Windows Live OneCare is Microsoft's entry into the lucrative consumer security marketplace, and it falls short of expectations. At $49.95 for one year of service on up to three different PCs, Windows Live OneCare's early sales appeared to rival its well-established competition. Now, with the release of McAfee Total Protection and Symantec Norton 360, the differences among these three super security suites are revealing. McAfee and Symantec offer many more unique features than Microsoft which is new to the consumer security arena. Overall, we found OneCare doesn't provide as many unique features and often repackages tools already available for free within the Windows operating system, windows Defender, or within Internet Explorer 7. And Windows Live OneCare fails the latest independent antivirus testing. For $30 more, it's well worth investing in the solutions from McAfee or Symantec, and we give the final nod to Norton 360 which ensures the best protection and performance tools for your money.
Setup and Interface
We downloaded and installed Windows Live OneCare without a problem. Windows Live OneCare requires a whopping 600MB of hard drive space, nearly twice that of Norton 360 and nearly three times that of McAfee Total Protection. Like the others, Windows Live OneCare requires 256MB of RAM. Windows Live OneCare works with Windows XP and Windows Vista. Only McAfee works on Windows 2000 through Windows Vista; Norton 360 works on Windows XP and Windows Vista. Like the other super security suites, the price for Windows Live OneCare includes installation on up to three different PCs (for example, two desktops and a laptop).
The Windows Live OneCare interface lacks icons, graphics, and sophistication. A toolbar across the top displays current system status and alerts, such as a reminder to activate your service if you are still in trial mode. The left-hand navigation offers to start a scan for viruses and spyware, start a backup, restore from a backup, configure options, and seek help. The main section includes modules reporting on PC Security, Transaction Security, Backup and Recovery, and PC Tuneup. Each of these modules displays a color-coded status and a brief explanation with an option for more details.
Should you want to remove Windows Live OneCare, we couldn't find an uninstall icon and so we used the Add or Remove Programs tool within the Windows Control Panel. Upon reboot we found no registry entries and no system folders for OneCare.
Windows Live OneCare contains a handful of new security and performance tools for Windows XP users; the rest of the features within OneCare are free within any Windows XP system. Unique to Windows XP users are Microsoft's own antivirus engine, two-way firewall protection, and backup and recover. Within Windows Vista, only the antivirus engine is unique; the two-way firewall and the backup and restore are features built into Windows Vista.
The Microsoft antivirus engine is based on GeCAD technology, a Romanian security company that the software giant bought several years ago. Unlike the antivirus applicationss from McAfee and Symantec, Microsoft's antivirus protection is basic and only allows you to configure what drives to scan, how to scan them, and how to handle infections (if any). There are no options for heuristics, antirootkit protection, or any of the bells and whistles we've come to expect from more mature antivirus products on the market today. For antispyware protection, Microsoft includes its Windows Defender technology, which anyone can download for free. For antiphishing, antirootkit, and behavior monitoring, OneCare uses Internet Explorer 7, which is also available for free.
Windows Live OneCare brings two-way firewall protection to Windows XP, however, we could find very little direct evidence. We found no specific configuration settings for inbound versus outbound filtering, although we did find a setting to configure individual program control for Internet browsers and other applications that need to connect to the Internet.
Windows Live OneCare includes performance tools, however, these are features already included within Windows XP. For example, OneCare will defragment your hard drive (see All Programs > Accessories > SystemTools > Defragment) and clean out temporary Internet files (see Internet Explorer > Tools > Internet Options > Browsing History) We do like the fact there's a one-button option to run these features automatically, but that's hardly enough to justify the cost of OneCare. The performance feature is nowhere near as thorough as that provided with McAfee Total Protection, which also includes a data file shredder to permanently remove deleted files.