I have a hard drive that was diagnosed with a virus. I had it replaced but
it contains many files (pictures, data, etc.) that I would like to recover.
Would it be safe to connect it to my computer as a secondary drive and attempt
to copy those files to my computer’s primary drive?
I’m a tad concerned that there’s more going on here than you’ve stated.
There’s no reason to replace a drive just because it contains a virus. Viruses
don’t harm the hardware in any way that would necessitate replacement.
That having been said, your question is a good one: does mounting any disk,
be it a hard drive, DVD, CD-ROM or even a floppy, that contains a virus put
your system at risk?
Yes, of course there’s risk. But the risk is in what you do after you mount
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The key to viruses that inhabit some kind of media is that they must be run.
By that I mean that some program that contains the virus must actually be
executed on your computer in order for the virus to infect you. As long as the
virus isn’t executed, its mere presence doesn’t actually do anything. It simply
lays in wait.
So, yes, you’re quite safe to mount your hard drive and copy files off of
it, as long as you don’t copy or execute any file that is infected with a
virus. Seems simple, right?
Things are rarely simple.
At issue is how to make certain that nothing on that infected hard drive is
My actual recommendation is to run an up-to-date anti-virus scan of the
drive once you’ve mounted it. Let the scanner actually delete or at least
quarantine any of the files that it finds are infected. Scan again – and if
your scanner reports no viruses, where it did before, you’re likely clean, and
can copy away to your hearts content. (I must emphasize that it’s very
important that your anti-virus program’s database of viruses be up to date, to
make sure to catch even the most recent threats.)
anti-virus scan of the drive once you’ve mounted it.”
A common “gotcha” on removable media – meaning CDs, USB flash drives and the
like – is “autorun”. This rarely applies to hard disks (though I’ve heard
reports that it can). As soon as you insert the media, Windows looks for, and
then executes the autorun information on the media. That puts you at
immediate risk if that media has been infected. If you suspect issues, I
actually recommend turning of auto-run on all devices, at least until you have
your situation recovered and cleaned up.
So after all that, the last remaining piece of advice? Don’t run anything
from the infected drive. That means, essentially, don’t double click
on anything. Copy off your pictures and other data, taking care to avoid any
program files or other executables.
And then once you have everything you want saved off of the drive, format
it. This will erase all its contents, including any malware, and give you lots
of room to copy whatever you like back to it.
In a case like this, I often look at the extra drive as a candidate for an
external USB enclosure. That way I can plug the now extra drive into any
machine I might want to.
And as a closing reminder: if that drive was the only place you were keeping
your data, you haven’t been backing up. Now’s also a good time to consider
implementing a backup strategy. That extra, empty drive you now have might be
just the thing to use.