Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
A virus attacks the software installed on your machine. Fixing it may take work, but hardware should not need to be replaced due to malware.
My wife opened a file that appeared to come from UPS and that was the end of my computer. It tried to install files called Antivirus XP, then it tried to install an XP Security Center and wanted me to register to rid my computer of the virus and give them my credit card#. My McAfee is disabled on every boot and Spybot won't run. It also wants to change a registry value and run buritos.exe. It has also changed my wallpaper with "Warning!" message that can not be changed. A diagnostic through one of the geek services says my hard drive is damaged. Is there any way to get rid of this virus without having to pay a fortune in a new hard drive plus all the other geek service charges? Or should I just get a new computer?
Your hard disk is not physically damaged. I'm hoping that the technical service company didn't really mean that. (If they did ... well, I'd use a different service next time.)
But you do have some work ahead of you nonetheless.
Bottom line: a virus is not going to physically harm your hard disk in such a way that you would need to replace it. And certainly nothing that would require a entirely new computer.
Viruses impact only the software installed on your machine and software can be fixed.
It just might be a painful fix.
It sounds like you got a double-shot of virus activity. The UPS (and Fedex, and USPS and other) phishing attempts showed up a few months ago, and I have to say that as a business owner who also ships UPS, they almost got me too. As usual, there were many signs that the email was a phishing attempt, but I had to look closely to make sure I wasn't about to delete an important issue relating to an actual customer shipment.
In addition, AntiVirus XP is another particularly nasty virus making the rounds right now. The major anti-virus programs are only just now catching up and detecting and removing it.
The real question boils down to this: if your machine is heavily infected by malware, what can you do to clean it up?
As I've mentioned before, there are two schools of thought:
try to clean it up
reinstall everything from scratch
The common attempts to clean it up boil down to running anti-malware software, possibly several different packages, repeatedly until the system comes up "clean". You might have to reboot into safe mode in order to do so.
And, because the alternative is so conceptually costly, "try to clean it up" is the option that most people attempt.
Sometimes it works. We think.
As I've also said before, though, once your computer has been infected by anything, it's not your computer any more. There's no guarantee that any amount of clean up will actually eradicate whatever was placed on your machine.
The only alternative is to start over.
And sometimes your machine is in such a bad state that you can't run any anti-malware programs.
The only alternative is to start over.
And starting over is simply this:
Reformat your hard disk, erasing everything on it (typically as part of the next step)
Reinstall Windows from scratch using your Windows installation CD or DVD
Reinstall all your applications from scratch.
Restore data (only) from your backup.
It's a huge pain.
But you know what? It's often less pain than all the failed cleanup attempts. And you know what you'll end up with when you're done.
But replacing hardware, be it a hard disk or an entire computer, is not part of the solution.
If you choose to replace something at this time, it's only because this is a convenient time to do so. If you're reinstalling everything, it's a fine time to upgrade your hard disk - or even your computer - for example.
But it's not required.
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