Symantec is to offer Chinese users compensation for a faulty update that knocked out 50,000 PCs. The company hasn't acted fast, it's taken more than a month to make the offer, which is only good for a couple of weeks.

Symantec's problems in China began on 18 May, when it released a bad software update that caused its Norton anti-virus software to wrongly identify two system files in the Simplified Chinese version of Windows XP as malware and quarantine them. That mistake, which Symantec blamed on "an automated process," left tens of thousands of PCs crippled and Internet bulletin boards full of angry posts.

Chinese users who lost data because of Symantec's faulty update demanded compensation, and at least two lawsuits were filed against the company. But Symantec has been slow to respond, saying earlier this month it was considering requests for compensation.

After five weeks, Symantec is ready to make amends. The company is offering affected Chinese consumers a 12-month Norton licence extension and a copy of Norton Save & Restore 2.0. Corporate customers are being offered Symantec Ghost Solution Suite licences, depending on the number of PCs affected. Symantec is not offering to extend Norton licences for corporate customers affected by the bad update.

Symantec described its offer as "a gesture of our goodwill."

Chinese users will have to move fast if they want to take Symantec up on the deal. The company is only accepting applications for compensation during a brief window of time: from 27 June 27 to 15 July. The company didn't say why the period is so short, but said it was a sufficient span of time.

"We are offering more than two weeks for the registration period which we believe is a reasonable period of time for customers to register," said Catriona Turner, a Symantec spokeswoman. "If there are legitimate reasons why a particular customer is unable to register by 15 July, we will give consideration to extending the date for that customer."

Turner said the terms and conditions of the compensation offer did not require users to forego the right to legal action over damage caused to their systems by Symantec's update. "We hope that our customers will recognise that we are offering this goodwill gesture in recognition of any inconvenience caused by this incident," she said.