Windows Live OneCare - Why I Like It

OneCare iconUpdate - Nov 18, 2008
Microsoft announced today that they will be discontinuing the OneCare product offering next year, replacing it with a free (albeit stripped-down) version code-named 'Morro'. Unfortunately, the part I liked the best about OneCare is being eliminated in Morro, the ability to know the status of the other computers in your circle.
Oh well, the search continues...

One word - time.

OK, maybe it's just because another birthday is looming, and it's occurred to me that I'm not getting any younger. If I were somehow able to add up all of the time I have invested in free anti-virus, anti-phishing, anti-trojan, anti-everything-under-the-sun types of programs I've used, and then add that to the time spent on free firewall, spyware and backup programs, and then multiply that by the number of computers in my house, well, it would add up to a lot of time.

And this is what Windows Live OneCare does better than any similar comprehensive protection/performance/backup program I've ever used.

It saves me time.

Windows XP and Vista only

First of all, this is a subscription service, so you're going to have to cough up a few bucks. A one year subscription is $49.95 US, and covers up to 3 computers. Yeah, yeah, I know. But remember, time is money.

So here's the deal. You install the program on a computer that you want to call a 'hub' computer. A hub computer basically allows you to see into and (mostly) configure the OneCare program on the other computers in your 'OneCare Circle'. You then install it on the remaining computers in your circle, and decide if you want those to be hub computers, too.

Now, you can configure all of the security, protection, and backup options from within your circle. Only the hub computers have the rights to do this, if I don't want my daughter canceling the backup for this week she can't.

OneCare iconHere's where to program starts to shine. It's these three little icons it puts on the taskbar, a very simple green, yellow and red.

I don't really think it's necessary to go through the significance of the different colors, you're probably smart enough to get the drift. The key here is that, if you're on a hub computer, the icons not only reflect the status of your computer, they reflect the status of the other computers in the circle.

For me this is huge.

I've got our computers set to backup at 1:00 am on Saturday mornings. If one of the computers was not able to create a backup successfully I'll know it when I sit down in front of mine on Saturday morning. They'll be a yellow OneCare icon in my taskbar, and when I double-click on it I'll see this:


OneCare backup error


Now, let's say it's Microsoft update Tuesday, and Microsoft has sent a critical update. On Wednesday morning, if all went well I'll have a green icon in my taskbar and I can go about my business. If something important is going on a message will be there for me:


OneCare advisory


Still not convinced? Let's say my 6 year old son tried to print a coloring page from one of his games, and the printer jammed. He might tell me, or he might be afraid he broke it, or he might just forget. Instead of my wife wondering 2 days later why she can't print anything, I'll see a notice on my computer that there's a problem with the printer on her computer because the icon will have changed to yellow.

One more? Let's say she tried to install something, then uninstalled it, but it didn't come out clean. Again, the icon change tells all, and when clicked:


OneCare advisory


I can't tell you how much time this has saved me over the summer. Instead of constantly making the rounds to every computer in the house, to make sure they've got the latest updates, and have been backing up correctly, and that the printers are working, all I have to do is sit in front of mine and look at an icon.

Granted, sometimes I'll still need to go to the computer to fix it, but I can get a pretty good feeling for the health of the other computers in the circle at a glance. And for me, that's worth the $50 a year.