Nuke It From Space

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
— Ellen Ripley (Aliens, 1986)

When it comes to computer viruses there is only one way to be certain that the infection has been removed from your machine.  Wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall the operating system.

Antivirus software is only effect if it blocks a virus from being loaded onto your computer.  Once a virus is installed, it often times rewrites or replaces key system files.  Undoing such alteration requires a clean install of the OS.

There are plenty of so-called “computer techies” who will be happy take your hard-earned cash, run a free antivirus program over your computer, and then claim to have “eradicated” the virus.  These fly-by-night business owners, many working out of their parents’ basement or shoddy little apartment, are doing their clients a tremendous disservice by removing the symptoms but not necessarily the cause.

Anyone can run a free antivirus program or Malwarebytes on their computer and do exactly the same thing at no cost to themselves.  The computer will in most cases appear to function correctly.  But remnants of the virus may remain making your computer susceptible to future infection.  Or worse still, it could be executing code in the background without your knowledge or consent.

The problem, however, is that most major Microsoft Windows computer manufacturers have stopped including restore disks with their new systems.  Many have replaced these disks with “restore” software housed in a small partition on the back end of the hard drive, which does not reformat the main Windows partition.  It simply overwrites some Windows files in an attempts to repair the operating system, but may leave a virus still lurking on your computer.

Some manufacturers like Acer, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell do offer full restore DVD-ROM disks.  Customers must request these disks immediately after purchasing a new computer.  These disks may only be available during the initial warranty period.  Expect to pay about $20 (US).

Alternatively, you can create a Windows system image from your current Windows installation.  However, this restore image is useless if your system has already been compromised by a virus.  You would be restoring the virus along with the operating system.

Other alternatives include downloading all relative hardware drivers for your particular make and model of computer from the manufacturer’s website, and then purchase either a full or OEM version of Windows from a reputable seller like Newegg, TigerDirect, or Buy Cheap Software.

Those who have chosen to build their own systems are exempt since they already own a required copy of Windows.  Linux users are likewise exempt since full Linux install disks are readily available free of charge.  Not that Linux users need to worry about viruses.

Instructions for performing a clean install of Windows can be found at numerous sites on the Internet.  The keyword to search for is “clean” install.

Every computer owner must possess the ability to install their respective operating system from scratch.  All hard drives eventually fail!  It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.

Backup your data!  To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Don’t be a victim of the local-yokel computer repair scammer.  Save your money.  Empower yourself and learn to be your own tech support.  As Francis Bacon once said:  Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est (Knowledge itself is power).

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