What is Windows Live Essentials?

Category: Windows

Do I need Windows Live Essentials? I was reading a page on the Microsoft website that recommends installing this package of add-ons, but for most of them I either don't understand it or can't see why I would need it. Can you explain what each of the Essential tools will do for me?

Do You Need Windows Live Essentials?

Windows Live Essentials is a suite of free applications developed by Microsoft, which includes software for parental controls, email handling, cloud storage, instant messaging, video editing, photo management, blogging and more.

Essentials can be downloaded in one archive package from the Windows Live Essentials website.

But are these tools really "essential" for all users? Read my description of each one below, then you can select which components to install, which to skip, and other alternatives to consider. Available components in Windows Live Essentials include:

Windows Live Family Safety: A parental controls program that includes Web site filtering, browser activity logging, "safe-search" filtering for Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines; time limits; game restrictions based on industry rating systems; contact management to prevent children from communicating with unknown parties online; and an image filter that blurs images which seem inappropriate.

    Do You Need It? Probably not. Some parental control features are already present in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Click Start, Control Panel, User Accounts, then click "Set up Parental Controls" to see what's available. You can also find these monitoring, filtering and blocking options in your security suite (Norton, McAfee, etc.) or in products such as CyberSitter, NetNanny and CyberPatrol.

Windows Live Mail: The successor to Outlook Express and Windows Mail. This free email client works only with Windows Vista and Windows 7. Windows Live Mail supports non-Microsoft Webmail services; synchronization with Windows Live Contacts; RSS feeds; separate inboxes for different POP accounts; a calendar function; and other modern features.

    Do You Need It? No. Desktop email clients are so 1995. Web-based email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail make it easy to get your email without being tied on one computer, operating system, or hardware platform. They include contact management and calendaring features too. See my article Why You Should Dump Outlook and Windows Live Mail for more details on why you should use webmail.

Windows Live Mesh: A synchronization application for Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.5 or later running on Intel platforms. Mesh allows synchronization of files between computers; sync with Microsoft's SkyDrive online storage service; remote access via the Windows Live Devices Web service; computer-to-computer synchronization of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office settings.

    Do You Need It? Probably not. I find Microsoft's "cloud" offerings to be unnecessarily complicated. Something like the free DropBox service lets you share and sync files online with a simple drag and drop interface. Unless the browser and Office sync is important to you, skip this one.

Windows Live Messenger: Formerly MSN Messenger, this Microsoft instant messaging client works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Mobile, Windows CE, Xbox 360, Blackberry OS, iOS, Java ME, S60 on Symbian OS 9.x and Zune HD. It uses Micrsoft's .NET Messenger Service.

    Do You Need It? No. Do people really still use dedicatd instant messaging clients? They're built into Gmail, Skype, Facebook and many other popular apps. And with all the tweets and texts flying around, I'm ready to declare this technology obsolete. (Oh, and can we please kill .NET soon, too?)

Windows Live Movie Maker: A video creation/editing platform intended to replace Windows Movie Maker. It is compatible with Vista and Windows 7. Windows Live Movie Maker is a slimmed-down video editor that eliminates many features that most consumers never use. It allows users to publish videos to Windows Live SkyDrive, Facebook, Youtube, and Flickr.

    Do You Need It? Yes, if you want a basic video editor that's easy to use. Windows Live Movie Maker is a great free alternative to some of the more expensive and complicated offerings out there.

Windows Live Photo Gallery: A photo management and sharing application. The latest version includes features such as facial recognition, geotagging, batch people tagging, blemish remover and noise reduction.

    Do You Need It? Maybe. Comparisons of Windows Live Photo Gallery with Google's Picasa show that both are popular and full featured. Some find one more intuitive than the other. I suggest trying both and seeing which you like best.

Windows Live Writer: A desktop blog publishing system. It is compatible with Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint blogs, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress, Telligent Community, PBlogs.gr, JournalHome, the MetaWeblog API, the Movable Type API, Blogengine, Squarespace and other blogging platforms.

    Do You Need It? No. There are plenty of simple blogging platforms on the Web. See my article Five Free Blogging Tools to learn more about Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, Tumblr and Posterous.

Silverlight: Yet another Microsoft product created for the sole purpose of muddying the waters and trying to grab market share from established players. Silverlight is a tool that enables multimedia applications, and competes with Flash, Adobe Air, and the HTML5 standard.

    Do You Need It? No. Two years ago I wrote What Is Silverlight And Do I Need It? It's been two years, and there have only been a few times when I was confronted with a website that said "You must install Silverlight to view this content." Usually on Microsoft websites. I've resisted the urge, and I recommend you do the same.

In summary, there are a few bright spots in Microsoft's "Windows Live Essentials" package. The Family Safety, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, and perhaps Mesh components are worth a look, if you don't already have a solution you like. I'd pass on all the others.

Your thoughts are welcome on this topic. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "What is Windows Live Essentials?"

Posted by:

Jeri Gray
12 Oct 2011

If I am not mistaken - you need Silverlight if you want to watch Netflix movies on your PC.

Posted by:

12 Oct 2011

You may need silverlight with crm 2011 and sharepoint. It's the back end for some add on products for both applications. If prompted our users have to install it to use the application.

Posted by:

12 Oct 2011

web mail supports Right to Left languages, quite poorly!
This is one good reason why I still use Outlook.

Posted by:

michael egerton
12 Oct 2011

I agree don't install Windows Live as it includes another search Bing when I use Google and once there it's difficult to get Google back.
However Silverlight is beneficial if viewing online television live but you automatically get the message to install if required so wait for the message.

Posted by:

Stan Duncan
12 Oct 2011

Great article, Bob. Very helpful. Thank you. I have been looking at these "essentials" and thinking to my self, "now what exactly is so "essential" about these things? And you helped bring a lot of clarity to that.

Posted by:

Nana Teppler
12 Oct 2011

Unfortunately, although I was hoping for a slight upgrade to Windows Movie Maker, such as additional transitions, they instead "nerfed it" to the point where it's unusable for me. However, you can download your old Windows Movie Maker 2.6 for Vista and Windows 7 here:

Posted by:

Bruce Booker
12 Oct 2011

Can I download and install only some of the Windows Live Essentials programs (like Movie Maker), or is it an all-or-nothing deal?

Posted by:

Bob Pegram
12 Oct 2011

When a site requires SilverLight is there any substitute? There is MoonLight on Linux, but it doesn't work with the website in question (www.FreeStockCharts.com). Thanks.

Posted by:

13 Oct 2011

Windows Live Mail has an XP version too. I've been using it for months. It's just a jazzed up version of OE with a calendar thrown in! I bought my wife a new laptop with Windows 7 on it and this came with WLM so I had to mount it on my XP machine in order to see how it works, then I could show her how to use it!! It's slower than OE but not significantly so I'm persevering with it.

Posted by:

G HAtaway
13 Oct 2011

I agree with what you have to say about Windows Live Essentials. But I don't agree with not wanting to use a deasktop app for my email! I absolutely hate gmail,Yahoo mail, and the rest of them! You will have to pry Outlook from my cold dead fingers! I use Gmail for a few theing sbut certsainly not as my primary!

I also use Yahoo mesenger, a dedicated client, because I have friends that don't use Facebook, Twitter, or any other or instant messaging clients. Not all people over 60 are technlogicaly proficent!My mother is 92, my mother-in-law is 83. They do well but you canot expect them to change evertime new stuff is introduced! So keep it a live as long as possiblle pleease!!

Posted by:

13 Oct 2011

I feel no compulsion whatsoever to install any of the worthless rubbish named above. Does anyone??

Posted by:

13 Oct 2011

Bob, please expand on your .NET comment. What is supplanting it?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hopefully, nothing. Time and again, while trying to install a Microsoft product, I'm told "This software requires the .NET framework. Please go download 50 extra MB of junk to continue..." No other company does that.

Posted by:

14 Oct 2011

Had Live Essentials--screwed with my system restore..essentially destroyed my ability to restore and it took me days to find out what was going on.They had an (install???) program that took hours to find and get rid of. Once done my computer returned to normal.

Posted by:

29 Feb 2012

Thank you for the information and clarity.

Posted by:

28 May 2012

I disagree with your comment about Windows Live Messenger/MSN. Well, specifically about the general state of such instant message programs. They are still heavily used (gamers often use them to communicate during play, but outside the official channels, schools/colleges use them to communicate intra-dormitory, etc) Also, parents often prefer them as the chats can be saved and their kids online activities can be thusly monitored. There are a lot of reasons that people still use IM programs. Heck, some just use them to, you know, chat with friends in real time! :)

Posted by:

06 Jul 2012

As a result of the annoying display of Windows Live Messenger & Bing when starting computer, I would like to remove the Windows Live programme...it is about 120 mb. If i do remove the programme will it have an adverse effect on my emails, sound etc?
I have used this medium instead of "question click here" because of my comments re annoying.
Your advice will be appreciated. Thank you.

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