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2.3: Utility Software

Exam Board:



2016 - Unit 1 

What is utility software?

Utility software are dedicated programs used for the maintenance and organisation of a computer system.

Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is used to locate and delete viruses on a computer system. The antivirus scans each file on the computer and compares it against a database of known viruses. Files with similar features to viruses in the database are identified and deleted.

There are thousands of known viruses but new ones are created each day by attackers so antivirus software must be regularly updated to keep systems secure.


Other roles of an antivirus:

  • Checking all incoming and outgoing emails and their attachments.

  • Checking files as they are downloaded.

  • Scanning the hard drive for viruses and deleting them.


A firewall manages incoming and outgoing network traffic.


Each data packet is processed to check whether it should be given access to the network by examining the source and destination address.

Unexpected data packets will be filtered out and not accepted to the network.


Other roles of a firewall include:

  • Blocking access to insecure / malicious web sites.

  • Blocking certain programs from accessing the internet.

  • Blocking unexpected / unauthorised downloads.

  • Preventing specific users on a network accessing certain files.


As files are edited over time they will become fragmented -  this is when the file is split into parts that are stored in different locations on the hard disk drive. Files that are fragmented take longer to load and read because of the distance between the fragments of the file. 

Defragmentation software is used to rearrange the file on the hard disk drive so that all parts are together again in order. Defragmentation improves the speed of accessing data on the hard disk drive.



Monitors, Managers & Cleaners

System monitors check the resources of a computer and display how much CPU time and memory current applications are using.


Task managers allow a user to close processes and applications if they have stopped responding or if one is using too many resources. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete on any Windows computer to open Windows Task Manager which is a system monitor and task manager tool.

A disk cleaner is used to scan a hard disk drive and remove unused files. This is used to free up space on the hard drive.

A disk scanner will scan a hard disc for any errors and attempt to repair them.

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Backing Up Data

A backup is a copy of data that can be used if the original data is corrupted or lostBackups of all data should be made regularly and stored in an alternative location.

Alternatively, imaging (also known as disk cloning) creates an identical image of a storage drive to be stored in a different location.

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Questo's Questions

2.3 - Utility Software:

1. What is the purpose of utility software? [1]

2a. Describe how antivirus software works. [2]

2b. Describe 3 further roles of antivirus software. [3]

3a. What is the purpose of a firewall? [2]

3b. Describe 3 further roles of a firewall. [3]

4a. Describe what is meant by defragmentation[2]

4b. Explain why defragmentation software is used. [2]

5. Describe 2 benefits of using compression. [2] 


6a. Explain why system monitor / task management software could be used. [2]

6b. Explain the purpose of disk cleaners and disk scanners. [2]

7a. Explain what a backup is and why they are are important. [2]

7b. Describe what imaging is. [2]

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