The problem,, affected a small percentage of the more than 1.2 million users of the company's Norton Antivirus 2004, Norton Internet Security 2004, Norton Antispam 2004 and Norton SystemWorks 2004. For those customers, the applications would mistakenly ask for a product activation code every time a PC was rebooted, and eventually the program would become locked.
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Product activation, which uses a remote database to essentially lock a copy of a program to a single PC, has gained acceptance among software makers as a tactic to defeat software piracy. However, the digital-rights management technology adds complications to product installation, turning off many consumers. Intuit, for example,after many PC users had problems installing TurboTax, software that the company protected using product activation .
Product activation generally works by generating a specific code from a computer's hardware configuration. However, Symantec's procedure for generating that code made the same PC look different every time it was rebooted, Smith said.
The problem affected less than 0.5 percent of customers who had bought a Norton 2004 product, Smith said.
The patch, posted on Symantec's Web site last Wednesday, will allow users to reregister their products correctly.