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Windows OneCare Live

By Dave
5 Star Support Security Specialist
12.5.05

OneCare is a free (for now) Internet service that includes antivirus, firewall, backup and recovery, and PC-maintenance software in a single package offering. Officially, the new program is called Windows OneCare Live. When you read what all this program can do, I’ll bet you agree with me when I say that I think Symantec and McAfee are a bit nervous to say the least, especially Symantec who I’m sure is struggling to swallow the $10.3 billion dollar pill called Veritas that it acquired (their stock has fallen from $27.38 to $17.90 since the acquisition).

This Microsoft service consists of two components:

  • Windows OneCare Live software package

  • Windows Live Safety Center

The entire software beta package is available now at:

http://www.windowsonecare.com/purchase/default.aspx

The Windows Live Safety Center web site is also up and running at this time.

The potential benefits of this package for the average computer user are quite extensive. I will try to hit all the high points for you as we go along. Basically, Microsoft’s new package is designed to be a “comprehensive, integrated, automatic computer health service” according to the OneCare web site. The software offers four major areas of service.

1. Computer Health Service:

There is a new icon (we’ll get to that later) installed on your Windows taskbar as part of the package that acts as a visual “health meter” for your computer.
There is both Antivirus and a Firewall included in the package that claims to protect from viruses, worms, Trojan horses, hackers, and other threats.
You can directly scan files, folders and MSN Messenger attachments for viruses or worms.

2. Backup and Restore

OneCare backup allows copying files and settings to CD, DVD or an external hard disk.
If an external hard disk is used, OneCare backup can perform automatic backups as part of a regular scheduled “tune-up”.

3. Automated Tune-up

Tune-up is designed to automatically take care of routine maintenance for improved performance
Automatic scans for viruses
Defragment hard disk
Remove unnecessary files
Ensures important security updates from Microsoft are installed on time
Checks for changes in files and sends a reminder when it is time to run backup

4. Continual updates

OneCare updates itself automatically for viruses and also works with Microsoft Update
Automatic updates of firewall policy
Continuous feature updates as the software evolves.
Single click check for virus or other threat updates

As you can see from the list above, this is quite a software package from both security and functionality standpoints, not to mention ease of use and automation. It looks like Microsoft is finally getting serious about security for the home user. If it can do all Microsoft says it can do, and do it well, this program could be a serious contender if priced right. It remains to be seen how well it actually deals with current threats as well as newly emerging malware code.

Now let’s talk about what you need for a system to run OneCare. System requirements are fairly straightforward:

  • Windows XP with service pack 2 (Home, Professional, Media Center, or Tablet PC editions)

  • PC with 300 MHz or faster CPU clock speed

  • 256 MB RAM

  • 550MB available hard disk space (on system partition)

  • 56 kbps or faster internet connection (broadband is recommended)

  • Readable/writable CD or DVD drive, or external hard drive (needed for Backup and Restore functionality)

To install the software package, you need to be logged on as a user with administrator privilege. Before installing, you need to be aware that OneCare does not necessarily play well with other security software you may have already installed on your computer. There will most certainly be competition for system resources, and the potential for system lock-up if you do not remove other security system software products before installation of OneCare. During setup, OneCare will search for known software program conflicts and warn you to uninstall them before proceeding. The current list of known software conflicts is:

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2005
Symantec Norton Antivirus 2005
Symantec Norton System Works 2005
Macafee Internet Security Suite 2005
McAfee VirusScan 8.0/2004
Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2005

OneCare is, however, compatible with Windows XP firewall. OneCare will augment the Windows XP firewall and make it a whole lot better.

After OneCare is installed, the instructions for use are fairly simple and very user friendly. There is a new icon installed on the Windows taskbar that looks like a circle with a 1 inside. The color of the icon will change to indicate the overall status of things in your computer. Green means all is well. Yellow means status is fair, but you usually have one or two things to do that are not deemed critical. Red indicates your system is at risk. This can indicate OneCare was unable to get the latest updates, your Internet connection has been lost, or the firewall has been turned off. In any case, immediate action on your part is recommended.

Double-clicking on the OneCare icon opens the main window from which you can take care of most tasks with a simple mouse click or two. You can also set your preferences, access the Help Center, find out current features and status, and access common tasks. You can also check the overall PC health status, and any recommended actions you may need to take. The common tasks area also contains links for easy antivirus updates and program updates.

Default settings for tune-up and backup are already set in the program. The first tune-up is set for 1:00 AM as the process can take a while. You must remember to leave the computer running for this task to be run. After the tune-up, OneCare will check for files that may need to be backed up, and remind you of the fact with an on-screen message display. The default settings for tune-up and backup can be re-set by the user if the default times do not fit into your schedule. Also, if you have no writeable CD or DVD or external hard drive, the backup reminder feature can be turned off. All in all, the program is very easy to use, and the information simple to understand.

Although a beta software program at this time, it should rapidly develop into a finished product well worth considering. If you are not running any security software at this time (shame on you) you might want to give this a try.

Please be advised that at this time OneCare will only run on machines running Windows XP service pack 2. What operating systems the final release version will be compatible with, or what the program will cost is not known at this time. It should be interesting to watch this program develop, and also interesting to see if the competition has anything to say about it. A program designed to do as much as OneCare does is quite an undertaking, especially from a programming standpoint. Let’s hope the software giant in Redmond is up to the task, and the firewall and antivirus programming is first rate, and updated at least twice a week with the latest signatures. They have a lot of programmers, but remember that antivirus and firewall software are highly specialized areas of expertise, and require constant study on a daily basis. I am really hopeful that Microsoft can get it all done. If they can pull this all off, it will do a lot to help their image from a security standpoint - an image that currently gets a black eye all to often.

Here are some links that may help you check out OneCare further for yourself:

http://www.windowsonecare.com/prodinfo/default.aspx

http://www.windowsonecare.com/purchase/sysreq.aspx

http://www.windowsonecare.com/members/getstarted.aspx

http://www.windowsonecare.com/betakb.aspx

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