Can a virus still infiltrate a hard drive after it has been completely reformatted?
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive emails regarding relevant topic offers from TechTarget and its partners. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact TechTarget at 275 Grove Street, Newton, MA.
If you choose to reformat a hard drive, you are essentially creating a new, blank indexing scheme, which will make every sector available to write new files. This also makes it appear as though there are no files, directories and data on the drive. However, there is no need to panic, reformatting doesn't actually delete the binary files. While specialist programs can retrieve a lot of the "wiped" files, a virus, or any other program for that matter, is not capable of resurrecting after a disk format.
However, reformatting your hard drive and reinstalling your operating system and programs is very time consuming and it may not solve your problem of being infected by a virus or viruses. Although these viruses will be removed, they can reappear if you have not fixed the security weakness that initially infected your system. Before going the reformatting route, I would run antivirus and antispyware programs that have up-to-date signature files to ensure that your firewall settings are correct. You can also clean your computer by using the viral removal tools available from the Symantec site. I would only reformat and reinstall if you are still suffering from the virus after the checks have been completed. On the other hand, if your drive is part of a system that is used for critical or sensitive work, and it is imperative that it is free from viruses, Trojans and intruder modifications, I would seriously consider reformatting. In this case, merely determining and fixing the vulnerability may not be enough.
If you decide to reformat your hard drive, you will need to backup all your key data, ensure that you have all the original distribution media and any special drivers your system requires. You should physically disconnect the computer from the Internet before reformatting and leave it disconnected until it is fully patched and protected by a firewall. If the computer has a wireless card, remove or shield it so the computer cannot connect to any access points until it is secured. You will also need to reformat and reinstall the operating system, and install all the latest security patches before reconnecting to the Internet. A computer that doesn't have proper patching and firewall protection can be infected within seconds of being connected to the Internet.
Dig Deeper on Malware, Viruses, Trojans and Spyware
Related Q&A from Michael Cobb
The Android Trojan Triada has the ability to replace a device's system functions with its own. Expert Michael Cobb explains how to mitigate the ...continue reading
An old Java vulnerability was discovered to have been ineffectually patched. Expert Michael Cobb explains how this happened and what can be done to ...continue reading
Google's Certificate Transparency tool publicly logs certificates issued by CAs. Expert Michael Cobb explains how the log viewer works to improve ...continue reading
Have a question for an expert?
Please add a title for your question
Get answers from a TechTarget expert on whatever's puzzling you.