A number of people have had the same problems after installing Windows XP Service Pack 3:

  • Device Manager is empty
  • System Restore is empty
  • the Network Connections screen is empty
  • other USB devices are not working
  • in some cases, My Computer will not open up or starts slowly

Almost all of those people had a Norton product installed – Norton Antivirus, Norton 360, or one of the others.

On close examination, people dealing with these problems have found that the registry turns out to have thousands of unnecessary entries added during the service pack installation. Although some people have laboriously removed those entries one by one, the procedure that is successful for many people is:

  1. Go to Control Panel / Add-Remove Programs and uninstall anything remotely related to Norton or Symantec products. Restart.
  2. Download and run Symantec’s cleanup tool to remove all further vestiges of its products. Restart.
  3. Look through the Program Files folder and remove all Norton or Symantec related folders (including any folders located under Common Files).
  5. Use RegEdit to search through the registry for the string $%& in Keys, Values, or Data. Delete each key. (There may not be any remaining keys after deleting LEGACY_LIVEUPDATE_NOTICE. If there are, they have to be removed one by one.)
  6. Restart the computer.

Here’s the forum thread where this issue is being actively discussed, and here’s an article about the brouhaha.

I haven’t run into this yet. Before you launch into that cleanup sequence, please be sure you are confident about working in the registry! Heed this warning carefully!

One of the routines during the service pack installation apparently is going haywire when it hits the Norton registry entries, which must have some peculiar characteristic that’s different than anyone else’s registry entries.

The service pack was available during development and testing to all of Microsoft’s partners, including Symantec.

So the question being actively debated: is this Microsoft’s fault because it should have discovered this during its own testing of the service pack, given that Symantec products are widely used?

Or is this Symantec’s fault, because it is each vendor’s unambiguous responsibility to make their products compatible with Windows?

Personally, I think a different question ought to be asked of anyone facing this problem: Why in the world are you still using a Symantec product? Stop it! Uninstall it now! Life is too short to wrestle with the system slowdowns, compatibility problems, bugs, and instability introduced by Norton software. Go read a short overview of the considerations you should have in mind when you choose security software, then get something better on your computer!

[Update 06/05/08: Tool released by Symantec to fix this problem.]

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