Wednesday, November 16, 2005

When All Else Fails

Sometimes the preceding recovery steps just don’t cut it. This is certainly the case if an MBR (master boot record) virus infects your PC. The MBR itself is a small program that keeps track of partitions and identifies those that are bootable (capable of launching an OS). It is the first program the computer sees upon accessing the hard drive. Consequently, when a virus infects and corrupts the MBR, the computer cannot launch the OS nor do much of anything else. When this happens, your only option is to rebuild the system from the MBR up. That typically requires formatting (preparing a drive to accept data) the hard drive.
An MBR virus is just one reason you might need to format your hard drive after an infection. Another reason is security. Viruses put your system at risk by changing the system files in ways that expose security vulnerabilities. Formatting the drive and rebuilding the system effectively hide those vulnerabilities from prying eyes. You also may need to format the hard drive if a virus damaged the system so much that you notice significant problems with basic functionality.
Whatever the reason, you cannot take the formatting process too lightly. Formatting a hard drive essentially wipes the drive clean of all data. As a result, you will have to repartition the drive, reinstall an OS, reinstall the programs you frequently use, and restore data files from your most recent backup. You can expect to spend at least half of a day getting your system back in order after tackling the formatting process, but that’s the price you pay for failing to invest in anti-virus software.

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