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Microsoft to test PC tuneup service

Microsoft Corp. is testing a version of an all-in-one subscription service that will give users automated security updates, back up their files and run tuneups.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Microsoft Corp. 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 tuneups to make 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 year's end. 

The company has not said when it would 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.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Microsoft has spent three years developing the service, which would run only 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 percent of personal computer users don't take full advantage of products like antivirus software.

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

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