Virus Scan Update Taxes Older Computers

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Increased computer virus activity in January and February caused ITS to upgrade part of its anti-virus system, a move that has caused a handful of older computers to crash.

Seth Frisbie-Fulton, Client Services Coordinator, explained that over the past few weeks, he’s “seen maybe four or five older computers with 512 MB RAM that have become slow and unusable … in every case it could be traced to the virus scan, and it may be because the virus scan process is now more thorough.” All of the computers were PCs, since ITS does not require McAfee Virus Scan for Macintosh computers.

Nick Hannon, Information Security Analyst, explained that “January was crazy … it just seemed to keep increasing, not just student machines, but also faculty and staff.” Although ITS didn’t upgrade software on individual user machines, “we did change and upgrade the piece that monitors all the anti-virus deployments.” Although Hannon stressed that there was no data to show a clear link, “it seems to be a side effect of us upgrading our software on the server side … the amount of memory it was using versus how much they had available was causing a problem.”

Frisbie-Fulton said that the more thorough software is necessary “because the viruses are difficult to battle unless it’s doing additional scanning.” He added that “the college’s recommendation to incoming students for RAM has been a minimum of 2 GB for three or four years now” given an increase in RAM-intensive programs, and “the recently affected computers have had 512 MB or less RAM, a quarter of our recommendation.”

Students whose computers have been affected can often buy more RAM for around thirty dollars. Frisbie-Fulton suggested that “is a very good website for finding out how what type of RAM your computer uses, how much RAM you can put into your computer, and how much it would cost.”

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