Ask Leo: Massive malware infection…time for a new machine?


By Leo Notenboom

I have downloaded much of my music from the piratebay and torrentspy

using bittorrent. I recently bought a new computer because my old

computer had too many viruses to be repaired and now I want to transfer

the music to the new computer. I was wondering if because my old

computer was extremely infected with viruses and because my music has

come from an untrustworthy source is it safe to put that music on the

new computer so that the new computer will not be infected with


Clearly downloading files from untrustworthy sources is bad.
Transferring those files to another computer doesn’t magically make
them safe.

But that’s not why I’m addressing this question.

You should never have to buy a new computer because of virus


I hear this often enough that I want to address it and clear up the

The fundamental concept that seems to get lost is the difference
between hardware and software.

Your computer, the box, the power supply, the hard disks, the
monitor, the CD-ROM drive … these are all hardware. They’re physical
things that you can see, touch and feel.

Windows, your applications, your data, your pictures and anything
else stored on your computer are software. They’re simply data
– nothing more than a large collection of ones and zeros – stored on
magnetic, electronic or optical media.

Viruses are software. They are nothing more than
data. Data that’s crafted to cause your computer to misbehave, but data

“… replacing your computer because of a virus
is like discarding your toaster because the bread was moldy.”

And data can be erased.

Without replacing the hardware.

I’ll put it this way: replacing your computer because of a virus is
like discarding your toaster because the bread was moldy. You can clean
the toaster and get fresh bread. You can clean your computer and
reinstall all your software.

Yes, it could be a bit of work, but it’s cheaper than replacing your
entire computer. If you have all your installation CDs, it could even
be free.

And it’s all that’s required, even after the worst malware

So what are your options?

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4 thoughts on “Ask Leo: Massive malware infection…time for a new machine?”

  1. I know one thing, after working in a computer store in a medium size town the biggest thing that I see is this….EDUCATION…people get a computer and have no earthly idea what they are doing! When I got my very first major desktop in the 90’s I spent 12 hours a day for a whole month educating myself on how the OS and the internet works! If people would take the time, especially these days with so much more info thru google and such, they would know how to backup their data or how to take care of a computer in general and how to protect themselves. I now work in a computer store where we build our own computers and service and re-furbish older ones. Since I have been here, I have learned SO much more and am able to pass that on to customers…but it isn’t guaranteed that they won’t get infected, it is always someone else who uses their machine that gets it infected…..when is the security software community going to get a grip on this issue? Don’t get me wrong, it keeps us in business, but now I see smartphones getting attacked…this is unbelievable! And I have to agree with DavidW…it CAN mess up your hardware, like the HARDDRIVE!! I have seen it first hand….

  2. [quote]You should never have to buy a new computer because of virus infections.


    Wrong! Software can change and erase settings for hardware which can destroy it. Not so much anymore, but there are viruses which have been known to erase the motherboard BIOS. Kriz/Chernoble come to mind immediately. Viruses have also been known to erase firmware settings. In these situations, the hardware must be replaced. You can argue that you still don’t need a whole new computer, but for most people it will cost about as much to replace a motherboard (especially if the system is more than a couple years old).

    Although rare, it is possible for malware to destroy hardware. The rest of the article is good and addresses a valid point. Many people don’t understand the difference between broken hardware and a broken operating system. 🙂

  3. You don’t back up your Computer, you back up your data. Your Computer is easily replaceable, your data probably isn’t. There are only TWO kinds of Computer users: those who have lost data or wrecked a setup, and those who will. Computer users who are religious about making backups fall into the first group. Welcome to the club. Unless your data exists in three seperate places, then it doesn’t exist at all!

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