Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Inside Symantec LiveUpdate

Last April, I wrote about my problems with McAfee Internet Security Suite. Since I am on vacation this week, I finally got around to removing the McAfee suite from my home computer. I decided to upgrade to Windows XP Service Pack 2 -- for the built-in firewall -- and then add Norton AntiVirus for virus protection.

I was particularly worried about removing the McAfee software. Last time I tried that, the uninstall program failed and left lots of remnants on the system. I spent hours first tracking down instructions and then manually removing services and registry settings. By comparison, the removal of Internet Security Suite 6.0 was painless. It took all of five minutes.

The installation of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) was painless too. I still haven't explored all the benefits of SP2, but I like the built-in Windows Security Center, the new Outlook Express security features, and the Internet Explorer pop-up blocker. (Nevertheless, I will continue to use Firefox for most of my web browsing.)

In short, things were going great. I had a brand-new copy of Norton AntiVirus 2006 and I expected that installation to be dirt simple. Twenty four hours later, I finally have things working. Although the initial installation appeared to go well, I couldn't get Symantec LiveUpdate to work. Without LiveUpdate, it is difficult to get the latest virus definitions. Without those, virus protection is incomplete.

When LiveUpdate fails, it tries to be helpful. It displays an error message and provides a link to a Symantec web page with trouble shooting tips. In this case, the message was:
LU1841: Connection to ISP failed. LiveUpdate could not connect to your Internet Service Provider. Verify your dial-up information is correct.
Possible explanations included problems with the system's Internet Options or misconfigured firewall software. I checked these and other possible explanations, used Symantec's Automated Support Assistant, and generally pounded my head against the monitor for hours. Nothing helped.

Finally, I stumbled upon this excellent document on the Symantec site. Near the end of the document there is a section about some Settings.LiveUpdate files. These files hold various settings including the names of LiveUpdate servers. If the files are corrupted, LiveUpdate can stop working. The document suggests removing the files and trying again. Since the LiveUpdate service appears to keep the files open, this is easier said than done. Unless you take some special steps, you will get sharing violations when you try to remove the files.

Here's what worked for me:
  1. Restart Windows in safe mode. This causes Windows to run without the LiveUpdate service.
  2. Backup all the files in c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Symantec\LiveUpdate. I just copied the files to a temporary directory.
  3. Back in the c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Symantec\LiveUpdate directory, remove all files with Settings in the file name. In particular, you don't want to remove the Configuration and Product files. Those files apparently contain important information about your registered Symantec products.
  4. Restart Windows and retry LiveUpdate.
While this whole process took much longer than it should have, I feel like I understand the inner workings of LiveUpdate a little bit better. I am posting this story with the hope that someone else can benefit from it some day. Now I just have to take care of some overdue vehicle maintenance, finish a few household chores, and defeat the legions of spammers assaulting my Inbox. Then my "vacation" will be complete.

1 comment:

Franziska said...

Hi Dave,

I was facing exactly the same proplem with Norton Internet Security 2006 LiveUpdate last week. After spending a frustrating week end trying to solve the issue, I finally found your extremely useful guide on how to fix LiveUpdate. Now it works! Thank you very much.

I hope one or another Symantec representative will find it as well and put a link on their online service center.