| By Brian Livingston |
The shock waves caused by Microsoft’s decision to quietly install Windows Genuine Advantage through its security update mechanism are still being felt by my readers.
The marketplace for non-Microsoft antivirus packages, security suites, and the like is crowded with well-known competitors. By contrast, the field of Windows Update alternatives is new and the players are little-known. Until more reviews have been published by major test labs, I’ll keep bringing you my findings and the comments of Windows users who are doing their own analyses.
Leak in Automatic Updates burns up memory
As readers of this newsletter know, the fact that Microsoft now allows marketing gimmicks to be downloaded as "critical security updates" caused me to recommend on June 29 disabling Automatic Updates (AU). Now it turns out that AU has other problems. If you’re not using AU, why should you suffer from the CPU cycles and memory it consumes?
Reader John Cullen writes:
- “Your recent editorials regarding Windows Update (WU) and the use (or not) of Automatic Updates (AU) have been, to say the least, enlightening. I was particularly pleased with the recent offer by Shavlik Technologies’ of a year’s use of their NetChk Protect software, an offer which I have already taken advantage of. …
“Although there has been much hue and cry over the use of AU, there are those amongst us who are simply unable to use it, whether we want to or not. I’m talking about machines in a corporate setting and for whom group policy settings are in place. These settings disable access to the AU controls within XP itself and prevent the WU control from operating after accessing the WU site directly.
“Of course there are ways around this (including using NetChk Protect!), but that’s a different story. The problem is that blocking access to AU has an unfortunate side-effect. There appears to be a rather significant memory leak in the AU code, which manifests itself as one of the 5 or 6 svchost.exe processes that are always present, gradually consuming huge quantities of RAM and VM.
"In my case, after approximately three weeks of uptime, the svchost.exe in question was holding onto approximately 200MB of RAM and over 400MB VM. (My machine has 1GB of RAM, but even so, performance degradation starts to be noticeable when this happens!)