written by: Winston Smith•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 1/31/2011
Utility software is used to keep computers working fast and reliable. Just as you visit your doctor from time to time for check ups, these four types of utility software perform check ups on the health of your computer.
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Introducing Utility Software
Utility software keeps your computer working efficiently and helps you recover from disasters. Different types of utility software have different benefits; automate tedious tasks, produce backups, monitor the performance of the machine and keep your computer operating at maximum speed. In this article, four types of utilities will be considered: system monitoring, backup tools, system upkeep and troubleshooting tools. While IT specialists and enthusiasts will likely use all of these utilities, the average user should make backup tools and system upkeep a priority.
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System Monitoring Software
System monitoring software describes in detail how well your computer is working. This type of utility software typically describes your computer's current temperature (excess heat damages computers), RAM usage, Internet connection status and other factors. This type of program is a great way of measuring how well your computer is working. Some of these tools include logs that track your computer's performance over time and record unusual system issues. Popular system monitoring applications and programs include:
Core Temp: A small application that reports the current temperature for all your computer's CPUs.
Down 2 Home: This utility monitors how much data you are uploading and downloading through an Internet connection; it will be especially helpful for users with limited Internet services.
Process Explorer: A free replacement for the Windows Task Manger, this program tells you everything your computer is currently running
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Backup Tools to Protect Your Data
Losing your data - digital photos, documents, notes and other information - due to a hard drive failure, power failure or other computer problems is a frustrating and painful experience. Backup software can ease the pain by making it easy for you to restore your data and get back to work quickly. Most backup programs offer a way to schedule backups on a regular basis (e.g. daily, weekly, or monthly) for ease of use. Other programs offer a way to store all of your backup data on DVDs or even at a remote location.
Mozy: This Internet based service lets users backup 2 GB of data for free (storage over 2 GB is available for a fee). The advantage to an Internet based backup service is that you can access your data anywhere and you don't have to worry about locating DVDs and external hard drives.
SyncBack: Available in free and paid versions, this application creates backups on your computer and at remote locations. The program also provides email reports and notices to keep you informed about the status of your backups.
Windows System Restore: Included in Windows, System Restore has limited functionality but it can prove useful in recovering from some problems. While it is worth exploring, the limited functionality of the application will be a disadvantage for most users.
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System Upkeep Programs
Computers tend to operate smoothly most of the time, especially when newly purchased. Over time, many people observe that their computers slow down. System upkeep programs identify and fix problems that cause these slowdowns by cleaning out unused programs, unneeded temporary files and other dead weight data. Here are some examples of system upkeep applications and their main uses:
Autoruns 9: Detects and lists all programs that are set to run automatically, useful for hunting down malware)
CCleaner: Cleans the Windows registry and related Windows systems
Disk Defragmenter: This free Microsoft program reorganizes your hard drive so that it can run faster
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Final Thoughts on Utility Software
Whether you want to fix problems or prevent them from happening in the first place, these types of utility software are just what you need to keep your computer in good condition. One type of utility software was not included here though: antivirus software. Security is an important issue and should not be ignored in any situation. Keep in mind that antivirus software is not perfect; it is important to run backups and other software to guard against disaster.