What is Windows Live OneCare?
"I've seen a bunch of ads for Windows Live OneCare, but can't figure out what it is. I already have Norton Antivirus, should I be running this OneCare thing too?"
Windows Live OneCare is basically Microsoft's attempt to offer a product aimed at shoring up security issues with it's own operating system product. OneCare combines serveral security features, similar to Norton Internet Security, Real's Broadband Essentials, and Panda Internet Security 2007, among a long list of others. Included in OneCare are antivirus and antispyware software, a two-way firewall, anti-phishing technology, a more comprehensive defrag tool and clean up for your system, backup and restore software, and some integrated help functions. Assuming you're currently using Norton's Internet Security bundle that includes similar products, you would not need both Norton and OneCare. The important thing to keep in mind is that you should be using some kind of solution for protecting your computer. Here are a few additional thoughts specific to OneCare, including free alternatives where appropriate:
OneCare Protection Plus
The Protection Plus, which is what Microsoft calls the combination of antivirus, antispyware, firewall and anti-phishing solutions are all important components. If you don't currently have some other solution to keep your system protected, it might be worth considering OneCare simply for these solutions as it's fairly competitively priced. You can get some level of defense for these things by updating to IE7 for your browser, downloading Windows Defender, using ClamWin Antivirus, and getting your hands on the free version of Zone Alarm. You then have to make sure you keep all those apps up to date for them to stay effective - OneCare is more proactive in updating itself.
OneCare - Performance Plus
The Performance Plus portion of OneCare schedules defragging your hard disk, forces you to install security updates and claims to remove unnecessary files from your computer - I'm not entirely convinced you need these things, especially if you have update reminders turned on so that you are downloading security updates anyway.
OneCare - Backup and Restore
Backup and Restore functions are great in theory, but most people never use them, so including them here isn't really solving a problem. If this was a service to backup to the Internet, I'd be thrilled. Unfortunately it's for making backup copies to CD, DVD, external hard disk, network drive, or other data-storage device. Not that this type of backup isn't prudent, just that you'd be better off spending your money on something like Roxio BackOnTrack Online instead. If Microsoft were to add a online backup I think OneCare would be a slam dunk.
OneCare - Instant Help
Instant Help offers online help 24/7, but I'm not sure that's any better than the Microsoft Knowledge Base or seeking out answers to problems with a Google search.
Bottom line here is use something to keep your system protected from viruses, spyware, and other online nastiness. If you don't currently have a solution, OneCare might fit the bill, but if you're happy with what you've got, don't bother switching.