I’ve been testing the beta of Microsoft’s “Windows OneCare Live” for a couple weeks now and I’ve been a little surprised at how much I like it. I’m surprised because I usually hate antivirus. Most of them bog down the desktop and pop up too many annoying messages (do I really need to know the number of virus signatures that were updated?).

But OneCare does more than antivirus. It also includes a firewall (basically a beefed up version of the XP SP2 firewall), a software update manager, a backup utility, automated defrag, and some general PC tune-up (e.g. removing unused and unnecessary files).

The surprising part to me has been how few resources OneCare uses and the fact that I couldn’t notice any signs of it bogging down the system on the multiple desktops and laptops where I have installed it. My buddy Steve Warren has been testing OneCare since last year. He told me last fall that he really liked the OneCare beta and that I would be amazed at how light it was on resources. I was skeptical. I imagined combining ZoneAlarm with Norton Antivirus in a product made by Microsoft — the creator of bloatware champion Microsoft Word. The math didn’t add up.

However, I have to admit that Steve was right. OneCare is remarkably resource-light and all of its tools do a solid job. The firewall could use an “allow access once” option when programs are trying to access the Internet and the backup program needs some additional customization options, but it’s got nearly all of the standard features you would expect. There aren’t any groundbreaking features, but it’s solid.

Check out Steven’s blog post on OneCare and the image gallery he put together.