Microsoft released a free beta version of Windows Live OneCare 2.0, its next-generation desktop security and management package.
The company says the new version offers a number of improvements, including the ability to monitor multiple PCs on a local network.
Available for free from Microsoft's website, OneCare 2.0 - which is aimed specifically at consumers and small businesses - also adds new functionality for backing-up data and protecting against malware attacks.
Introduced roughly six months after the launch of Microsoft's OneCare 1.5 in January 2007, the beta - which like its predecessors includes firewall, AV (antivirus), backup, and antispyware programs – adds new tools for securing wireless networks and an automated, self-adjusting firewall.
Among the new management features being introduced in the product are support for the sharing of printers among multiple computers, a start time optimiser for speeding computer boot cycles, and an online backup system for photos and other images.
As part of the service portion of the offering, Microsoft said it has added more proactive system fixes and end-user configuration suggestions to the package along with monthly reports on important computer events or recommended upgrades.
OneCare 2.0’s centralised backup feature allows users to configure and monitor automated storage controls for all PCs covered under a lone OneCare subscription - which can cover up to three machines - in a single network location.
The newest iteration of the package also adds support for 64-bit PCs.
Microsoft, whose security software product business remains in its early stages, is the third major company to release a new version of its consumer security tools in the past month as both McAfee and Symantec have also revamped their competing applications.
Microsoft gave no indication as to when it might push OneCare 2.0 from beta into production but said it is actively seeking feedback from users who decide to try out the package.