How to Delete the Worst Computer Virus (Part 2)

Tech Talker has more tips on how to recover your system from a catastrophic virus – and protect it from future infections.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #80

Last week I covered the steps to go through when trying to remove a nasty piece of malware from your computer. If you haven’t yet checked out last week’s episode, I recommend you do so now.  Also, brush up on your virus knowledge with my episodes on the Anatomy of a Virus and how to Easily Remove a Virus.>

In the previous episode of this series, I went over how to quarantine your computer, get a set of tools together, and run diagnostics to figure out what you’re dealing with. I mentioned at the end of last week’s episode that if you’re lucky enough to be reading or listening before something has happened to your computer, there are some steps you can take to make sure that if you do get a bad malware infection, you can be back up and running in no time at all.

The Image Backup

The best way to clean a system before it has been infected by malware is to restore it from an earlier time when there was no malware. This may sound like some computer magic but it’s actually a feature built into many modern operating systems and can be done easily on both Mac and PC computers.

What essentially happens is that we will be backing up your computer. However, this method of backup is a little bit different than what you’re probably used to. With a traditional backup you generally save individual computer files to another drive or up in the cloud. This is great because it saves all of your files. However, if you were to try and restore from this type of back up, you would still be missing your operating system.

See also: How to Back Up Your Computer

This more advanced form of backup is called image backup. Basically, it will take a snapshot of your hard drive at a given point in time. You can then copy this image somewhere else, or put it on another hard drive. Say you created an image of your hard drive last week on Friday night. If you were to recover from that image, your computer would boot up just as if it were last week Friday. Any system changes, installed programs, changes of your background or apps would be completely preserved.

Why is this useful for us?

Well, imagine you took an image back up every night. If you were to get a horrible system-crushing virus the next day, you could simply restore your computer from that image and it would be like nothing ever happened. It would have been like putting your computer in a time machine and turning back the clock.

This is a pretty slick way of going about recovering from a virus because there is a minimal amount of down time and you can be sure there will be no lingering traces of a virus that might come back to haunt you later on. No to mention that this sort of back up could majorly save you in the event that your hard drive crashes or breaks and you need to replace a broken drive. You can simply copy the image to your new hard drive and boom – you’re all set. It would be as if nothing had happened.

So if this is such a foolproof backup, why the heck doesn’t everyone do it? Well, it’s because this type of backup requires quite a lot of space. Basically, to do this you would want a second hard drive or dedicated network storage to be able to have enough space to keep two copies of your hard drive.

This means pretty much dedicating on whole spare hard drive just to image backups. To some people this may seem like a waste, but if you’ve ever been down before due to malware or a hard drive malfunction, that hard drive image was probably worth its weight in gold!

How to Do an Image Backup?

Now you can see the benefit to having an image back up of your hard drive, but you’re probably wondering just how you can perform this sort of a backup.

If you have Windows on your computer, you can set this type of backup by going into the control panel, selecting Backup and Restore, then clicking the box “Include a system image.” This will create a system image according to a schedule that you set. This could be weekly, monthly, or even nightly!

If you’re a Mac user, you can download a free program called Carbon Copy Cloner which will allow you to do the same thing.

One last comment I have is to not rely on Windows System Restore. This is a feature of Windows which is designed to keep a backup of your settings every time you install or remove a program, install updates, and perform other tasks like this. The reason I won’t be recommending you use Windows System Restore is because if your computer does get infected by a virus, the virus is usually smart enough to wipe out all of your system restores. System restore also does you no good in the case of a hard drive malfunction because it is actually stored on your hard drive.

With that, here are your Quick and Dirty Tips for creating a hard drive image of your computer:

  1. Make sure the backup location of your drive is big enough to accommodate a copy of your original hard drive.

  2. It is best to have your computer set up on a schedule to create an image of your drive so you never have to remember to do it.

  3. Don’t rely on Window’s System Restore feature as a backup.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.