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One Reason Why You Don’t Need a New Computer

I run into this so often I want to record it for posterity:

Malware does not physically harm your computer.

You do not need to get a new hard drive because of malware. You do not need to buy a new machine because of malware.

You don’t.

Here’s why.

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Malware is just software

Malware (viruses, spyware, bots, ransomware, or whatever) doesn’t hurt your computer’s hardware or your hard drive. Even with the worst of infections, they’re fine.

Malware is software — nothing more, nothing less. And software can be erased.

This is important, so I’ll say it again: software can be erased.

Malware is software. Software can be erased. That means malware can be erased.

Bad Computer DayErasing malware

I absolutely admit, it may not be pretty. You may have to erase Windows, your applications, and your data files, but none of that involves replacing hardware.

At worst, it means reinstalling Windows and your applications from scratch, and then restoring your data.

If you’re prepared with good backups, it can be as simple as restoring a backup image created before the infection.

And yes, you can sometimes get away with removing malware using anti-malware tools and manual procedures.

If the thought of new hardware has entered your mind, I’d guess it’s this approach — attempting to remove malware using various types of tools — that didn’t work. Oh, well. The next step is to erase your hard drive and start over.

But shelling out money on a new machine or hard drive should never be the knee-jerk reaction to malware, no matter how bad the infection.

If you really want a new machine, get yourself a new machine. If you want a bigger hard drive, get a bigger hard drive. You don’t have to do either of those things because of malware. That’s just wrong1.

BIOS infections

There is a class of infection that can potentially affect your BIOS (or UEFI) — that’s the software that loads the operating system from disk, among other things, and is stored in a chip on your computer’s motherboard.

However:

  1. The chances are extremely small that malware affected your computer’s BIOS.
  2. BIOSes are software. This means most BIOSes can be “erased” and reset.

So it’s extremely unlikely to happen, and it’s extremely unlikely that it can’t be reset.

BIOS-affecting malware is a conclusion you should never jump to.

Save your money

Even if you’re paying someone else to do the work, the worst-case scenario — reinstalling everything from scratch — is still generally cheaper than purchasing a new machine.

Even with a new machine, you’ll still have to reinstall all of your applications, and you’ll still have to recover your data from backups.

You may have a newer, shinier, faster machine, but you’ll also have less money.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ll say it again:

Malware does not physically harm your computer.

You do not need to get a new hard drive because of malware, and you do not need to buy a new machine because of malware.

Save your money.

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Video Narration

Footnotes

1: It might be convenient, if you have to set up your existing machine all over anyway; it’s just not required.

23 comments on “One Reason Why You Don’t Need a New Computer”

  1. I do agree with replacing XP because it’s pretty old. For more than 1 year, my high school has slowly been replacing XP with 7 because XP is a big security risk, as many of us know. But I didn’t know that THAT many people actually replace the WHOLE computer because of a tiny little infection.

    I have heard of the Windows 9x virus CIH (named after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster), but it’s an ancient virus that has no effect on NT based OSes. Even though it destroyed the BIOS, MBR and FAT, those could be replaced. Sure, back in the ’90s, viruses REALLY were viruses, meaning they injected themselves into .exe files. But those .exe files could be destroyed, and a shop could reflash the BIOS, and there were, and still are, ways to recover data with a missing FAT.

    Reply
  2. Leo, I agree with your assessment of unit replacement. Like you, I have often seen people go out at the first sign of a malware problem and purchase a new unit. Then the next step is to throw the old unit in the trash or give it away. There are, to me, only two reasons that the purchase of a new unit should be considered. First, if the unit is diagnosed with hardware problems that repair cost will equal 50% or greater the purchase price of a new unit. Second, if the unit does not have sufficient resources to support a major Microsoft operating system upgrade. Of course, for those units there is always an alternative enabled by the use of one of many distributions of Linux that are available. Ubuntu is the most popular choice. For units with extremely limited resources, Puppy is a good alternative. Thanks for all that you do for all of us. We sincerely appreciate all your efforts and hope that you and your family have a really great holiday season.

    Reply
    • Unless the damaged computer is relatively new, the 50% or greater guideline would be a bit high. If, for example, you have a 3 year old computer which originally cost $600, the value of that computer might be around $200. In that case, a repair costing $300 would be more than the computer is worth.

      Reply
  3. Yes, I did read the article “One Reason Why You Don’t Need a New Computer”; realized that not all of your “free downloads” recommendations are free. The Windows 7 Driver download will ask you to pay before anything else. I agree that you will pay a lot more for a new PC; however, all depends how much you can afford. Thanks for your newsletters. I find them very helpful. Irene.

    Reply
    • Those are ads not recommendations. In fact Leo recommends getting drivers only from the device manufacturers’ websites.It seems that you might have mistaken an advertisement for some kind of recommendation. Ask Leo! actually has only limited control over the advertisements that are displayed. It’s important to realize that for any website, not just Ask Leo!, an advertisement should never be interpreted as any kind of endorsement.

      You can find more details here: What’s the difference between an ad and your recommendation.

      Reply
    • If there’s a driver download that requires you to pay, then it’s NOT a driver download that I recommend. Drivers should be free from Microsoft, from the computer manufacturer or from the device manufacturer.

      Reply
      • Just a suggestion. Could you create a box with the word “Advertisement” at the top? The external ads look like they are part of the article because there is very little to indicate they are something other than information that you are providing. I certainly can understand a new visitor being confused. Even an experienced person like myself has been caught.

        Reply
  4. What’s worse, if you do buy a new machine, odds are you’ll make exactly the same mistake you made on the OLD machine, and the new machine will be infected in the same way. Lather, rinse, repeat…

    Reply
  5. I just love every article I have read from your site, many have saved me time, worry and money.
    Leo, please keep on, keeping on.
    Merry Christmas to you and all your followers.
    ps
    “Have a Nice Day” unless “You have something else planned”

    Reply
  6. I have a Sony Vio laptop computer that came with a DVD player that Played both standard DVD’s and Blue Ray DVD’s. A while back it stopped playing Blue Ray but would still play standard Dvd’s. I went into Best Buy where I purchased the computer and they said I would have to pay a Tech Geek to fix the problem. I did not use Blue Ray that much anymore and decided to just live with the lack of Blue Ray capability. Now 4 months later it won’t play anything on the DVD player. When I turn on my computer you can hear the DVD player running and searching for something to read even though there is no disc in the player. It will finally shut off and I can go on to use my computer. However I now can’t use the DVD player to upload software, watch movies, etc. since it no longer works. I am not sure if this is a Virus, Software problem, or a Mechanical problem. How do I get help. Even If I buy a new computer I would want to transfer most of my current files onto my new computer and I certainly don’t want to transfer this problem to a new computer.

    Reply
    • This feels like a hardware problem – I’d actually first start by simply blowing air into / through the player. (A can of compressed air, inexpensive at your local office supply store). Make sure the rest of the machine is cleared out as well, but optical drives are notorious for being dust magnets, and I could see what you’re experiencing being the result.

      Reply
      • At my work place we had the exact same problem. I took a spare DVD player and that solved the problem. You do need to know how to take the old drive out disconnect three wires and reverse the procedures. And use a static ground strap. A defective drive, outside of blowing dust out, most likely is not worth trying to fix it.

        Reply
        • I’ve had optical drive failures a couple of times. I took the drive apart figuring I had nothing to lose anyway, and cleaned the laser lens of dust with a lens cleaner and it worked perfectly. On my Sony Vaio laptop, this would even be easier as the lens is exposed when you open the drawer and compressed air should do the trick in most cases.

          Reply
  7. You are so right! I had malware & my AVG didn’t catch it. AVG was basically useless & offered to help me remove it at a fee of $200. I saved everything I needed on a USB & then formatted the hard drive, reinstalling everything. I had a problem with Windows updates & Microsoft was very helpful to get everything updated. I no longer have AVG because upon reinstallation, the system kept crashing. I only use Microsoft Essentials and have been fine & speedy ever since.

    Reply
  8. Thanks for your many informative articles Leo. This one is something I get very annoyed about with some of my friends and Microsoft. One friend recently bought his second new computer in less than 12 months because of Malware. I told him to give it to me and I would fix it for him. But no, he decided it could not be fixed. It was a computer that had the minimum requirements for Windows 7 so therefore, very basic. I didn’t try too hard to stop him. However he bought a very similar minimum requirements computer again! Now the computer is telling him that it is under resourced and needs a better CPU and more memory!
    Meanwhile, it appears Microsoft is forcing more people to get themselves new computers to run Windows 8.1, just like they did with Windows 8 by by having some sort of extra security requirement that had to be included in the processor.
    Since my first computer in 1998, bought new, I have only bought “refurbished” computers that I can do anything with, including simulator games that require 3.2 or 3.4 GHz of processing capacity. A capacity very hard to find on today’s computers. I update the RAM and HDD myself and finish up with a very inexpensive but well resourced computer that Microsoft obviously doesn’t like, as I can’t install Windows 8 or 8.1 with a Pentium D 3.4GHz made in 2007. Also, in Australia on the date Windows 8 was released, all Microsoft Authorized Outlets, stopped selling Windows 7. So if you had an older computer, that didn’t have the type of Processor that Microsoft required you to have, you either stayed with XP or were forced to buy a new computer.
    I am happy that a week earlier I bought 2 copies of Windows 7 on disk!

    Reply
    • I don’t know what you mean by older computers not being able to run Windows 8. I installed Win 8 on my 2008 Asus 1000H netbook with a slow Atom 1.6GHz processor and it worked fine. Even faster than Win 7. It originally came with XP. The problem might be with your particular hardware.

      Reply
      • To install Windows 8 in Australia, Microsoft examined your computer and told you if your computer could/would run windows 8. It had something to do with the CPU. The CPU had to have some quite recent circuitry in it. Microsoft would not download the free Windows 8 to you if your CPU did not have these additions to your processor. That computer was an Acer of 2007 witch also had an Atom 1.6GHz CPU. It now runs Ubuntu. When I say “older” computers, I am referring to 6 or 7 years old – I have a 17yo running ’98 quite well.

        Reply
  9. Thank you. You have stopped me from thinking I need a new machine, when I haven’t got the money to buy one anyway.
    You do a marvellous job and I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles. Performing a public service whilst so many others are trying hard to sell us things we don’t really need. Thank you again!

    Reply
  10. I used to use AVG. I was stymied by a virus for a couple months until I realized that by default AVG didn’t scan removable media. Once I changed that setting and cleaned my USB memory stick, the computer stopped getting re-infected.

    The lesson is that sometimes it’s not your computer that is the root cause.

    Reply
  11. Not trying to be a smart a$$ or maybe i am, but Malware could given the right circumstances cause hardware damage (ask the Iranian’s about Stuxnet). Closer to general user reality malware could drive a CPU to overheat and possible cause damage.

    Reply

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