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Will Reformatting Kill A Virus?

Gum from Texas writes: 

I read your article on reformatting the computer but i have a question. If iIreformat is it really taken back to like out of the box new status and if there is a virus, malware , spyware, key loggers or whatever on the unit in question, will that kill it all out or will they know where to come back to after realizing their questionable programs no longer are effective on their targets?  Just wondering… thanks, Gum.

Hi, Gum.  Thanks for the great question.

Viruses, malware, spyware, bugs, gremlins, junk… All designed to mess up your system and/or steal from you.

These things will implant themselves deep in your computer’s files and registry, sometimes attacking immediately and sometimes sitting and waiting like a time bomb for you to hit a specific key or for a certain time and date to activate.  Sometimes, like in the case of the Michaelangelo virus almost fifteen years ago, they are designed as elaborate practical jokes.  More often, they are attacks specifically designed to steal your information for purposes of identity theft.

There are several remedies for these.  Anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are good for the milder forms of virus.  In more extreme cases, like full-on hijacks of your system, it is recommended to take your machine to your friendly neighborhood computer geek to completely remove the infection.

The most extreme of these is to reformat your hard drive.  The good news is that, yes, this will completely remove the infection, along with everything else on your hard drive.  No, there’s no way for the virus to “call out” to missing programs and activate when it discovers that they are no longer there, because the virus won’t be there either.  The bad news is that it’s a little like chemotherapy, in as much as in the process of removing the bad, it also eradicates the good. 

My recommendation would be to try these other two methods first, though, to save yourself the trouble of having to reinstall everything.

Hope that this helps!

~ Randal Schaffer