Reinstall vs. Virus Removal Attempts

If your machine has been infected with a computer virus, we recommend that you back up your files and reinstall your operating system (Windows, Mac OS), avoiding manual virus removal attempts entirely.

Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of each approach.

Operating System Reinstallation

Pros Cons

100% confidence that you've removed all infections from your computer.

Freshly installed operating systems run faster than ones that have been compromised by viruses and especially spyware.

Can take considerably less time, if you prepare for it. People who choose this route are often up and running within a day of getting infected.

If you do it yourself, it costs nothing more than your time. Friends, neighbors or family members may be able to help.

The University's Personal Device Support service offers a secure operating system reinstallation service for a fee.

If you forget to back up your personal files (papers, music, saved games, etc.) to external media or other storage device, you will lose them permanently.

Might cost you money if you can't perform the reinstallation yourself.

You might not have all the necessary software.

Virus Removal Attempts

Pros Cons

If the virus you've been infected with is well-known, there may be a "removal kit" on the Symantec Security Response website which you can download, install, run, and be done.


Tech Stop offers limited free consultation on virus removal.


If you don't have the necessary software (operating system disks, software disks), and have no way of getting them, then attempting to repair the system is the only option you have. It's very important to keep the system installation and repair disks that come with your computer. If you didn't receive such disks, then your repair options are much more limited.

There is absolutely no way to be certain your machine isn't still infected. Continued infection puts your computer and others on the University network at risk, and your network access may be shut off multiple times.

If the virus removal attempt fails, you will be facing the clean system reinstallation you tried to avoid in the first place. This could drag out the problem and cost you more time and frustration.

The virus may contain one or more Trojan horse programs to replace programs you trust, and may fake the results of virus scans, task manager results, and other programs commonly used during a virus cleanup.  You might not know whether you have removed all of the infection.

The infection could have installed one or more "back doors", designed to grant easy access to the system in the future.