.
If that doesn’t solve the problem, you can uninstall the latest update by clicking on the Windows icon in the far left side of the System Tray and then selecting “Settings.” Next, click on “Update and Security.” Finally, click on “View Update History.” You’ll then see a list of updates and can uninstall the one you suspect triggered the problem.
That will buy you some time while you wait for newer drivers.
Of course, if any of your devices are very old the manufacturer may no longer be updating drivers. In that case you may need to replace the device.