NAV Bites My Swapfile

If you don’t have a Mac, you might want to tune this one out. If you do, be sure to read it.

I just get my website up and running smoothly when my computer starts acting up. After running for a while, it just freezes up, which is really unusual for my iBook. It locks up all the time, especially while I’m surfing the web.

I figure maybe it’s the recent update to Mac OS X 10.3.9. Or maybe the update to QuickTime 7. So I ditch QuickTime 7 and reinstall 6.5.2. It doesn’t help. I poke away at other things, tossing out a gigabyte of old stuff, as my drive seems to suddenly have a lot less space on it. Nothing seems to work.

Then I remember I got a hacktool virus notice from Norton Anti-Virus earlier in the week. It said it couldn’t repair the file but it quarantined it. I didn’t pay it much attention, figuring it was just some Windows virus it wanted to crow about catching.

It turns out that the April 28 update of the NAV virus definitions can identify your virtual memory swapfile as infected by a virus. It then takes this massive file, removes it, and quarantines it. That’s where all my hard drive space went. It’s also what caused the crashes. As one guy on the Apple support site wrote, removing your swapfile is like randomly popping one of your RAM chips out of your motherboard. It’s bound to cause problems.

And it did.

Following the suggestion on the NAV website, I downloaded the updated virus prefs released yesterday. Instant problem vanisher. The iBook works fine again.

In the meantime, I lost a few bits of data, notably the file that holds all my web login passwords. There’s a lot of clicking on “Lost your password?” links in my future.

The moral of the story: Pay more attention to your virus software warnings. It’s ironic that Mac OS X hasn’t spawned a known virus yet. Overactive anti-virus software caused the problem instead. There’s a metaphor for modern life in there somewhere if you care to pick at it.