Uninstall McAfee Internet Security (OEM) from Windows 8

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It should be easy to uninstall McAfee Internet Security and activate Windows Defender, the built in Windows 8 antivirus software and firewall. But it’s a hassle when it’s a trial subscription to McAfee installed by the PC maker. Here’s how to do it.

I buy and configure a lot of new PCs for clients who use them primarily for business. Job 1 after booting into Windows is eliminating the bloatware. And that includes unnecessary virus and malware protection.

Uninstalling McAfee & Norton to activate Windows DefenderWindows Defender: More Than Good Enough
Virtually all new PCs come with OEM-installed trial subscriptions of paid protection from “big-name” providers such as McAfee and Norton. But Windows 8 ships with Windows Defender, a broad spectrum, low load, frequently updated application that has proved more than good enough for hundreds of my clients.

Uninstalling McAfee, Activating Windows Defender: A Hassle
A spiffy Acer laptop I configured recently came pre-loaded with McAfee Internet Security. Uninstalling McAfee and activating Windows Defender should have been a no-brainer, but it turned out to be a hassle.

Uninstall Protocol
I researched the problem, finding relevant bits and pieces, but no one blog or forum post that laid out a simple step-by-step solution. So, based on trial and error, I developed a working protocol. The protocol was subsequently validated for Norton Internet Security on a high-end HP desktop.

1.  After booting into Windows 8 for the first time, do nothing else. Wait for the McAfee screen to pop-up asking you to activate the free trial subscription. Follow the prompts and activate. This completes the software installation and presumably provides payment to the PC maker.

2.  Restart as requested and head over to Programs and Features in Control Panel. Use this facility to uninstall McAfee Internet Security. Restart when prompted. Do not use a third-party uninstaller, which can complicate Step 4.

3.  At this point, McAfee should have been uninstalled and Windows Defender turned on. But bits and pieces of McAfee still linger, preventing Defender from taking over. The Action Center in Control Panel will urge you to Turn On Windows Defender and Windows Firewall, but those services will start then stop abruptly when their Turn On buttons are clicked.

4.  What you need is the McAfee Consumer Products Removal Tool. Obviously, you weren’t the first rabbit to fall into this particular hole! Other anti-virus software makers have similar tools. Download and run the tool and restart when prompted.

5.  After the removal and restart, go to Control Panel, first to Windows Defender and then to Windows Firewall. You will probaby find both active and running, but if not, simply follow the prompts to activate them.

Why It’s Tough to Uninstall McAfee
Why is it so difficult to remove trial versions of paid software? Because the PC manufacturer gets paid to install it, and the software maker gets paid if you buy a subscription when the trial period expires. There’s nothing wrong with that.

What’s wrong is that neither the PC manufacturer nor the software maker cared enough about you, the end user, to make sure the built in software was re-activated when the the trial software was uninstalled. Shame on McAfee (and others)!

This article was written by PC Consultant Louis J. Bruno.  For more about Lou, please visit the Bryant Hills Group.



Uninstall McAfee Internet Security (OEM) from Windows 8 — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the help – I’ve had this new windows 8 laptop for a while and the popups to buy McAfee have been a real pain in the neck!

  2. Thanks. Worked exactly as worded. Good job.

    In my case, Defender and Firewall were automatically activated after removal.

    My new HP all-in-one came with this evil-incarnate pre-installed. Now off I go to run a system image after the fact so I don’t have to go through this again if I ever have to restore.

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