If a computer virus strikes...

2012-03-18 14:36

Berlin - When a computer virus strikes, should you install new virus protection or wait until problems manifest themselves?

The best solution? Find special scanner software from which you can boot up a system so it can be searched through and cleaned up. As a bonus, some of these options are free.

Examples of such software include the BitDefender Rescue CD or the Kaspersky Rescue disc. Both can be downloaded for free as ISO files and burned as a memory map volume. Using standard Windows tools, you can get the file with a simple click.

There's also the option of saving the Kaspersky ISO data onto a USB stick. The manufacturer offers the perfect complement for that option: the USB Rescue Disk Maker. The tool has to be opened through a contextual menu with administrator privileges. Data already saved on the stick is kept safe.

The tool installs a boot sector on the stick and integrates the necessary data for a rescue CD. This usually means about 200 megabytes (MB) of data.

Free rescue

Other free rescue CDs available are the AntiVir Rescue CD, the F Secure Rescue CD or the AVG Rescue CD.

"It's important to start up the computer with the boot CD/DVD of an anti-virus programme and not to go looking for viruses with your current operating system," says Wolfgang Hosbach, editor with the German publication PC Magazin.

That's the only way that so-called rootkits can be found, which might have taken root on the hard drive. If you're dealing with a truly tough virus, it's best to use a series of rescue CDs one after another, advises Hosbach.

If this doesn't find the problem, then the whole computer has to be rebooted. "That's not the worst solution," says Hosbach. "Data can be resurrected with a Live Linux system, also started off a CD, onto an external USB drive."

Freeware Sardu can be used to set up a multiboot USB stick that holds multiple virus scanners, just with a few clicks in the assistant programme. Users just need to use the right rescue CD to load the tool.


There are also a host of Linux Live systems like BackTrack, Fedora or Ubuntu that can be integrated. When doing so, use the progress bar or the report function to check the current status. On the right, a display shows how big the multiboot system is. If all ISO files have been downloaded, then the stick onto which the system should copy the data can be searched, just by clicking Search USB.

Users can then use the stick to boot up a computer and use the scanners to check the system. If you do boot up a computer via USB, then it's often necessary to fix certain settings in BIOS or to call up the boot menu while the system is starting.

The multiboot stick can also be used to check the computer regularly with the various rescue discs. After all, it's always possible that a virus or a worm might go unnoticed during regular operations.

Windows Defender Offline Beta lets users of Windows PC have a graphical interface when using its rescue CD. But be careful, because it's easy to accidentally damage the entire operating system.

"A virus problem in a computer is definitely not trivial. The user cannot always remove the damage by himself," says Christian Meyer, chief editor of the IT web portal ChannelPartner. Do-it-yourself repairs can quickly lead to a complete loss of all data. "Especially if you're dealing with critical and sensitive data, you should get an expert."

However, there are options, like Microsoft Safety Scanner, for running checks with an operating computer. 

  • barend.wasserman - 2012-03-18 15:14

    Honestly, that is a good way to do it. I've got a hard drive connected to my pc dedicated to Ubuntu Linux. I have installed BitDefender on it and on a weekly basis scan the pc. I always explain it to people who question like this: "If you access your hard drive with Linux and scan the pc for viruses, it's like a surgeon removing cancer from a patient. The virus lies dormant and can't do anything because it can not operate without Windows." I have found quite a lot of virus's with this procedure which slipped past the updated antivirus on my pc.

  • halicon76 - 2012-03-18 15:16

    alternatively get a mac and save your time and money

      michael.liebenberg - 2012-03-18 15:52

      Once you go MAC, you don't go back. Windows is the biggest virus of them all

      Citroes - 2012-03-18 17:02

      Agree 100%!! Windows is one big virus. Macs are amazing pcs

      Shaun.groenewald - 2012-03-19 08:58

      "save money" ROFL

      profkaygee - 2012-03-19 09:50

      You do know that there are antiviruses for macs right? Now why would there be an anti-virus for something that does not get viruses? And as for the save money part, I tend to disagree.

  • janalbert.vandenberg - 2012-03-19 08:49

    Mmmm... sometimes I get so bored of the MAC vs Windows vs Linux rants. Their individual fans treat those operating systems with near religious fervour. "We only use Linux unlike you Windows fools..." bla bla bla. I'm sure if everyone was using Linux, there would be more Linux based viruses. And I'm sure any operating system will have some exploitable bug somewhere, it's just a matter of sitting down and finding them. My verdict: determine what you need to do, and use the OS that best supports the functionality you need. If you need to use the Office suite, Windows will most likely be the best option. Sure, you can tell all your office staff they must spend the next six months learning LaTEX, and waste all that valuable time? It may satisfy your superiority complex, but won't make a big difference on the profit margin either way...

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