OneCare: Friend or Foe?

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2006-03-06 Print this article Print

Review: While enterprise IT admins won't have much need for OneCare Live, it can help consumers with basic desktop security and performance.

Microsofts Windows OneCare Live provides a simple way for consumers to shore up the most basic desktop defenses and streamline performance. Although enterprise IT administrators will have little need for OneCare Live, they are advised to become familiar with the service, as users may install it on home systems that access the corporate network via VPN. OneCare Live also provides some indication of what the more corporate-focused Microsoft Client Protection suite may look like down the road.

The OneCare Live beta is now available for free from When OneCare Live goes gold, which Microsoft officials say will happen by June, the service will cost $49.95 a year for as many as three systems. Participants in the OneCare Live beta program may be eligible for discounts, as well.

OneCare Live provides a snapshot of system health through an applet that resides in the Windows System Tray. When the applet is green, it indicates that OneCare is up-to-date and that Windows is properly configured to automatically download and install new signatures and patches. A yellow applet means files need to be backed up, and red indicates that theres a problem that needs addressing—anything from a virus detected to Automatic Updates not being configured to automatically install patches.

OneCare Live, which can be installed only on Windows XP Service Pack 2-based systems, provides a single interface for managing anti-virus, firewall, backup and disk defragmentation tools. OneCare Live does not yet include anti-spyware functionality, so users who want Microsofts full security solution will need to download, install and maintain Windows Defender separately .

Read more here about Windows Defender beta 2. OneCare Lives Windows OneCare Antivirus automatically detects known viruses or worms as they interact with a protected system, and users also can manually kick off a disk sweep. However, users can schedule anti-virus scans only as part of OneCare Lives Performance Plus Tune-Up process. A Tune-Up also removes temporary files, defragments local hard drives and scans for files that need backing up. Tune-Ups can be scheduled only in weekly or longer intervals, so a daily disk scan is out of the question.

Firewall baby steps

Weve been habitually disappointed with Microsofts desktop firewalls, and OneCare Live continues the trend. OneCare Lives OneCare Firewall does offer a two-way firewall that monitors and blocks both ingress and egress traffic (compared with Windows Firewall, which blocks only incoming traffic), but we find it somewhat ridiculous that Microsoft sees fit to charge for something that is a basic feature in just about any other non-Microsoft operating system.

To control firewall behavior, users can manipulate a slider bar that dictates whether policies will be configured for each application that attempts to contact the Internet or whether all applications that fall under the Windows OneCare Firewall policy will be accepted.

By pressing the Advanced Settings button, users also can manually configure rules or exceptions for applications or network ports, but they may be disappointed that they can only define policy scope for either all addresses or for the local subnet. In this respect, OneCare Firewall is less functional than Windows Firewall, which allows users to limit scope to individual hosts as well.

OneCare Lives Tune-Up uses the same Disk Defragmenter engine included with Windows XP. Sadly, this means that disk defragmentation will continue to be a sluggish endeavor, as the integrated engine has proved much slower than third-party products such as Diskeepers Diskeeper 10 Professional. Also, when triggering a defragment job through OneCare Tune-Up, the user will not see the visual representations of the disk state, only a percentage of the jobs completed thus far.

Will enterprises care about Windows OneCare? Click here to read more. OneCare Lives backup utility, Windows OneCare Backup, allows users to easily archive important files. OneCare Backup automatically finds files such as documents, pictures and Outlook mail stores for archiving. Users also may select individual files or folders for backup. The backup job is then compressed and archived, either to an external hard drive or a writable CD/DVD (but not to a USB thumb drive).

—Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at

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