Restoring vs. Cleaning Computer after Infected by Virus

I’ve noticed for quite some time that many of the local Bakersfield computer techs (and I’m sure elsewhere) have been pushing to ‘clean’ Windows-based computers of viruses.  What I find interesting is few technicians focus on restoring a computer back to its original state.

In my opinion and experience, cleaning a computer should be the last option, while restoring a computer should be the first option.  Hopefully this article will give you some insight and advice as to the differences.

When a computer has been infected by a virus or malware, I generally find that no matter how well the computer has been ‘cleaned’ there is always remnants leftover, which continues to impact the performance of the computer.

In fact, most computer I’ve worked on that are 2-3 years old, are already running slow because of excessive programs being installed and unnecessary applications running in the background.  Catch a virus or malware and performance really takes a dive.

Restore Options

So let’s talk about restore options.  If your computer didn’t come with restore media, you may want to see if you are able to create it yourself using an existing application on the computer.  This would entail running a program that is supplied by your computer which will allow you to create the restore media using either CDs or DVDs.  In fact, regardless if you are having performance problems, it’s always a good idea to have a restore option for your computer.

Another option is to see if your computer has a restore partition on the hard drive.  A restore partition is a section of your hard drive that has been designated to contain just the data needed to restore the operating system and any programs that originally came with it.  To start the restore process from the hard drive, you probably need to hit a designated function key (the F1-12 keys at the top of the keyboard) when the computer first boots up.

Finally, if you don’t have the restore media or the option to create it, and your hard drive doesn’t have a restore partition, some manufacturers will actually allow you to purchase it.  Some are reasonable, others are not.

And if none of the above restore options are available, then it’s probably time to look into having the computer cleaned as well as possible.

Restore Issues

There are some drawbacks to restoring your computer versus cleaning it.  First, if you’ve installed a lot of applications besides what came with the computer, they will all need to be reinstalled after the restore process.  This can be problematic, in that if you don’t have the application CDs or originally purchased them online, you may not be able to reinstall them.  This in itself may dictate the decision of cleaning versus restoring.

The other issue is related to restoring is user-created content, such as pictures, videos, music, documents, etc.  Basically anything you created that did not come with the computer.  All of this content will need to be backed up prior to doing a restore, as most of the time it’s wiped out after the process.

Some restore options allow you to restore without eliminating this data, but in most cases I would recommend doing what’s called a ‘destructive’ restore, where the hard drive is completely wiped clean prior to reinstalling the operating system.  By doing a destructive restore, you ensure that nothing is leftover from the previous installation, so viruses and performance issues are eliminated.

The final drawback of restoring your system has to do with operating system updates.  Chances are when you restore your system, updates that have been released since the system was brought home will need downloaded again and reinstalled.  While this seems like a lot of work, the payoff is increased system performance and knowing you have a completely clean system.

To recap, if you have the ability to restore your system; reinstall applications; and backup user-created content, I would recommend restoring a system back to its default state.  If there is no way to restore the system and reinstall applications, or there is too much user-created to backup, you may want to look into cleaning the system as best as possible.

If you have any questions about this article, feel free to contact me and I will be glad to give you a free assessment via email or phone.

1 thought on “Restoring vs. Cleaning Computer after Infected by Virus”

  1. Very good article

    I like to play in the safe side and also think restoring is the best option. But… is it safe enough restoring with in-built options like “restoring to default settings”? My computer has a trojan infection and I would like to know if restoring partitions in the hard drive can be also infected. Is it safer restoring all the partitions of the hard drive?

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