At some point next week, computers running Windows Live OneCare will automatically be upgraded to OneCare 2.0. Apparently the intent is to make the update automatic and invisible; it’s free to existing subscribers.

New features are integrated into the familiar OneCare layout, so little will change for many of you. The most significant new feature permits creation of a “circle” of computers running OneCare on the same home or office network, allowing some OneCare features to be centralized. A single computer can monitor the health of all the computers in the circle, and backups can be centrally configured and monitored. OneCare also takes over printer sharing, making sure any computer in the circle can print to any printer.

“StartupCleaner” is a nicely designed display of the computer’s startup programs and processes. OneCare will watch the computer’s operation for a week or so, then begin to offer advice on which startup programs might not be necessary. That’s a big part of the housekeeping I do regularly for friends and clients, and I’m glad to have some help with it.

OneCare will offer to check the security on your wireless network, and Microsoft is planning to integrate an online backup service for photos (at extra cost).

It’s hard to predict whether the rollout of the new version will go smoothly. OneCare has gotten periodic minor updates in the last year without causing too much fuss. Cross your fingers and be prepared to restart your computer at some point during the next week or two!

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