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19 November 2008, 13:56

Microsoft to replace OneCare with free consumer anti-malware

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Microsoft has announced it will stop selling its OneCare security software for consumers and SoHo users on 30th June 2009, although the enterprise-focused ForeFront suite will remain on sale. After this date, the commercial OneCare will be replaced by a free alternative, so far only known under its code name "Morro". The new free anti-malware tool is said to detect viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans. Microsoft says that while Morro uses the same engine as OneCare, it requires fewer system resources. The company says this makes it particularly well-suited to low-performance PCs with slow internet connections.

According to Microsoft, OneCare users should not fear that they will no longer receive updates, or that they will lose their online data backup before the end of their contracts. OneCare will still be supported and updated until its licences run out, but it will not be sold after next June.

Compared with OneCare, Morro is said to lack the non-security features like backup and system restore. Microsoft plans to offer Morro to download as a standalone product for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. With this measure, the vendor hopes to protect even more users from infections.

However, this plan might once again mobilise other anti-virus vendors. Symantec already raised a complaint with the European Commission in 2005, when Microsoft wanted to incorporate an anti-virus and anti-spyware solution called Microsoft Client Protection in Windows Vista.

OneCare is just one of Microsoft's anti-malware tools. For corporate customers, Microsoft also offers its Forefront enterprise solution. The Malicious Software Removal Tool is pushed out regularly to all machines that get fixes from the WindowsUpdate and MicrosoftUpdate services, and there is also the free Windows Defender anti-spyware program, which is a free download for Windows XP and comes integrated into Vista. (It can also easily be persuaded to run on Windows 2000.) Each of these products uses a different scan engine, which makes Microsoft's current anti-virus strategy a confusing choice and has motivated users to choose alternative solutions.

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