Thank you. I'd like to amplify your point about registry cleaners. Most are dolled up junk; and many are malware. The one I chose is highly trustworthy, but even so, as you pointed out, you can really break your implementation with this, no doubt about it. These are not for the casual user.
I was very careful in picking mine. I am comfortable around registries. I took a backup of the registry first; I have several restore points set; and I didn't just blindly let the thing touch keys. My data is backed up with Carbonite and also on an external USB HDD. I made sure that if for example the cleaner said a key for an active application had an invalid path...that I went through the folder structure and verified that the file was indeed missing. And....I knew going ahead with it that I was taking a risk of having to re-rebuild my disk. I always partition my main HDD into two partitions with 1/3 of the disk being for OS and apps and the other 2/3 being for data. This practice served me well. Worst that has happened is that I had to rebuild my OS/app partition, but my data was always safe -- even without a backup. I think the Verizon software was broken long before the cleaner touched it.I would caution anyone that if you're not willing to do all of the above, do not even think of fooling around with a registry cleaner.
Going back to the core subject -- Verizon vs. the free utilities (I removed Hitware, because both Explorer and Firefox have built-in pop-up blockers that work just fine), something was clearly wrong with my Verizon install. I set the machine to scan before I went off to work and my machine is clean. Spybot came up clean too except for some MSIE cookies. When I go out again later, I'm going to reboot into safe mode and re-run the scans, and this time connect my external HDD and see what happens. If it comes up clean, then I would have to rule out virus/malware as being the source of my cold-boot locking and freezing.
But...I dare say that the combination of AVG Free, Comodo and Spybot Seek and Destroy seems to be more effective than Verizon's stuff with about the same performance hit. It's a shame Verizon went in this direction with their software, because the original version -- a simple firewall and antivirus -- was truly kick-butt fast and rock-solid reliable. Too many bells, whistles, and gongs with the new one.
Edited by Ron Devito, 06 May 2008 - 04:18 PM.