5.2: Utility Software

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.


Compression is to decrease the size of a file. This is beneficial as more files can be stored on a storage device if the size has been reduced. Compressed files can be sent more quickly across a network because they are smaller.

System Monitoring & Task Management

These types of applications allow users to monitor system resources and see the processes that are currently running. Users will be able to see which programs are being executed and how much CPU time they are requiring. If a program has stopped responding, or is using too many resources, the user can close it.

Windows Task Manager is an example of this type of utility software - press Ctrl + Alt + Delete on any Windows computer to open it.

You can also find applications that will scan the hard disc for any errors and attempt to repair them.

System Backup

System backup copies data onto a separate storage device in case the original information is lost or corrupted.

Backups should be saved regularly and stored in a different location to the rest of the data. Magnetic tape is a common backup medium.

A typical backup policy is one known as 'grandfather - father - son' which uses three different backups at a time.

Grandfather backup (e.g. every month)

Father backup (e.g. every week)

Son backup (e.g. every day)

5.2 - Utility Software:

1. What is meant by 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] 

6. Explain why task management software could be used. [2]

7a. Explain why backups are important. [2]

7b. Describe a common type of backup policy. [3]

Exam Board:

Eduqas / WJEC


2016 +  

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