The security protection of Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare 2.0 suite is much better than that of the debut version. Add to that a low price, and you have a solid, easy-to-use security product for PC users who don't want to mess too much with software settings.
OneCare combines the virus, adware/spyware, and two-way firewall protection of a security suite with the backup and defragging tools of a utility suite. We downloaded and installed it quickly, although we had to create a Windows Live ID to do so. One $99.95 inc GST licence lets you use Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 on three PCs, and you can use the program to back up to one or more CD/DVDs, external hard drives, and (new in this version) networked drive volumes. You can create backups on demand or on a schedule.
Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 is simple to use, largely because it has few settings to configure. A status bar lets you know whether your PC's health is Good (green), Fair (orange), or At Risk (red), and prompts you to take the appropriate corrective action.
The software ran smoothly on two test machines, one running Windows XP and the other running Vista Home Premium. (We were amused to see that Vista's User Access Control required that we grant permission to Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 -- Microsoft's own security software -- to run.)
In performance tests by German security research company AV-Test.org, Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 was reasonably good at detecting known malware samples. It recognised on average 95 per cent of the backdoor programs, bots, Trojan horses, and worms in AV-Test.org's collection of 674,589 threats.
In a recent round-up of security suites, detection percentages in this test ranged from 69 to 98 per cent; though we can't compare exact test results between stories due to differences in sample sets, we can still reasonably conclude that Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 did fairly well.
Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 also detected a pretty good 88 per cent of adware and spyware, and 83 per cent of rootkits. OneCare's heuristic ability to detect unknown threats based on their similarity to previously recognised samples was very good too.
On the down side, Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 is tardy in responding to new security outbreaks. During a six-month period in 2007, Microsoft on average took 24 to 26 hours to release a threat definition update. That's appallingly slow, given that BitDefender and Kaspersky needed on average no more than two hours to update their respective suites.
Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 has become much better at minimising unnecessary pop-up alerts; the only blatant annoyance we encountered was that it required us to approve Google Desktop as a legitimate program.
It didn't drag down our system, either, although in AV-Test.org's tests, the 5-megabytes-per-second (MBps) scan rate was below average. On the other hand, the 8MBps file copy speed with active real-time protection enabled was above average compared with results from the eight suites we tested for our previous round-up.