Unless your Mac is completely isolated, an up-to-date antiviral utility is an essential add-on. (Alas, John Norstad’s excellent freeware Disinfectant is no longer supported.) Norton AntiVirus (NAV) provides automatic background virus checking and notifies you whenever it detects suspicious activity. A powerful scheduling function also lets you program NAV to scan volumes on specified days and times.
Of course, an antiviral utility is effective only as long as it keeps up with the constant stream of new viruses. Fortunately, you don’t need a new version of the program to stay currentSymantec posts monthly virus-definition updates that you can download, free for one year, from its Web site. To save you the hassle of constantly checking for updates, NAV’s LiveUpdate feature automatically downloads them from Symantec’s servers. Unfortunately, these transfers are rather slow. Despite a few rough edges, though, Norton AntiVirus offers insurance you can’t afford to be without.
Just as you protect your home from prowlers, you need to secure your computer from voyeurs. If your Mac is open to tampering, consider installing additional security software to guard your programs and data.
ASD Software’s FileGuard offers a broad range of options for limiting access to your computer. You can lock any rewritable volume with a password that prevents unauthorized access; unlike password-protected screen savers, FileGuard can’t be circumvented by restarting with the shift key pressed or booting from an alternative start-up disk.
FileGuard also provides protection at the file and folder level, using a straightforward interface that’s similar to that of Apple File Sharing. You can limit individual users’ access to particular days and times, and you can prevent those users from copying data onto floppies or erasing files. For particularly sensitive files, you can provide maximum security with four different encryption algorithms; encrypted documents can be read only after a user has entered the correct password.
Although FileGuard does an excel- lent job of preventing unauthorized users from accessing your computer, it does so without being overly ob- trusive. However, File- Guard is relatively slow on older non-Power Mac G3 models.
Once FileGuard has been installed and configured, you can continue to use your computer as you did before, confident that your data will be safe when you’re not around.
Choosing a set of utilities is like shopping at the hardware store: no single set of tools is right for every person and every job. Still, just as no tool chest would be complete without a pair of pliers and a screwdriver, your Mac-utility arsenal should include a start-up manager, antiviral software, a compression/decompression utility, and at least one data-recovery program. If you’re thinking of going beyond the basics, keep in mind that utilities that load at start-upQuicKeys, for exampleuse extra memory. And some utilities still ship on floppy disks, so you’ll need to buy or borrow a floppy drive if you have a blue-and-white G3 or an iMac.
But whether you opt for the basic tool kit or you go all out, utilities will help you use your Mac more efficiently and with greater confidence.
Contributing Editor FRANKLIN TESSLER has been a Mac user since 1984. He still hasn’t found the perfect utility.
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