Windows Live OneCare 1.5 Beta Review & Screenshots

Just as a prologue, I am writing this entire post using Windows Live Writer Beta 1.0.109. So this will be my opportunity to see how a more complex post works from within WLW. Yeah, get ready for a whole slew of new acronyms thanks to this Web 2.0 stuff.

So I’ve been testing Windows Live OneCare since Beta 1.0… despite the initial beta being supposedly limited to US residents. I received an invite several months ago, presumably since I have been involved in beta programs (from Microsoft and others) since… errr, ok, I won’t date myself. :)

It worked very transparently in the background – OneCare provides antivirus protection in addition to performance tuning (mainly clearing out orphan or unused files as well as disk defragmentation) and a rudimentary backup solution.

I’ve been testing it on Windows XP Professional as well as XP Home on Dell boxes in both a corporate and home environment. The test machines were equipped with 1.6-2.0Ghz Core Duo processors and 1-2 GB of RAM. Disks were either 5400 or 7200 RPM. So, relatively recent and well-equipped units.

OneCare 1.0-1.1 has been fairly stable (actually very stable) and transparent except for the very regular (and sometimes pointless) little popup notifications from it’s taskbar icon advising me that “it is up to date”. Some other beta testers have found this annoying… but in retrospect it is nice to know that the virus signature file is regularly updated.

The following screenshot of 1.1 shows that it’s up to date. It also complains that my subscription trial (originally 3 months, but it’s been at least 5 now…) is about to expire. The problem is, I’ve been unable to convert it to a paid subscription (USD 50, per year, for licenses on up to three machines) since it was initially limited to only US billing addresses.

 

So… up until today, I’ve been running OneCare 1.1 or … more specifically 1.1.1067.8 for those minor revision zero-day junkies hehe.

So…. a couple of hours ago… I get an email from the OneCare beta team inviting me to get the 1.5 beta! They briefly go into some of the new features, which include (in order of significance, IMHO) :

  1. Support for Vista! Yes, Vista builds 5500 and up are now supported – Microsoft recommends build 5600 – aka RC1. Of course XP SP2 is still supported. No support for x64 editions yet.
  2. Internationalisation ! Not only is it expanded to Canada, but also Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
  3. It now supports more backup devices (previously only CD/DVD burning or an external hard disk… I have not been using OneCare for backup or restore functionality yet, so I’ll review this at a later time in further detail.)

So I downloaded the 969KB installation executable called live15betaSetupOneCare.exe … I somehow doubt the whole application is under 1MB, so presumably this is a client-server installer that downloads additional components on the fly depending on current system configuration.

Should be simple and smooth, right?

Not.

First, OneCare 1.5 refuses to install if another OneCare is already installed. Ah – no upgrade path?

Almost simultaneously, my existing OneCare 1.1 FireWall component refuses to recognize OneCare 1.5 (despite OC 1.1 being up to date!) and let it access the net…. of course, I select allow in future, but it’s a moot point since I’m gonna have to uninstall 1.1!

So I go to the Control Panel, and uninstall OC 1.1…. (which shows as being a 120MB installation…

It opens up a comment form online in the browser asking why I decided to uninstall. Duh… no time for surveys right now!

Uninstallation has taken about 3 minutes so far,… anyone taking wagers on a required reboot ? Hope not because:

(love how the dialog mentions that it may break network connections until reboot…)

So, save this as a draft in Windows Live Writer and reboot…

OK, 2 minutes later… (hey, I’m booting with Windows Live Messenger, Skype 2.61 beta, Google Desktop Search, Windows Desktop Search, dual wifi (G + N) adapters, ActiveSync 4.4 beta and yeah it takes a few seconds, hehehe…)

Managed to restart Windows Live Writer and open the draft version of this file – apparently intact and in good shape.

Now, shall we finally get to install OneCare 1.5 ?

After it checks online for updates – a first sign of internationalisation progress:

 

I picked English (Canada) of course.

I am the type who (quickly) reads EULA and other agreements… so

I love it – Microsoft can charge more than whatever I approved… so this is how one builds a $300B company with $50B in cash? Interesting. Sure. Onwards!

Accept and click next:

Ahhh, I knew it wasn’t a < 1MB application ;-) …

Go to kitchen counter, grab some pistachios while I wait on my broadband (cable) connection.

5 minutes go by – Windows Live Messenger crashes. The OneCare download is still progressing…

Download and installation completed in about 8 minutes – well within the 5-15 minutes guesstimated by Microsoft for a broadband connection.

Oh… guess what:

After another restart…

Smooth restart… and I see OneCare once again in the taskbar.. but surprise, guess the first application it decides to block from accessing the Internet:

I suppose that Microsoft does not, by default, consider Google Desktop Search to be a safe program.. hmm. ;-)

 

When I click on the green OneCare icon, a slightly different “connecting” dialog appears for a moment and then it nags me to activate…

Not now thank you.

So… the moment we’ve been waiting for – what does the actual OneCare 1.5 control panel look like? Well, like many of the more recent “Live” apps from Microsoft – very Vista-ish… and visually appealing. Some new features – oh, I have 180 days to establish whether or not I like it before activating (paying) for it. 180 days for Microsoft to continue their goal of, umm.. increasing marketshare in the security software (as a service!) space….

 

The new version number is 1.5.1785.18… and the virus definition file naming convention appears the same.

 

So… that’s it for now. Next time – an indepth review of the actual performance of OneCare 1.5 under real-world conditions….