Stop Trying to Clean Your Infected Computer! Just Nuke it and Reinstall Windows

November 22, 2014 – 8:00 AM

Some people spend hours — maybe even days — trying to clean an infected Windows system and ensuring it’s actually clean and safe afterward. It’s usually not a good idea to do this — just reinstall Windows and start over.

This may seem like a daunting task, especially if you don’t have good backups of your important files. But it’s worth it to quickly obliterate an infection and ensure your system is safe.

The key to securing your computer is ensuring it doesn’t get infected in the first place. That’s why people run antivirus applications that can check programs before they run, ideally preventing a piece of malware from running even once. If malicious software makes it through this protection, it has free rein over your system until it’s discovered and removed.

This is a problem for many different reasons. The malware can take this chance to burrow deeper into your system, hiding itself from being discovered by installing a rootkit that starts up during the boot process. It can infect various system files. It can use its access to transmit your personal data, credit card numbers, and passwords over the Internet.

Worse yet, malware can function as a Trojan horse, opening the floodgates to additional malware that it will download and install from the Internet. If you find your computer is actually infected by a piece of malware, you don’t know if that’s the only piece of malware that’s infected your computer.


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