Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Anti-virus programs are good at removing more problems, but occasionally they can't. We'll look at approaches to manually dealing with the issue.

My anti-virus software says a trojan was found on my computer, and the file in which the trojan lies can not be cleaned, deleted, or quarantined. I have pictures of my children that I don't want to lose. Is there a way for me to delete that file where the trojan is and save the pictures of my children? I was told if the trojan couldn't be quarantined, deleted, or cleaned, then I would need to completely start my hard drive over from scratch. Is this true?

On the surface the answer here is simple: you should be able to recover your pictures safely and still remove the trojan. And yes, I'll walk through how you might do that.


There's a much larger issue at play here. One that scares me much more than the trojan.

Before I get to removing the trojan, I have to deal with the bigger issue.

You're not backing up.

Seriously, if the pictures that are so important to you are in one place and one place only, you will lose them. Some day that hard disk will die or your computer will have some kind of serious problem, and everything will be lost.


I hear it repeatedly from many people. They've placed all their eggs in one basket, and the basket breaks. Sometimes they can get lucky and data recovery tools can be used (sometimes at great cost), but why risk it?

I can't emphasize this enough: start backing up. Copy things that are important to you to another computer, burn them to CD-ROM, get an external hard drive, use a backup program or a backup service, but do something.

Back up, back up regularly, and start backing up now.

End of sermon.

"Back up, back up regularly, and start backing up now."

OK, now, about those trojan files that can't be removed.

First, make note of the full path to each of the files that can't be deleted by your anti-virus software.

Then boot into Safe Mode (typically that means pressing F8 as Windows begins to boot, and selecting Safe Mode). Then delete(*) named files by hand. It's quite possible you'll need to alter their read-only status to do so.

If that doesn't work (and it won't for some viruses), then you can try using the MoveOnBoot utility as discussed in How do I delete a file in use? to delete the file before Windows boots.

If that doesn't work, though it should, then my next step would be to boot into the Windows Recovery Console. If you boot from your Windows CD, then the recovery console should be one of your options. Once in, the recovery console is nothing more than a Windows Command Prompt with a limited set of commands available. You should be able to delete the files here.

MoveOnBoot should work and the recovery console should work, but if for some reason they both fail, or are unavailable, then the last approach I would take gets just a little geeky: boot from a Linux live CD. Many such as the ever popular Knoppix or Ubuntu distributions boot into Linux using only the CD-ROM, and then allow you to access the hard drive on your machine. The "geeky" part is simply knowing how to navigate around in Linux.

(*) Note: Though I use the word "delete" above, it's actually safest to copy the files to another location, or preferably to a floppy disk or some other removable media. There's always a slight chance that the files are actually required and you'll need to be able to restore them should your system fail to boot. In a case like that, if things really are that damaged, then a repair install of Windows may be called for.

Article C3111 - August 8, 2007 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

August 8, 2007 1:13 PM

There's also a free program called Unlocker that might help you out in this situation..

If you follow the link below, you will see just how much better it is than most other programs that do this type of thing, including GiPo@MoveOnBoot.
(see the chart at the bottom)

August 10, 2007 6:53 PM

Actually, for the novice persons the easier thing would be the following:
1) Upload those pictures to a website. There are plenty of websites where you could upload for free.
2) Then do whatever you want to clean up your computer. Then download the pictures again. So you will not risk deleting your pictures anyway.

Jim Breslin
August 10, 2007 7:00 PM

Great stuff, Leo, but I think the first step should be to try another anti-virus program, such as the free version of AVG or Panda. On several occasions, I have been able to do that, and avoid a lot of hassle.

Raymond Hughes
August 10, 2007 10:58 PM

I should back up important files but how do you put(example) pictures onto a CD. I think they call it burning. Do you need a speacial program. Any way I think the information in your letters are good for more experienced computer people.

August 11, 2007 3:43 PM

Unlocker has worked for myself many times and is a great program when normal delete or an erase program does not work.

August 12, 2007 8:50 AM

Regarding burning to a CD:
There are special programs, such as Nero or Easy Media Creator which you can purchase, or free programs (find some on If you have Windows XP, it has a built-in burning utility, which you can use by dragging-and-dropping the files you want to copy to an optical drive (of course, this assumes that you have a burner as one of your optical drives).

August 12, 2007 11:49 AM

I had a similar problem recently. I could not start windows in safe mode, F8 does not seem to work for me. What I did was re-start windows with the windows restore turned off. It worked!

September 3, 2007 8:47 AM

I recommend this procedure:

It has saved my life (and that of many others) on numerous occasions.

Good luck!

November 18, 2008 7:05 AM

my removable disc says it has some virus.hw can i remove it.

Jim Taylor
March 20, 2009 6:50 AM

I removed several trogans that I got yesterday, I used Malwarebytes. Now when I go to my pictures, the folders are there with the title, but they won't open. Any suggestions?

July 4, 2009 11:03 AM

I have a problem - my Eset antivirus says I have trojan that cannot be deleted. It's (supposedly) on operating memory (operatin memory - Win32/rootkit.agent.ODG - trojan)I tried scanning with Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware but it doesn't detect any malicius files. So I tried to find a path - well I can't find the path or the file. So I can't even delet it manually as the article above suggests. What can I do? Someone please help.

anthony garcia
July 8, 2010 1:42 AM

Yeah if you are not able to get rid of this trojan then u may need to format ur drive in that case you will loose data.Here is one product Advanced System Optimizer that have various tools and most importantly an AntiSpyware and a data recovery tool Undelete.You can firstly try to clean your system with the help of the tool System Protector and most probably can get rid of the trojan.But in some cases it is possible that the best of the AntiSpyware may also not revert back the changes that are caused due to spywares even though they remove the infections...So it is better to stay protected rather then cure.
.Now in case if you are forced to format your drive then you can use the other tool Undelete to recover the lost data...this recovers the data even after format...but do take care that b4 recovering the data u don't overwrite any data.Hope you can overcome ur problem..u can download this from cnet

April 4, 2013 7:01 AM

i had similar problems using norton but i then used hitman pro and it managed to get rid of it. they do a free trial as well

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.