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How To Prevent Your Anti-Virus From Devouring Your System Memory

How To Prevent Your Anti-Virus From Devouring Your System Memory

Unless you’re planning to disconnect your computer completely from every network in existence, you’re going to need an antivirus solution of some kind. It’s a big, dangerous world out there on the web and an unprotected system isn’t likely to last all that long. You need a means of protecting yourself from the plethora of nasty worms and viruses to be found online.

Unfortunately, depending on what program you’re using, the process of protecting yourself might send your system memory straight into the toilet. Antivirus programs are notorious for being blatant memory hogs, taking up so much that it can honestly end up making older systems completely unusable.  It might end up being the case that you might as well just open up your computer to a virus or two – after all, it’d probably work just as well.


How can you rein your antivirus in? How can you reduce the amount of memory it’s using in order to actually get some work done? In short, how can you have the best of both worlds?

Uninstall and Find a Lightweight Option

Here’s what I’d personally recommend. If you’re using anything from Norton or McAfee, uninstall. Those two antivirus solutions are known to be some of the most memory-heavy antivirus suites in existence, and I’ve never seen a computer that doesn’t suffer a bit of slowdown simply by having them installed.

Thankfully, a number of lightweight (and free) solutions exist online. Panda is one such solution, and Microsoft Security Essentials is another. If you go this route, you’re probably not going to have a problem with memory usage any longer. Disregard the rest of this guide, if that’s the case.

Don’t Use Real-Time Protection

One of the reasons some antivirus solutions take up so much space is that they’re actively scanning for threats. They’re looking at each file you download (and each file you access, in some cases) and poring over it to see if it has any known viral signatures.

Turning this off can cause a marked increase in performance. Unfortunately, it can also open you up to a few threats if you aren’t careful. Use at your own caution.

Reconfigure The AV

Most antivirus applications have a fairly full-featured set of customization options. Take a look through your antivirus’s settings page and see if there’s any way you can reduce the amount of processing power it’s gobbling up at key moments.

Some platforms actually have an option where they’ll tone things down at a particular time of day, or if you’re working on something important. For some of the more complex suites, you can also disable individual functions and processes if you think you aren’t going to be using them. Again, do this at your own risk. You could end up borking your system if you’re not careful, after all.

Change Processor Priority

Last, but certainly not least, if you’re particularly desperate you can use the task manager (CTRL+ALT+DEL or CTRL+Shift+ESC) to locate the process (or processes) related to your antivirus platform and change the processor affinity to ‘low.’ This will ensure that, when your system starts using a particularly large degree of processing power, the platform might be denied resources.

This is hardly an ideal solution, and not one I’d generally recommend. This could end up causing you some issues with functionality, and some AV platforms don’t actually allow you to change their properties in the task manager. It’s likely a defense mechanism against a virus attempting to shut the platform down, but it serves the secondary purpose of nullifying this method in most cases.

Honestly? Just get a lightweight antivirus and call it a day.

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One thought on “How To Prevent Your Anti-Virus From Devouring Your System Memory”

*Sharron Field* (@Shazzalive) says:
Personally I’d be wary, from experience, of using Panda Antivirus. Having said that I’d rather use it than Norton: As you point out, Norton is a system-hog, and isn’t that efficient either. One antivirus that you did mention, and which I’d recommend, is Microsoft Security Essentials. I’ve been using it knocking on 5 years and it is good: (Note I said good, not infallible.) In that time it has missed only two or three viruses on my computer, and detected/quarantined/deleted several too. Ensure you run a weekly scan and use the full-scan option fairly regularly though. (At least 6 times a year or more)

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Apr 4, 2013

643 Articles Published