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Tech Helproom

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Scanning an External Hard Drive for Viruses without Infecting my Laptop


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I have just had my laptop rescued from a major infestation of Worms and Trojans. It is now running McAfee Total Protection. I'm not really up on how different viruses work, but the infestation seems to have been triggered when I tried to use my usb card reader (normally works fine). Now I'm afraid to connect any of my usb memory sticks and devices in case they re-infect my pc (I've chucked the card reader away!).

However, I have a 1TB external hard drive which has all my documents and files for the last few years on it (plus back-ups)and would like to know if I can find out whether it is safe to use or not without re-infecting my laptop. Is it safe to plug in? The guy who fixed my laptop said to format the drive (which I assume would apply to my usb memory sticks too) but that will need me to plug it into my laptop wouldn't it?I don't want to loose these files so If I do that couldn't McAfee check it for viruses and tell me if it was safe to use? Feeling rather nervouse as I don't want to lose my Laptop again and need to do backup soon to secure the files currently on it (might have to get another hard drive!!)

All advice gratefully received by relative amatuer.

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If your antivirus software is "up to date" then plugging in your external drive is fine. Rush a full scan on it as soon as you can.

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'Seems a shade over the top to sling your card reader away. Like shooting the messenger.

A card reader is a fancy junction box, no more than that and cannot hold data.

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Fruit Bat /\0/\

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Disable all auto start functions to prevent anything from running on your USb equipment then plug in a do a scan and clean with your AV.

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To guarantee the existing state of your laptop you should Image the Partitions onto an external drive.

There are various free apps to do this (Easeus Todo, Macrium Free or Paragon Backup and Recovery 2012 Free)

Or a free Util in Windows 7 Backup and Restore Center.

These will compress the whole laptop system into a single file or set of files.

You make a bootable CD with the relevant app and should you ever wish to restore your working system, you boot it and navigate to the Image on the external drive.

Repeat the Imaging every week, say, and you will always have a recent one. Delete old ones when running short on space. They are very large. Some of the programs allow Incremental or Differential Image Backups which helps.

Obviously, you should be sure you do not Image a computer with a problem or infection. And it's always a good idea to keep the first. Think of it as your own 'Recovery' system.

The latest versions of these apps are now very good and packed with features. Sadly, they have become a little tricky for first time users in my opinion.

Well they confuse me and I know what I am doing. I wish developers would stop changing User Interfaces every time they bring out a new release.


You mention your important files and backups on your 1TB disc. Do note that these should on the laptop drive (or somewhere else).

You will lose everything one day if it is only on one physical drive.

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