A hotkey is essentially a computer shortcut, though it does not always have to be one; a hotkey can also refer to the button your enhanced keyboard that opens your media player. Hotkeys are easy to use and popular, because pressing a key combination is faster and more accurate than using your mouse. A hotkey does not always have to be associated with a utility, though many utilities are available to manage hotkeys.
Hotkeys and Shortcuts
While a hotkey and a shortcut are extremely similar and, in some cases, even interchangeable. When you open a program and use the "Alt" key and the "F" key to open the file menu, that's a keyboard shortcut. However, "Ctrl" and C" -- the shortcut to copy text -- can also be a hotkey, as it's a universal setting. Your computer's media buttons are also hotkeys, as they set a key to perform a function in the computer. You also hear of hotkeys being used in online games to perform frequent actions more quickly.
A utility program is one designed to aid the operating system or user in basic computer function by performing a single task set. The most classic example of a utility is your operating system's file manager -- a program that you use every day and probably give very little thought to. Your network manager can also be considered a utility.
A hotkey utility is one that allows you to use customized hotkeys. Laptops use these kinds of utilities for media keys and function keys; as such, these often require proprietary drivers from the manufacturer. You can also download programs that act as hotkey utilities, which allow you to set custom hotkeys on your computer. An example of this kind of utility into AutoHotKey, which allows you to set any keys together as a hotkey and thus decreases your chance of interfering with default operating system hotkeys.
Hotkey Utility Error
On startup, Windows may give you the error "Hotkey Utility has encountered a problem and needs to close." Your first option should be to uninstall and reinstall any drivers associated with your hotkey utility; if you're unsure of which program this is, check your manufacturer's website. If the problem persists, contact your computer's manufacturer to find out more about this problem.