Windows Live OneCare
(previously known as Windows OneCare Live
and formerly code-named A1
) is a computer security
and performance enhancement service developed by Microsoft
for some of its Windows operating systems
. The software is an annual paid subscription, which can be used on up to three computers.
Microsoft designed OneCare as part of an idea set named Windows Live
(see official ideas website
). Windows Live OneCare entered a beta state
in the summer of 2005. The managed beta program was launched before the public beta, and was located on BetaPlace, Microsoft's old beta delivery system. On May 31
, Windows Live OneCare made its official debut in retail stores in the United States
The beta version of Windows Live OneCare 1.5 was released in early October 2006 by Microsoft. Version 1.5 was released to manufacturing on January 3, 2007 and was made available to the public on January 30, 2007. On July 4, 2007, beta testing started for version 2.0, and the final version was released on November 16, 2007.
Microsoft acquired Komoku on March 20, 2008 and merged its computer security software into Windows Live OneCare.
Windows Live OneCare 2.5 (build 2.5.2900.3) final was released on July 3, 2008. On the same day, Microsoft also released Windows Live OneCare for Server 2.5.
Windows Live OneCare currently features an integrated anti-virus program
and restore utility, tune-up utility with the integrated functionality of Windows Defender
protection. The future addition of a registry cleaner was considered but not added because "there are not significant customer advantages to this functionality". Version 2 has features such as multi-PC and home network management, printer sharing support, start-time optimizer, proactive fixes and recommendations, monthly reports, centralized backup, and online photo backup.
Windows Live OneCare is built for ease-of-use and is designed for home users. OneCare also attempts a very minimal interface to lessen user confusion and resource use. At the most basic, it adds an icon to the notification area that tells the user at a glance the status of the system's health by using three alert colors: green (good), yellow (fair), and red (at risk).
Version 1.5 of OneCare is only compatible with the 32 bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista.
Version 2 of OneCare supports 64 bit compatibility to Vista.
In version 2.5, Microsoft released Windows Live OneCare for Server which supports Windows Server 2008 Standard 64-bit and Windows Small Business Server 2008 Standard and Premium editions.
Windows Live OneCare requires users to activate the product if they wish to continue using it after the free trial period (90 days). This can only be achieved by having a valid Windows Live ID
so that an association can be made between the account and the subscription to OneCare which has been purchased. When the product is activated, the grey message bar at the top of the program disappears, and the subscription is fully activated for 1 year from the date of activation. Users can check the status of their subscription on the Billing
page at http://billing.microsoft.com/
Windows Live OneCare does not currently require the operating system to be checked with Windows Genuine Advantage before, during or after installation. The program can simply be installed from a stub downloaded from the http://onecare.live.com/ website or as CD media.
Windows Live OneCare Protection Plus is the security component in the OneCare suite. It consists of three parts:
- A two-way firewall blocking both incoming and outgoing traffic, as opposed to that of Windows XP that blocks only incoming traffic. A two-way firewall protects against trojan or other viral infections running on the local computer.
- An anti-virus tool that uses regularly updated anti-virus definition files.
- An anti-spyware tool that uses the Windows Defender engine as a core. In version 1.0, this required the separate installation of Windows Defender and was not integrated into the OneCare interface (although it could be managed and launched from OneCare). Version 1.5 integrated the Windows Defender engine into OneCare and no longer requires separate installation.
From Windows Live OneCare 1.5 onwards also monitors Internet Explorer 7 security settings and ensures that the automatic website checking feature of the Phishing Filter is enabled.
Windows Live OneCare Performance Plus is the component that performs monthly PC tune-up related tasks, such as:
- Disk cleanup and defragmentation.
- A full virus scan using the antivirus component in the suite.
- User notification if files are in need of backing up.
- Check for Windows updates by using the Microsoft Update service.
Windows Live OneCare Backup and Restore is the component that aids in backing up important files. Files can be backed up to various recordable media, such as external hard disks, CDs, and DVDs. When restoring files, the entirety or a subset of them can also be restored to a networked computer, as long as it's running OneCare as well. The Backup and Restore component supports expected modern backup software
features such as incremental backups and scheduling.
Windows Live OneCare has received much criticism from both users and competing security software companies.
On January 26, 2006, Windows Live OneCare received criticism from Foundstone (a division of the competing McAfee antivirus) for the integrated firewall having default white lists which allow Java applications and digitally signed software to bypass user warnings, since neither of those applications carry assurances that they will not have security flaws or be written with a malicious intent. Microsoft has since responded to the criticism, justifying their decision in that Java applications are "widely used by third party applications, and is a popular and trusted program among our users", and that "it is highly unusual for malware to be signed."
Windows Live OneCare has also received criticism for the lack of adherence to industry firewall standards concerning intrusion detection. Tests conducted by Agnitum (the developers of Outpost Firewall) have shown OneCare failing to detect trojans and malware which hijack applications already resident on an infected machine.
In February 2007, the first Windows Vista anti-virus product testing by Virus Bulletin magazine (a sister company of Sophos, the developers of Sophos Anti-Virus) found that Windows Live OneCare failed to detect 18.6% of viruses. Fifteen anti-virus products were tested. To pass the Virus Bulletin's VB100 test, an antivirus product has to detect 100% of the viruses.
AV-Comparatives.org also released results that placed Windows Live OneCare last in its testing of seventeen anti-virus products. In response, Jimmy Kuo of the Microsoft Security Research and Response (MSRR) team pledged to add "truly important" ("actively being spread") malware as soon as possible, while "[test detection] numbers will get better and better" for other malware "until they are on par with the other majors in this arena." He also expressed confidence in these improvements: "Soon after, [other majors] will need to catch up to us!
As of April 2008, Windows Live OneCare has passed the VB100 test under Windows Vista SP1 Business Edition. As of August 2008, Windows Live OneCare placed 14th out of 16 anti-virus products in on-demand virus detection rates.