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Can malware survive a reformat?

by dave cnet / January 23, 2006 7:29 AM PST

I'm just about to do a clean install of XP (Home), in the hope of resolving a drivers issue.

Is there any value in erasing the hard drive with a product like KillDisk, or is it sufficient to let Windows setup reformat the drive?

I don't have any privacy issues regarding my deleted files.

I do wonder whether Windows reformatting would be as effective if there were something nasty lurking on the drive. I DO use antivirus, anti-spyware, & firewall, all of which says the drive is clean. But can there be anything else hidden? And can malware survive a reformat?

Anyway, given that I propose to use a removable external drive to back up my documents for restoration afterwards, and this drive clearly won't be reformatted, would the KillDisk exercise be a waste of time, anyway?

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Yes and no
by joe_smith / January 23, 2006 9:16 AM PST

It's possible for something to lodge itself in the master boot record (MBR) which is a special part of your hard drive, but I doubt that will come to pass. Most malware is very poorly written, and getting something into the MBR requires a fair amount of programming skill.

So, it should be sufficient to just format to get rid of anything lurking. And yes, things can mask themselves from virus scanners. Ironically, they do so using the same basic methods that allow virus scanners to work. Such programs are called rootkits, and generally formatting is the only way to be sure you've gotten rid of one.

Programs like Killdisk are for the paranoid. Since you state you don't have any particular privacy concerns, it would be unnecessary.

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yes itay
by hpjohn11 / January 23, 2006 12:19 PM PST
In reply to: Yes and no

I suggest trying to get a program to change all of you disks to 0 and or 1's. Maxtor has such a program on their download. However, if you don't have a Maxtor drive i don't know whether it will work. The name of the program is Maxblast 4 and it is FREE.

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Reinstall Options
by phantazy / January 23, 2006 4:24 PM PST

XP allows you two types of reformat on installation quick and normal. The normal takes much longer, but is probably worth it if your worried. Also Norton Utilities have a feature called 'wipe clean' accessible from cd-Rom.

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