Windows to Get Free Malware Protection from Microsoft

But protection won't be built into upcoming Windows 7

OneCare now sells for about $40

Microsoft is going to protect Windows, for free. It's remarkable that's even news, but it is with the announcement that Windows users can get free anti-malware software starting next year.

Even then, Microsoft is falling short by not building the software into upcoming Windows 7. The company says it instead will be a stand-alone download.

The new software will protect against viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans. It will replace Windows Live OneCare, which is a security package that Microsoft has been selling.

It's about time. Windows is the source and target of most of the world's malware. Microsoft has worked hard to tighten security in Windows, but holes remain -- especially for the vast numbers of consumers who don't bother to install and update security software.

Security applications from vendors like AVG, McAfee and Kapersky have gotten better and leaner. I particularly like recent updates from Norton and Sunbelt. And while I suspect those companies will have offerings that are better, it will be hard to compete with free Microsoft.

Maybe competitor outcry is why Microsoft won't include the security features in Windows 7. That should help dampen antitrust complaints, writes Ina Fried in the Beyond Binary blog.

Still, it's regrettable that users would have to download basic security as an add-on. Microsoft has a responsibility to protect Windows, and shouldn't depend on users to take an extra step.