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Windows Live OneCare 2.0 released

Microsoft improves its all-in-one security offering with online photo backup and better network admin capabilities.

Microsoft today released the latest version of its all-in-one security product, Windows Live OneCare. In beta since July, version 2.0 offers many enhancements of existing tools and offers several new tools, particularly in the area of networking and backup storage.

Installation from the Windows Live OneCare site requires signing with a Windows Live account. Microsoft says you can use your current Live ID or create a new one for OneCare and, if you wish, use one Live ID for Windows Live OneCare and another Live ID for Windows Live Messenger on the same machine. The Live ID you use with Windows Live OneCare will be good on two additional machines. When installing on the addition PCs in your home network, just use the Live ID; there is no need to re-enter the registration key.

We're still not crazy about the Windows Live OneCare interface. It's cold and not very intuitive; then again Microsoft doesn't win many design awards.

What's new? Wireless network security features, including the ability to monitor and tweak your router's settings. A new start-time optimizer, displaying infrequently used applications so you have option of removing them from the Start folder and thus speed up your boot time. You can now configure printer sharing, even install device drivers on network machines so you don't have to move the printer from room to room. And you can now centralize all your individual PC backups to one external drive or one central computer, and a new online photo storage service is offered. There is even a monthly report of all the actions that Windows Live OneCare performed recently.

We haven't yet seen the final code, so we don't have any performance information. Microsoft has come under fire recently for not performing well in several independent antivirus tests (in one, even falling to last place against Symantec and McAfee). It remains to be seen if the recent hires to the anti-malware team are enough to improve the product's ability to block malware. The antispyware protection is top-notch, going beyond the free Microsoft Windows Defender offering found on most Windows XP and Windows Vista machines today.

We expect Windows Live OneCare to be better than the previous versions. Check back to see a full CNET review early in the new year.