Microsoft wants to play doctor with your home network

With the release of version 2.0, Windows Live OneCare is no longer just for one PC; Microsoft now wants to inoculate entire home networks with its computer care service.

When it launched OneCare in May 2006, Microsoft risked alienating its close security partners such as Symantec and McAfee by entering a market it previously avoided. Now, the Redmond company is upping the ante by going after families with multiple PCs in their homes.

Windows Live OneCare 2.0, which is sold as a retail package but branded like Microsoft's other online services, includes a new centralized interface for monitoring the security of all computers on a network, and running maintenance tasks without having to visit each PC manually.

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A central focus of version 2.0 is automating tasks that most Windows users know they should do, but don't. A new firewall automatically adjusts its settings depending on the security of a wireless network, while an automated online photo backup feature stores digital pictures on Microsoft's Windows Live Folders site for an added cost.

"It's not a question of being lazy, but rather having the right tool for the job," remarked Windows Vista product manager Nick White. "A lot of these customers run PCs without basic anti-virus and anti-spyware protection, and even fewer perform performance-enhancing tasks such as disk defragmentation and regular system back-ups."

OneCare 2.0 can also perform PC maintenance, including clearing a jammed print job and listing what applications are causing a system to be slow to boot up. 64-bit compatibility has been added as well, along with tighter integration with Windows Vista.

Current Windows Live OneCare subscribers will receive the update free of charge, while new customers can sign up for $49.95 USD per year, which covers three computers. OneCare is available in 17 languages and a free 90-day trial can be downloaded from onecare.live.com.

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