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Windows OneCare Live Beta 2

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February 9, 2006



Microsoft has released the beta 2 public release of its new security suite aimed at Windows XP SP2 users. The new Windows OneCare Live security program has been in beta for the past year or so and we've been beta testing the software for quite awhile now, but we couldn't show you any pictures or tell anything about it due to our confidentiality agreement with Microsoft, but now we can since it's a public beta. Our full review below talks about the strengths and weaknesses of this highly-anticipated program.

Ever since the beginning of Windows, there have always been lots of security vulnerabilities
holes in the operating system that posed a serious security threat.
This OneCare Live is one way that Microsoft hopes to lessen the amount of the holes and the amount of damage that can be done via the vulnerabilities. The current beta is only for users of Windows XP SP2, but the program is geared for usage on Windows Vista when it comes out towards the end of 2006. OneCare Live will be priced at $49.95 for one year of service when it comes out, which is priced fairly competitively with other leading security suites from Symantec or McAfee. Microsoft is hoping that users will like the seamless integration of OneCare with Windows XP (or Vista) and will choose OneCare over a third-party suite.

With this beta 2 release, Windows OneCare Live includes the usual bells and whistles that you'll see in a modern security suite, except for one big thing,
spyware protection. Spyware protection is vital these days because of the vast amount of malicious pop-ups and other Internet related threats, but the good news is that Microsoft says
(and we saw in a recent e-mail sent to beta testers) spyware protection will be included in the next beta of OneCare Live. Other than that, you'll find a two-way firewall, antivirus, file backup and a few system cleanup and maintenance tools. In addition to that, the interface is very easy to understand and see at a glance what the status is because it shows a red/yellow/green summary of system security, with lots of clear advice on how to raise the safety level to green.

Status Area
Windows OneCare Live easily shows you the status of your system and recommends an action to take to get your system to the "green" level.

The OneCare firewall protects against most outside attacks, just as the Windows Firewall in Windows XP SP2 does, but it also controls and limits which programs are allowed to connect to the Internet, just like most third-party personal firewalls do. Turning the firewall off allows all programs to access the Internet but does not turn off protection against attacks on the
computer's ports. We ran a few port scans to see how to effectiveness of the firewall is and found that it left open the Remote Procedure Call port, which was used by that nasty Blaster worm a few years back. When a program tried to access the Internet, a pop-up notification that lets you choose to allow or disallow Internet access to that program in the future. You can choose simply and quickly choose to allow all programs or to require notification on first access even for trusted programs, but we suggest you keep the default setting for maximum security and effectiveness.

A Windows OneCare Live Advisory
One of the many advisories that Windows OneCare Live displays. They are very informative and helpful, even a computer novice can easily understand what is going on.

The antivirus module included in OneCare Live is actually pretty good. By default, it monitors all files as they're accessed and cleans or quarantines any that contain viruses or malicious programs. There isn't, however, any scheduled scanning except through the Tune-up module, which we'll talk about later and its heuristic scanning for virus-like behaviors is turned on by default, which is usually turned off by default in most third-party suites.

Windows OneCare Live also includes a fairly solid file backup module as well. It allows you to
simply choose what folders and files you want to backup to a CD, DVD, external hard drive,or floppy. You cannot back up to another internal hard drive, a network drive, or a high-capacity USB flash drive. OneCare automates the backup process by scanning for data files that have been changed since the last backup. It searches for music, pictures, documents, e-mail, and other data-file categories, and it also backs up files on the desktop or on My Documents. We felt that the options for the backup feature were a little limited and we would like to ability to backup to a network drive and USB thumb drive.

Select Files for Backup Wizard
The backup module allows you to easily select and choose which folders you want to be included in the backup.

The Tune-up module ties all these above features together and does them all at once. It periodically defragments the hard drive, runs an antivirus scan, checks for files that need to be backed up and even checks for missing updates from Microsoft's Windows Update just in case Windows XP's automatic updater missed some. You can set Tune Up to run at any time on any schedule with the scheduler and this is good because you can choose a time when you aren't using your computer because the Tune Up does take quite awhile, even on an AMD Athlon XP 3200+ CPU and 1GB of RAM. This is, however, a very handy feature for the novice computer user that just wants everything done automatically without fuss.

The second beta of Windows OneCare Live offers a great preview of the security/maintenance suite and is promising, but it certainly isn't ready for a full public release. There are still many
things that Microsoft has to work on and add to the program to make it compete with current
third-party applications. If you choose to install the beta, you must uninstall any existing security software installed on your computer. The final release of Windows OneCare Live is expected to be around the mid-to-end of 2006 and will cost $49.99 (or $19.99 if you are a beta tester) for
one-year of protection.

To become a beta tester for free and download Windows OneCare Live, please visit

Bottom Line

Pros: Easy to use, fairly good firewall and antivirus modules, automatic Tune Up that takes care of everything in one easy step
Cons: No antispyware module, little shy on the backup features, some firewall holes, slow Tune Up
Editors' Rating: 3 Out of 5

View Screenshots of Windows OneCare Beta 2

Product Pictures

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