Protecting your PC and keeping it running optimally is what Microsoft's new Windows Live OneCare is all about. OneCare is a Windows add-on that provides several vital Windows security features, including antivirus protection, an enhanced firewall, and a number of other system protection and optimization features. Here are 10 important facts about OneCare. You can find more information about OneCare at http://www.windowsonecare.com.

10. No antispyware—Although OneCare provides a number of different system-protection features, it doesn't provide any protection from spyware. To get spyware protection, you'll need either Windows Defender or a third-party antispyware product.

9. No 64-bit support—In spite of the rapid coming-of-age of 64-bit hardware and Microsoft's native x64 version of Windows XP, OneCare is 32-bit only. OneCare supports Service Pack 2 (SP2) editions of XP Professional Edition, XP Home Edition, XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE), or XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.

8. PC health status—After installing OneCare, you'll see the OneCare icon in the system tray. A green icon indicates that the status is good— meaning the system is protected. A yellow icon indicates warnings, and a red icon means the system is unprotected. Clicking the icon brings up the OneCare manager.

7. Automatic update—To ensure that your system is continuously protected, OneCare uses Microsoft Windows Update to automatically download software updates as well as updates to the OneCare firewall policies and new virus definitions. OneCare periodically prompts users with dial-up connections to go online.

6. Backup and Restore—Fortunately, the OneCare backup dispenses with NTBackup and replaces it with a new, integrated backup and restore feature. OneCare backup and restore can save files and system settings to removable media such as writable CD-ROMs and DVDs or an external hard disk.

5. System tuneup—OneCare provides the ability to perform-system tuneups.Tune-ups consist of removing unnecessary files, disk defragmentation, antivirus scanning, checking for files to backup, and checking for Microsoft updates.

4. Disk defragmentation—OneCare also includes the ability to perform disk defragmentation. However, like the built-in Windows disk defragmentation utility, the OneCare Defragmenter is not up to the standards of some of the other specialized third-party disk defragmentation products. OneCare doesn't defragment the disk in a single pass and doesn't work well in low free-space situations.

3. Firewall—Without a doubt, one of the most important new features in OneCare is the improved firewall. Although the Windows Firewall in XP SP2 provides a basic level of protection and is well integrated with the OS, it blocks only inbound traffic. The OneCare firewall fills in that gaping hole by providing both inbound and outbound blocking.

2. Antivirus—One of the core features of OneCare is the built-in antivirus support. Like other specialized thirdparty antivirus programs, OneCare antivirus provides continuous protection as well as single-file scanning and automatic virus signature updates.

1. Licensing—Although I know a lot of people expect Microsoft to provide all OS add-ons for free, OneCare isn't free. However, at a subscription price of $49.95 per year for up to three PCs, OneCare is competitively priced with other commercial antivirus products and is reasonably priced for home and small office/home office (SOHO) use.