Microsoft is attempting to streamline its centralized authentication system – a combination of e-mail address and password that controls signon to Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live OneCare, and other Microsoft services. The system was introduced years ago as Microsoft Passport Network; it’s being re-branded as Windows Live ID. The two terms refer to the same thing.

It’s still confusing – if anything, it’s more confusing than ever.

You can use your existing e-mail address for your Passport credentials or Windows Live ID . Establish those credentials before you install Windows Live OneCare or Windows Live Messenger! Here’s the best place to start to set up those free credentials.

You may be asked for invasive personal details – date of birth, gender, etc. Personally, I always lie, just out of principle.

This comes to mind because of one particularly confusing sequence. If you are installing Windows Live OneCare and click to set up a Windows Live ID, you’ll be taken to a page that only permits setting up the ID with a new Hotmail account, with no indication that there’s any alternative. You have an alternative! Use the e-mail address you already have and set up the credentials from this page.

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