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).
Other Activation Problems
There are other problems listed, too:
- Your Symantec product prompts you to activate whenever your computer restarts—This problem is somewhat reminiscent of mine, in that it happened when I rebooted. But in my case, it only happened once. There are separate fixes for this problem for Norton 2004 and 2005 (2004 was the first year with activation), both in the form of programs you download and run.
- Error: “Buffer overrun detected! … Symantec SharedDjsactiv.exe … ” while activating your Symantec product—This problem is fixed by downloading a new version of a program involved in the activation process.
- How to enter your Proxy Server settings into the Symantec Activation Wizard—This is an explanation of an advanced settings issue.
- Error messages that refer to A8 key or Invalid Product Key when attempting to activate a product—This is a rehash of the parental controls problem.
- Error: “Unable to connect to server …” when trying to activate —This problem is caused by either a firewall or a hosts file with inappropriate settings in it.
I have readers claiming that the activation fix (first bullet above) didnt work for them. I have readers claiming that the license expired before it should have. I even have readers claiming that they were never prompted to activate and it still worked fine.
Now I have to say that I dont take all of the reader comments at face value. Feedback like this is basically anonymous, and I suspect that some folks figure they may as well make their case as strong as it can be. Read through the comments and make up your own minds.
But many of the stories of unexplained and strange activation behavior do ring true because I saw it myself on my own computer, and Symantec never really explained what happened.
I wouldnt be surprised if some people dont like the idea of copy protection and therefore figure they may as well invent the support problems they are sure exist as a result of it anyway. Im not buying into that.
Very popular programs need copy protection these days because, well, they get copied. (I once wrote a copy protection system for the HP Series 200. It was more than 20 years ago, so the statute of limitations has run out and you can forgive me.) But if youre going to implement one, you have to make it work well, and Im convinced that Symantec has some more work to do.
Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.
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