Jan's Computer Basics:
Applications: Security & Utility
There are many categories of special purpose programs that are generally called Utility Programs. Some of these just tweak the
user interface and some perform highly technical tasks.
Programs that help keep the bad guys from messing with your computer and its
data are the most important type of utility program.
To do a good job of keeping your computer safe from random visitors or
from crime syndicates, you need several types of programs.
Types of security programs:
- Anti-malware: Continuously watches for incoming
attacks. Scans regularly for hidden malware (a virus, trojan, worm or other
intrusive software). Repairs many kinds of
damage. Anti-virus is the old name for these programs but current versions deal with much more than just computer viruses.
- Firewall: Controls who gets into your computer from
the Internet or other network connection.
- Anti-spam: Examines incoming email and sends known
or suspected bad messages to a special folder, Spam or Junk.
- To avoid
or repair damage from malware
- Protection is easier
than recovering from a malware disaster
- Must be configured
correctly to work effectively.
- Must be updated regularly with new
Examples of security programs, some of which include several programs:
Norton Security Suite, Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira AntiVirus, Windows
Firewall, Norton 360, Trend Micro Internet Security Plus, Zone Alarm
See Wikipedia's article comparing various programs.
There are many categories of utility programs, including security software.
What is counted as a utility program depends on who is doing the counting!
The usual definition is that a utility program is not application software that the
user uses to create something, like a document or image, nor is it a game or a browser. It does something to way the computer looks or behaves, often in the
background. [Some web sites that sell software include a lot more in their
Utility category, including games(!), money management software, genealogy
software, course management software, and many more.]
Over time, features and services that used to be available only through a utility program get included in the operating system or as part of the program the program was designed to modify. Nothing changes more and faster than the world of computers!
- To customize the way the computer
behaves, making it more efficient or easier or safer to use.
- Better features or better user
interface than what comes with the operating system.
- Special features for
keeping your computer running well.
- Configuring your computer to suit the
way you work.
- Many are very
technical and require some expertise to use.
- Parental control programs block access (especially
for children) to web sites that are not suitable or are more likely to
result in malware attacks - NetNanny, K9 Web Protection, some operating
systems include some features.
- Encryption programs encode your data so that
to read it the user must have the right key code. Some operating systems
include some type of encryption. Could be for the whole disk, selected
folders, or selected files.
- Password management software remembers all of your
logon and password information so that you only have to remember how to
get into the password software - one thing! The file that records
your passwords is encrypted - Password Safe, Roboform, KeePass.
- Back-up and file synchronization software can automatically save a copy of
your data or the whole computer's contents to DVDs, tape, or to a data
site online. To be prepared in case a disaster happens, whether it is a
security issue or a dead hard drive issue, you need a back-up copy of
your important data - Windows Backup & Restore, Norton 360, Norton
Ghost. Online file storage - Carbonite. File storage with synchronization: Dropbox, Box, Microsoft
OneDrive, Google Drive
- Disk defragmenting software rearranges files so
that all parts of the file are next to each other. The computer will
scatter pieces of a file all over the disk, wherever there is some room.
Defragmenting makes it easier for the computer to find and display the
file - Windows Disk Defragmenter, Norton SpeedDisk.
See System Software: Utilities for