How Broken Is Norton 2005 Activation?

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2005-03-27 Print this article Print

Opinion: It's hard to tell how widespread the problems are, but there appear to be enough of them. Here's hoping that Norton 2006 finally gets it right.

The record for feedback in my security blog easily belongs to the entry on the brief problem I had with activation of Norton Antivirus 2005. I knew beforehand that other people had complaints about activation, but this thread has taken on a life of its own. It appears to have acquired significant Google karma. Google "Norton 2005 activation problems" and it shows up No. 2. Im impressed.

My own problem was quite minor, and I blogged it because I thought it was curious. Out of the blue, my NAV said it had to be activated, months after I had already done so. I reactivated it and (this is more than four months ago) there have been no problems since.
(Incidentally, I run a variety of antivirus scanners on a variety of systems here, just to keep an eye on them. I also have Trend, McAfee and BitDefender scanners running on other systems.)

But read the blog feedback and youll find a large number of unhappy Symantec customers, with the general complaint being, "I bought the box from [large retail store like Staples] and it wont activate, and Norton wants me to pay $29.95 just to talk to them!" For a $49.95 product, I can see hanging up and griping.

I tried to defend Symantec on the feedback thread for a while, but clearly theres something wrong. How wrong is it? I was about to write "only Symantec knows," but maybe even it doesnt! Face facts, the $29.95 charge for phone support—even though it says prominently that the "fee may be waived if support representative determines that the issue was caused by the product"—is a big fat "not welcome" mat at Symantecs door. Im sure lots of people are discouraged from seeking support. Certainly a lot of readers in the blog feedback complained about this issue.

By the same token, Symantec is big enough that it must find out quickly about any problems in its products, and it doesnt deny that people have problems with activation of NAV, as we can see in its document on what to do if you have problems activating. This document suggests that parental control software is often a problem (perhaps users have a whitelist and the activation servers arent on it).

Next page: Other activation problems.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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