Microsoft Windows Live OneCare review

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We weren’t impressed by Microsoft’s security package when we previewed it last summer (web ID: 90556) and, now it’s officially available in the UK, nothing’s changed. Installation was still a pain thanks to the intrusive “activation” system. Once installed, we found the package inflexible and peremptory: system scans can be rescheduled but not disabled, and we were vexed by unhelpful messages such as “an action is required … open Windows Live OneCare to find out what you should do”. The software even meddled with our Windows Update settings, silently re-enabling the “automatic restart” feature after we’d explicitly disabled it.

Such foibles might be tolerated in the name of security, but OneCare notoriously failed Virus Bulletin VB100 certification a few months ago, and in our own tests it missed a full third of our malware, even in a complete system scan.

Unusually, OneCare didn’t check emails as they arrived, scanning attachments only once we manually saved them to disk. This allowed incoming email to arrive at full speed and with no additional CPU hit, but it also meant infected emails were left in our inbox, raising the possibility of them being inadvertently forwarded on. When a virus was detected, the cleaning process was agonisingly slow, sometimes taking upwards of 15 seconds (during which time CPU usage sat at 100%). On several occasions, OneCare removed a virus then demanded we reboot the system, far more often than any other package deemed necessary.

Microsoft has a reputation for getting it right in the second or third version, but this first incarnation of OneCare is a failure on every count.

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