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Symantec pins blame for XP SP3 registry corruption on Microsoft

But some users say Microsoft tech support told them it's Symantec's fault

May 23, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Symantec Corp. on Thursday said it was Microsoft Corp.'s code that crippled some PCs after upgrades to Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) emptied Device Manager, deleted network connections and packed the registry with thousands of bogus entries.

"We finally got to the bottom of this last night," said Dave Cole, Symantec's senior director for product management of its consumer software. "All of these problems are related to the same thing: a Microsoft file that created all the garbage entries [in the registry]."

He also said that Microsoft had acknowledged some of the same symptoms when users updated to Windows XP SP2 several years ago; Cole refererred to a pair of Microsoft support documents to back up his claim.

Two weeks ago, after Microsoft launched Windows XP SP3 on Windows Update, users started reporting that their network cards and previously crafted connections had mysteriously vanished from Windows after updating with the service pack. The Device Manager had been emptied, they said, and Windows' registry, a directory that stores settings and other critical information, had been packed with large numbers of bogus entries.

Most users who posted messages on Microsoft's XP SP3 support forum said that the errant registry keys — which started with characters such as "$%&" and appeared corrupted at first glance — were located in sections devoted to settings for Symantec products. Not surprisingly, they quickly pinned blame on the security company.

Earlier this week, Symantec denied that its software was at fault and instead pointed a finger at Microsoft.

On Thursday, Cole said Symantec engineers had connected the current problem to a Microsoft file named fixccs.exe. According to information on the Web, fixccs.exe stands for "Fix CCS MaxSubkeyName mismatch" and appears to be part of both XP SP3's and SP2's update packages.

Cole wasn't sure exactly what function fixccs.exe serves. "But it caused similar problems with the Device Manager after SP2. It looks like it's reared its head again," he said.

Two Microsoft support documents — KB893249 and KB914450 — both describe a problem remarkably similar to what users have reported recently. "After you install Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) on a Windows XP-based computer, the Device Manager window is blank, or some devices no longer appear," reads KB893249.

The fixccs.exe file attempts to make changes to the registry, said Cole, but in some cases, it also adds large numbers of unnecessary keys. When asked why so many users had reported seeing the errant entries in sections reserved for Symantec products, Cole called it "the luck of the draw. We have a fair number of keys in the registry, and we're on a lot of systems. This is not exclusive to Symantec."



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