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Ransomware: Should I Trash My PC?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, Security Help

I’ve told you a lot recently about ransomware attacks. Ransomware refers to malware that encrypts your files and demands that you transfer money to the hackers to unlock them. Everyone from home users to power companies to hospitals have been hit. Some do choose to pay the ransom to have the files unlocked, but that’s not really a good idea. A reader had a good question: “If I was hit with ransomware and was asked to pay a huge amount of money, could I just trash my computer and buy a new one?”


Not necessarily, though that does end up happening. First, let’s assume that you are well-prepared for a catastrophe and have all of your important files backed up somewhere else. They’re either on an external drive, in the cloud, or both. Because that step can take a lot of the panic out of the situation. It gives you some time to consider your next move. Especially, if you’ve been hit by the kind of ransomware that starts deleting your files if you don’t pay.


If you consider yourself a tech-minded person, you might try to get onto the PC in safe mode and do a system restore or a factory reset. Though your best bet is to take it to a tech professional and let him or her try cleaning it up for you.  At this point, your software may be trashed, but your hardware isn’t damaged. Even if you lose files, you could still return your PC to working order and restore your working files.  In a worst-case-scenario, you could even replace the hard drive and start over.

Whether or not the effort is worth it would depend on the age of a PC. If your computer is on its last legs anyway, it might be a good time to upgrade. If it’s a newer model, it’s worth the effort and expense.

As always, your best cure is prevention. Make sure that all of your files are backed up and be very careful about the websites you visit or the attachments you click.

~ Cynthia

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7 Responses to “Ransomware: Should I Trash My PC?”

  1. Bob Price says:

    There seems to be general disagreement on whether an attached USB backup drive would be affected or not. Opinions both ways. I don’t risk it, and connect only to make a backup, then disconnect.

  2. Bob Carter says:

    This is what I had to do when a Windows 10 update failed and obliterated the first partition on my hard drive. My hard drive and files were unrecoverable – just as if I had refused to pay ransomeware. Fortunately most of my files were backed up on an external drive (except for the last 3 months due to an unsuspected backup failure) and after installing a new hard drive and reinstalling the programs I use, I’m up and running again. I’m writing this on the same computer – and backing up to the cloud in addition to an external drive. By the way, I’m also back to using Windows 7 now. I won’t risk Windows 10 until its more stable.

  3. Allan L Howard says:

    I agree with everything you say in your article, but where does the money go? Why can’t the money ransomed by hackers be traced? This to me has always been a point that escapes me.

    • cynthia says:

      They usually ask for it bitcoins, an e-currency that they have transferred to overseas accounts where they will not be prosecuted.

  4. Bob says:

    I was using Windows 8.1 when I unexpectedly got hit by ransomware. Fortunately, everything was backed up; so all I did was hit the Microsoft icon button & agree to be upgraded to Windows 10. Solved that problem without having to pay lots of money & 2 hours later, I was back online. Immediately got Malwarebytes.

  5. Frank says:

    I was hit by an encryption worm. As expected all of my files were encrypted. I called AOL and had them remotely work on my laptop. They were unable to break the encryption code but did remove malware and other viruses, after all that, I removed all encrypted file and my system seems to be working okay. AOL also did a reset. Is there a possibility that the encryption code is still buried somewhere in my system waiting to be triggered by a key
    stroke? It has been approximately 3 weeks since the incident and my system seems to be okay. Files were deleted to recycle bin and then deleted.

  6. Bob says:

    You use aol and it’s not 1995?

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