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AOL Total Care beta

AOL Total Care beta, a suite of PC protection tools, poses yet another credible threat to the Microsoft Windows Live OneCare package.

On the heels of releasing AOL Active Security Monitor, AOL is now preparing its own competitive answer to Microsoft's all-in-one security and performance suite, Windows Live OneCare. Called AOL Total Care, the beta for this comprehensive suite is available to AOL members only. For Total Care, AOL has partnered with a number of best-of-breed third-party vendors, with McAfee providing antivirus, firewall, and antispyware protection; Iolo Technologies providing performance tools; and FarStone Technology providing backup-and-restore tools. For a look inside, see our AOL Total Care beta slide show. Final pricing and availability has not been announced.

Like Microsoft Windows Live OneCare, the AOL interface quickly assesses your system, giving it an overall rating. Unlike OneCare and more like McAfee Total Protection beta, AOL delineates several specific areas of concern, and those that are deemed to be in poor standing are given a one-click option to fix. Unlike McAfee Total Security, which quickly performs the steps necessary to secure your computer, AOL Total Care one-click takes you to a more-detailed page where you can learn about the problem and, if necessary, tweak the settings before fixing it.

The PC Optimization section consists of tools from Iolo Technologies. Here, Total Care can remove junk Internet files, repair your system registry, improve start-up speed, remove spyware, and defragment your hard drive.

The Backup and Restore section features tools from FarStone Technology. Here, Total Care can automate backups to CDs, DVDs, and external drives--similar to what's currently offered in Windows Live OneCare. When the final product ships, AOL plans to include an online backup option. McAfee includes online backups, but Microsoft does not.

Coming in September will be a handy feature called the AOL Total Care Home Network manager. McAfee includes its own network manager, but Microsoft does not.

The Customer Support section is where AOL Total Care truly shines. Here, you can quickly see known issues along the left nav or access specific FAQs by either typing out a question or drilling down through a menu. Online chat and telephone support will be included at no extra charge. Future versions may also include a live, in-person house call through an AOL partnership with Gurus2Go.com. McAfee has made improvements to its customer support section of Total Security, as has Microsoft with its OneCare Help Center, but neither makes it as easy as AOL does.

AOL Total Care is still in beta and may undergo more changes before its final release. Check back to read our review once the final version becomes available, expected sometime before the end of this calendar year.

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