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Poll: Reformatted your hard drive because of virus/malware?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / December 4, 2009 7:55 AM PST
How many times have you reformatted your hard drive because of a unsolvable virus/malware problem?

One time. (Do you remember what it was?)
Two times. (Do you remember what it was?)
Three times. (Do you remember what it was?)
Four times. (Do you remember what it was?)
More than four times. (Why so many times?)
Never. (Good for you!)

If you happen to remember specifically what the problematic virus or malware was that caused you to reformat your drive, please let us know in this thread. Thanks!
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Had to reformat my drive once... my fault
by mach37 / December 4, 2009 9:10 AM PST

Back in 2003, after reading about a fix for a worm that was rampaging at that time, I decided to run the worm, just to see what it did, now that I knew how to get rid of it. Hah! The worm-deleting instructions did not work, even though they came from a well-known anti-virus web page. I followed the instructions carefully, but still ended up having to reformat. Lucky me, I did not do this on my main computer, just on a backup unit with no irreplaceable files. This was an XP laptop system.

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by Jai08 / December 4, 2009 9:43 AM PST

Never...thanks to McAfee:) And good internet surfing skills.

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Not Me, But Customers
by Pegs56 / December 4, 2009 10:06 AM PST

I generally pay attention (esp. to returns in search engines - if the link title is correct, but the description is off, I don't click it) & avoid what I call the Big 5: file sharing sites, porn sites, screen saver sites, poker sites & anything ending in .ru (except Kaspersky). So, no wipes/reloads for me.

The customers are another story (I have 4 who unapologetically love their porn)& nearly everyone installs Limewire, even after being warned. I try to remove the nasties, wiping being the last resort.

I've lately been up against AntiVirus Professional 2010 which a combination of Malwarebytes & Avira eradicated, and the truly evil Personal Guard 2009, which finally had me crying "uncle", after 5 hours.

Every site I found with info about PG2009 said Malwarebytes would get rid of it. Nope. Malwarebytes was alread installed, as was Avira. M was blocked from running & when I tried to reinstall it wouldn't. Avira kept finding bits, but sending to quarantine didn't help (neither did "Do Not Allow Access").

I tried uninstalling PG2009 through Add/Remove Programs, which said it was no longer installed. I tried deleting the desktop icon & program folder, they both recreated themselves before I could click out of the Programs folder. I couldn't delete the folder contents, AND I was blocked from running Safe Mode (F8 was ignored). Registry & msconfig also didn't work.

At that point, I gave up. :-/

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Re: Malwarebytes
by sirpaul1 / December 4, 2009 8:56 PM PST
In reply to: Not Me, But Customers

All you had to do was rename 'Malwerebtes' to "explorer". It will then run fine.

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Renaming mbam
by Pegs56 / December 5, 2009 12:32 AM PST
In reply to: Re: Malwarebytes

Actually, I did try that. I had read if you renamed the mbam.exe file to tool.exe (or whatever) before downloading, it would install. Nope.

But, thanks for the tip, it might help someone else with a different malware. I'm not kidding when I say PersonalGuard 2009 is "evil".

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by borderheeler / December 4, 2009 10:09 AM PST

I've had Macs for the last 12 years. It really is as great as all the Mac lovers claim...

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&#*$^ Conficker or was it Conflicker
by Phil411 / December 4, 2009 10:33 AM PST

When that conficker item was running around once it caught wind on my schools network it spread like wildfire. Flash drives, n networked drive n a ineffective antivirus program provided by the tech guys (Sophos to begin with than once they realized that was not working upgraded to Mcafee which didnt help much a year on n the conficker is still running around on their servers.) So ya i was clean installing every other day it seemed, vista too, with a hundred plus programs, the worst was 5 times in one week. So i hit up google and found a nice usb firewall n then a friend introduced me to ESET Smart Security, best combo

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None for me, but to say for our sales team...
by IndeedJimmy / December 4, 2009 11:17 AM PST

0 Times for myself. I know how to use the internet wisely. Plenty of times for our Sales Guys at work. Most common were from the same similiar viruses such as Personal Antivirus, Antivirus 2010, Advanced Virus Remover, and Koobface worm.

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Never for virus/spyware, 3 times for Windows itself
by rbsjrx / December 4, 2009 11:31 AM PST

The only times I've ever had to take drastic measures (reinstall the OS, though, not reformat) have been when Windows itself became corrupted - two out of three times when I had just installed a new service pack. Reformatting should never be necessary except in the case of a physical drive failure.

OTOH, my Linux machines cheerfully run 24/7/365 with no drama whatsoever...

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Hard drive reformat.
by GraveDigger27 / December 4, 2009 11:37 AM PST

I've only had to reformat my hard drive once for a persistent virus/malware issue. Something had infected several of my Windows 98SE files and corrupted the system. Fortunately I had recently used Norton Ghost on my system and had a recent image of the "working system". Ever since I use a quality anti-virus program and a number of anti-spyware/malware apps. Moving through Windows XP, Vista and now Windows 7, I run a variety of apps (Avast! anti-virus/anti-spyware, SpywareBlaster, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware). I prefer the free versions of these types of programs, they tend to be lighter on the resources than McAfee and Norton have been, plus they're inexpensive. I got tired of paying for a new version of Norton Systemworks every year and when their program got too expensive I dropped it for free utilities. Now I'm using Macrium Reflect Free for disk imaging (previously used DriveImage XML) and make regular backups of my system so I can install other utilites or operating systems (like Linux) without fear of screwing up my desktop.

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Never formatted my computer because... :
by shorytr / December 4, 2009 12:30 PM PST

I own a Mac. My MacBook Pro has no problems, except with an occasional app from within a browser when I get the "not available for Macs" message. Too bad. I just go somewhere else.

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I never have for myself, only others
by ESUNintel / December 4, 2009 1:13 PM PST

I guess I do a good job at staying safe, I've never had to reformat any of my Mac's or PC's due to a virus or malware. I have reformatted computers for 3 other people though, where I though reformatting was the best or only solution.

I use ESET NOD32 on my PC's, seems to work, and I never used an antivirus on a Mac until recently, I use VirusBarrier X5 (still trying it out, so can say a whole lot on it), but it's best to stay safe than sorry later.

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Hmm.. a few.
by MrOllyK / December 4, 2009 1:14 PM PST

Like most of you who have Windows, I've had to do a clean install several times over the years either due to a virus or just windows being itself.

A few months ago, I got crashed again. Naturally, tired of having to re-do everything, I planned this one a bit different.

I split my drive into 3, main Windows on C:, installed programs on D: and a 2gb partition on E: as a recovery disk.

I basically did a clean install and update to SP3 on C:, install all my programs on D:, then install a vanilla SP3 on E:.

I found an excellent and FREE program called DriveImage XML. Once I have a clean and optimised C: drive, I can do a complete image of the disk and store it on D: (99.99% of viruses don't care about a non-windows partition).

I don't need to image the drive often as my C: drive rarely changes unless I install something and like it. If I get a virus or C: packs it in again for whatever reason, I just boot onto E: and re-image C: to have a fully working Windows with everything I had in just 15 minutes.

Recently I received a "Casino" advertiser malware thingie which would advertise in the header bar of every window. Instead of bothering to track the thing down which can take ages or have an anti-malware program rattle the drive for yonks and not find it, I just booted to E: and copied the C: image back. Problem solved.

If you do this, just ensure your copy of C: is clean.

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You are not most of us.
by mwooge / December 6, 2009 12:46 AM PST
In reply to: Hmm.. a few.

> Like most of you who have Windows, I've had to do a
> clean install several times over the years either due
> to a virus or just windows being itself.

Most of us? Speak for yourself. The only two times I've had to reinstall the OS (14 years) was when installing a new drive (by proffesionals) went bad and when I let the Geek Squad work on my machine.

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Since I went to Mac in 2002, I've never had to reinstall anything.
On my second mac now, the first still works great.
I don't use anti-virus software.
I am conservative in my browsing habits.
Cheers, Bernie

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by CherylsPearls / December 4, 2009 2:01 PM PST

I'm definitely a PC and not a MAC. I have never, not once, had to reformat my computer. I've had 3 computers over the years. All of them have been protected by Norton. I also use Spybot and Registry Mechanic and keep my computer running smoothly. I never click on anything that pops up no matter how tempting! I've used IE since the beginning, too...love it. You just have to be careful out there!

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by dincz / December 4, 2009 3:32 PM PST

I am a tinkerer (hardware and software) and sometimes mess things up. When this happens, 2 or three times a year, I reinstall my operating system (XP) and programs from a ghost image (created with Norton Ghost) on CD.

My hard drive is partitioned to give 10GB for OS and programs, and the rest for storage. This way I only have to deal with the small partition so the whole process takes only about 15 minutes.

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Reformatting means you weren't adequately protected.
by gpzjock / December 4, 2009 4:17 PM PST

I have used Mac OS at home for over 20 years, I've encountered exactly 2 malware attacks in this time and both were dealt with successfully without recourse to a rebuild. Grief free computing.... priceless.
By comparison my PC using friends have regularly asked me for help with crocked machines riddled with disease. Invariably they have to reformat and often don't even have the discs to install from, prompting a

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by timix10 / December 4, 2009 5:04 PM PST

I love my Mac<3 hahaha

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Memory Manager->Boot Sector virus
by David Stamps / December 4, 2009 10:19 PM PST

I was trying out Memory Managers.
One told me to reboot and the computer never woke up on its own.
Finally had to buy a new hard drive, reprogram it and copy all data over to new one.

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I have a rebuild saved on one DVD, and it's faster than trying to fix the virus problem (you never truly fix it this way...) and by playing with the registry, either manually by opening rededit or automaticlly by using anti-spyware programs, you never really have the same machine...I've made myself a non-admin account to use for daily tasks like email and internet access, so that it's more difficult for a malicious program to infect this profile and if it does, I can whack the profile, not the computer.

I should admit though, that one of the three times I rebuilt my PC was because I got a new hard drive...

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Rebuilt? Never. Reinstall? Many times.
by dlfure / December 5, 2009 12:04 AM PST
In reply to: Rebuild

My recent encounter with a "we will fix your computer" company was
because I was having problems, there were .dll problems and a possible
virus. So I checked on the company and rather than bring the tower to
someone I hired this company. After a week of "repair" I had a BSOD that ran all the way to safe mode.
I had to order the installation cds from Dell, and rather than go back to the same company and ask for help I went to the library. I
learned about fixmbr and since I already had Recovery Console available I did it myself.
Never trust a tech who says you have to reinstall-they simply don't know how to fix the computer-got that from a PC bible.
Oh and according to the company I contacted they were # 1 in computer protection, the one I was using wasn't on the list of top 10, McAfee was #6 and Norton was no longer in business.

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Don't trust these guys.
by GraveDigger27 / December 5, 2009 1:09 AM PST

The company you were dealing with sounds fishy. There are a LOT of fly-by night people out there dealing with computers who claim that the companies like Symantec and McAfee are only out to make a dollar. I don't use either of their products, but it's a matter of not wanting to pay for something that I can get for free. Over the past number of years I've found that the free versions of AVG, Avast! or Avira can protect your PC just as well as the commercial versions if you're careful. I've built computers for my brothers and sisters and will always install a free firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware program on each box. All they have to do is remember to update the programs from time to time (and run scans on their systems once in awhile...)

I wouldn't put my faith in anyone who tells you that Norton is out of business or that McAfee's products aren't effective - there are a number of corporations that run their operations on systems running these products. But for a home user they may be overkill. You have the security of buying something that will automatically update itself for the latest threats, but you'll generally have to renew the subscription each year or when a new version of the OS is out.

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Norton out-of-business indeed...
by dalecosp / December 5, 2009 1:42 AM PST

Forgive me, but how difficult would it be to go, say, even to a public computer in a library and check up on that one?

It's true there are a lot of charlatans out there. I can't even imagine *why* people would use someone who spreads this sort of FUD ... I suppose the problem is that in the service market in larger areas there are way too many people to track down references on them all.

However, as to the "reformat shouldn't happen" argument --- there comes a point at which, sad to say, this needs to be done. It's usually an economic issue ... when I've done upwards of four hours of fighting with a box, it's about time, because the client will end up "upside down" in their computer ... having paid more to fix the issue "the right way" than a simple "flattening" (as Microsoft calls it).

We backup all data on each machine we flatten and restore it if possible or make it available to the client in other ways. Find out if your repair center does this ... get it IN WRITING. However, the best strategy is to back the dang thing up yourself, if your system is operable, before the disaster occurs, or before sending it for repair.

There's one other issue, and that is that a box that has been compromised can never be said to be secure again with 100% certainty ... I can't do that honestly. I can say it's "very likely" that they won't have any problems. With a reformat and reinstall, I can give them an Ivory-pure guarantee.

As for my personal boxen, since switching to a UNIX-like desktop in 2003, I've had less than zero security issues. Wink I've fixed a lot of issues on Windows boxes though, and, on occasion, flattened a few ,,, usually because it made more economic sense to do so than to continue fighting with a box that we could never be 100% was secure.

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(NT) & sorry, meant to reply to the guy above Gravedigger....(NT)
by dalecosp / December 5, 2009 1:43 AM PST
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one of the lucky ones
by trubbs1 / December 4, 2009 11:44 PM PST

I havent as yet had to reformat my hard drive to rid myself of any virus or malware. although I did download a virus that was attached to a download that I got from microsoft downloads that was recommended through this site ??????

all I did, I deleted the file and put my laptop back one day with system restore. then I did a virus scan with ad aware.

luckily for me I had removed the problem without any bad damage caused to my laptop.

keep up the great work.

regards Pete

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Reformatting because of virus/malware.
by rubyjune / December 5, 2009 7:42 AM PST

Once I actually ended up reformatting twice for the same problem! After calling Dell tech support, and ending up with worse problems than before calling, I reformatted, reinstalled all my programs, and had the same problems. The second time, I reformatted and stopped to check out the system after each program installation. The problem was that I was running two anti-virus programs! Getting rid of one solved my problem.

The last reformat was because both CD drives refused to work despite reinstalling drivers. The problem was intermittent, but one day Windows just refused to load.

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Never, & I hope it stays that way
by Sattamander / December 5, 2009 1:44 PM PST

I guess working on computers for over 20 years and being very un-trusting has saved me this step though I have cleaned up a couple of infected computers for friends. My advice has always been "If in doubt wipe it out". I may be wrong but I think a lot of "professionals" resort to this step because it is a lot faster and easier to accomplish than "cleaning out" an infection. But as always, it is easier to stop an infection than to cure one. I am amazed to see how many people have no idea as to whether or not their virus protection is up to date. Far too many people tend to believe that they only need buy the software once and its done. We will need to push education in this area, especially since we all know few, if any, people back-up their data. You might want to ask that question next, "How often do you back-up your data?" or even scarier, "Have you ever backed-up your data?"

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by willy74 / December 6, 2009 10:27 AM PST

My damaging program was Windows Antivirus 2009. The popup came up when my son was at home. By the time I came home. It was popping up everywhere and deleting files to the point that I could barely open my task manager. All my restore points were gone. I could not do a regular reformat. The command would not work. I downloaded malwarebytes anti-malware (it took forever). I scanned my computer and that malware had copied itself over 20 times. I removed those then ran my antivirus software, which removed a few more copies.

My pc ran super slow but I was able to reformat the hard drive. I almost thought my hard drive was toast.

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Never in the 20+ years of owning Macintosh
by lederemc / December 6, 2009 10:48 PM PST

I bought my first Mac (SE) in 1986 (I think). I still have it and it still works. I get it out of the closet every Jan 1st to boot it up. Over the years I have owned 5 or 6 Macintoshes.... upgrading every 3 to 5 years. I now have a MacBook Pro. I have never used anti-virus and never been infected. However, the PC I use a work is a constant nightmare. It has a couple of anti-virus/malware programs on it sucking up valuable CPU cycles. I have never had to reformat the disk... that what an IT department is for.

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