Microsoft tests automated PC tune-up service

Microsoft is rolling out a test version of an all-in-one subscription service that will give computer users automated security updates, back up their files and run tune-ups to make their machines speedier.

The Redmond-based software company is distributing Windows OneCare to its 60 000 employees this week. It plans to run a larger invitation-only test this summer, then launch a full-scale test by the end of the year.

The company has not said when it will release the subscription service to consumers.

“We’re going to take our time. We want to make sure we get this right the first time,” said Ryan Hamlin, general manager for Microsoft’s technology, care and safety team.

Microsoft hasn’t set a price for an annual subscription, but Hamlin said it would include unlimited phone, e-mail and chat support.

Microsoft has spent three years developing the service, which will only run on the operating system’s newest version: Windows XP with Service Pack 2, a security upgrade that was released last summer.

Many of the features OneCare will offer are already available on Windows-based machines, but Microsoft estimates that 70% of personal computer users don’t take full advantage of products like antivirus software.

Among its features, Windows OneCare will offer two-way firewall protection.
A green icon will be displayed if the service doesn’t detect any problems. A yellow icon will indicate a relatively low-priority problem, like some files that need to be backed up. A red icon will signal a virus or some other critical problem that needs fixing.

PC users can set up OneCare to periodically perform maintenance work like cleaning up disks, defragmenting hard drives and repairing files. The service will also keep track of how long it takes a computer to boot up and pin down problems that may be making the machine run more slowly. And consumers can opt to have their files automatically backed up on CD or DVD. - Sapa-AP

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