I'm at a loss as to what to do now. I've looked at many different forums, blogs, etc to try to diagnose the issue, but nothing seemed to work. I've been a ZoneAlarm (Free) user for many years, and I am now pretty sure this firewall is the culprit to the months of problems I've been experiencing.
On my laptop (Toshiba Satellite L305-S5955, running Vista Home Basic SP2, 32-bit), I can't seem to access any website via Firefox or IE. (Sidenote: I have a Mac on the same network, and I have no problems connecting to the Internet on it.) It started around 12/13/09 when I couldn't access https sites. So, I did multiple full system scans (using Avast, Windows Defender, and Ad-Aware), but found no viruses or spyware.
Installed the latest ZA (9.1) in December hoping it'd resolve the issue, but all Internet access was blocked. So, I completely uninstalled (not knowing the proper way, I just did it thru the Add/Remove Programs, then used the manual "Safe Mode" method found on ZA tech support). I don't remember what I did, but I successfully restored Internet access on my laptop, albeit with minimal access...via Firefox only. I figured that was all I really needed at the time, even though I could not access secure sites and the auto update for the browser didn't work ("connection refused"). Also, Avast was still updating regularly, so I didn't mind the other drawbacks. Using Windows Firewall was alright with me.
Last week, I decided to manually download and install these updates: Avast 5.0.418 and Firefox 3.6. As soon as I did this, Firefox was unable to access the Internet...everytime I opened the browser, I'd get the "Connection to the server was reset" error message. However, my laptop was still actively connected to the Internet because I could still access the iTunes music store without any problems, and Windows Update was still checking for updates. Just (as far as I know) Firefox, IE, and any security software definition updates were blocked.
Since then, I've tried System Restore to go back to prior to installing the Avast and Firefox updates...nothing. I also performed the safe mode removing of program files, system32, temp directory, registry, etc again to see if any remnants of ZA remained...still unable to access the Internet. I even went back to uninstall Windows updates since 12/13/09, one-by-one to see...same result. And lastly, in desparation, I tried to do the steps outlined by GeorgeV in this thread: http://forums.zonealarm.com/showthread.php?t=73303 to no avail.
Is it possible that there are still remnants of ZoneAlarm blocking the browsers from accessing websites, and security software from updating? Call me crazy, but I think even after uninstalling, ZA is running in the background by blocking any new programs (i.e., VideoSlurp) or changes to programs (i.e., Firefox, IE), while allowing access to programs that I've already granted access to pre-uninstall (i.e., Avast before the upgrade, iTunes).
Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to be as detailed as possible. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!