Virus Ruins Hard Drive?

Category: Quickies

Q:

The Geek Squad claims that my computer has a virus that has ruined the hard drive and that it should be replaced. I just can not see software ruining a hard drive, the machine still functions. Can this be true?




A:

I agree with you -- I've never heard of a virus that could do physical damage to a hard drive. Unless your computer is quite old, I recommend that you scrub it with a good anti-virus program and follow that with a spyware scan.

See my article Should I Buy Anti-Virus Software? for my recommended software.

If that fails to remove the virus, you can always reformat the drive and re-install Windows from the CDROM.

Posted by on 21 Aug 2005


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Most recent comments on "Virus Ruins Hard Drive?"

(See all 32 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Bill
21 Jan 2009

Forgive me, but I am so sick of this Urban Legend! There is no virus that will literally your hard drive. Yet, I get emails from people I know warning me that one of these viruses has been found and is going around.

Impossible! If all else fails, including your anti-virus program, your anti-spyware program, etc., simply reinstall your operating system. That will put your PC back to what it was like when you bought it.

I have pals who work in I.T., like Sun Microsystems, and they all say this is hogwash. However, a hard drive can go bad, sure. But, it won't be from a virus. For the last time, this is a hoax!!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ummm, right! That's what the article says. :-)


Posted by:

VAL
27 Jan 2009

i have a huge nasty virus and it put a partition that is write protected into my harddrive. I have formatted the whole computer but there is a drive boot(x) that is filled with files that i want to remove. how can I remove this drive using command prompt. i can not load windows onto my computer or anything until this drive is gone. Can you please help.

thankyou in advance, val

EDITOR'S NOTE: The FDISK utility will help you manage partitions.


Posted by:

Burt
23 Feb 2009

A sophisticated virus could run a low level format on your drive or reset your entire drive to 1010...etc. Never say that science can't so something.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, of course, but that's just writing to the disk, not causing physical damage.


Posted by:

nick
29 Jul 2009

I've just discovered a virus that does destroy hard drives. It destroyed my laptop harddrive and three other harddrives of people i know in the last week. It corrupts internet explorer and mozilla firefox browses first making them unusable, then after between 5 to 10 startups of the comp it destroys the boot sector on the harddrive making it unusable. It actual creates bad sectors in the boot sector so FDisk and Formating are not possible. If you find you are having browser problems with IE and Firefox on you PC i suggest formating before the boot sector can be infected.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You suggest *FORMATTING* as a cure for browser problems? Isn't that like suggesting decapitation as a cure for a headache? And are you going to keep the name of this awful virus a secret?


Posted by:

Matthew
26 Dec 2009

Ive delt with a lot of virus's and now of days they have virus that dont even require your computer to be turned on just as long as it is plugged into the wall it is enough. I to ran into this virus Nick is talking about atleast similiar one. The virus well even turn my computer on when it is off. Im to late though i attempt to reformat my computer and it wont let me it well just freeze up at oe of the reformat screens. Ive never encountered a problem like this before and I've seen some horrid virus's


Posted by:

Christopher
07 Mar 2010

I am not familiar with any viruses that attack the flash rom of harddrives, but it would be technically possible to damage the drive using a method similar to a firmware update. I have heard of viruses in the past that have done this with motherboard bios. But due to the very specific memory addresses that change with every brand and type of drive out there, I think this would be a very unlikely exploit. As a technician though, I have seen drive failure mysteriously linked with viruses. Such as a computer's drive will fail within weeks or days of a virus discovery. My theory is that it might be related the drive continually seeking in a certain sector. And over time this may cause actual damage to this one spot in the disk cylinder or even the drive arm.


Posted by:

charles
14 May 2010

Listen fellas, who ever the smug well paid writer or editor is , he is total clueless on viruses that destroy hard drives. Someone in china has created a Trojan hard drive destroyer, and has a condescending solution for getting rid of the virus he created online. Once you are attacked, even when you try to format the drive, the virus creates a 8mb partitian that can't be erased or formatted. The trojan attacks and destroys your "C" drive and like the creatures in the movie alien, you dare not kill it!!! It just gets worse, and laughs at XP installation attempts. Xp progress bar shows it's formatting the drive, and like the devil it reappears if you use FDisk to examin your drive. You guys remember those primitive low tech tools such as FDisk and Format, well they don't work.

The aliens have landed! And they kill hard drives! Guess they have been designed to increase China's hard drive sales in the United States!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Wow, Charles... I feel so stupid after reading your comment. I'm going to unplug my Internet connection and just hope they don't sneak in under my office door.


Posted by:

Ray
18 Jun 2010

I firmly believe in the "virus kills a hard drive" scenario. I have experienced a certain situation where my drive fails. But let me explain.

I now always format my drives into partitions due to one virus that made me lose a whole lotta files on my c-drive. At the same time another hard drive in my computer stayed unaffected. Since that time I make a small partition for my c-drive and op system, and load all my programs in a relatively small 2nd partition and then the third larger partition is my "working" or "storage".

Since then I have had something knock out my c-drive on two different hard drives. The drive wont work at all unless I put them into external cases by USB and then I can see the 3 partitions but only can access the 2nd and 3rd partitions. All that data has been recoverable. But no way can I recover the drive entirely to get that first partition. Fresh windows install cannot see any drive to partition or format.

I was for sure playing with some questionable software when this happened the second time. The drives are not dead, only made to look that way. So at least I have storage drives I can load and throw on a shelf.


Posted by:

Nightmare-Rex
01 Sep 2010

MABY the virus IS possible but not in the way you think. Perhaps it will edit the drivers for the hard drive (probably after reboot), then it will force the drive to spin really fast constantly 24/7 causing an overheat and forming bad sectors. that is the only way I could thing SOFTWARE could harm HARDWARE. Of course a half brained person would know to turn off the PC but what if they left the room for a few hours? How ever it is my personal theory but the drivers do tell the hardware what to do and can probably tell it to spin fast whenever the driver boots.


Posted by:

LloydCata
21 Nov 2010

Where's the smart-aleck response to Nightmare-Rex 01 Sep 2010? I have had the same thing happen more than once. And absolutely right that once the machine is restarted then the hard drive spins out of control until it locks up.

For all those so-called hardware/software gurus who 'know' all about this, please explain how a 'bios' gets infected...and then repost what else is possible from that point!


Posted by:

DMP-Tech
13 Dec 2010

In the last month, I've had hard drive failure on 4 computers. I was able to salvage 3 of them by flashing the BIOS and formatting the drives - 2 of them took some extra unexpected effort, such as removing the CMOS battery. The last victim was a portable. It hung, needing a hard reboot (hold down power button). It rebooted twice afterwards - the last time it failed shortly after XP loaded. In my experience, when a hard disk fails, it's typically a physical problem, maybe the platters won't rotate, or the heads just "clink". If it's a physical problem, the machine should still recognize the controller - it just won't be able to access the disk. If the disk can't be recognized, logically, it has to be the controller. Controllers, like any hardware, rely on a set of instructions that can be changed through a number of means. Saying that it can't be accomplished is like saying an iPhone can't be hacked. Build a bigger, stronger wall, and someone will tunnel under it.


Posted by:

dan rabbas
20 Feb 2011

hard drive is virus infected,can;t get in safe mode,blue screen reports a problen detected windows has been shutdown to prevent damaged to computer i want to format hard drive.o.s. is xp try kaspersky recuse disk,cant update,cant find my internet cable when i plug it in


Posted by:

Tony Ford
16 Sep 2011

Sick of unsafe web browsing? Tired of all those nasty viruses, trojans, and other nasty vermin? Want a more stable & safe operating system?

Ubuntu Linux!

Its free, Its safe, Its more stable then any Windows Based OS, little worry about viruses or other nasty annoying problems you experience often in Windows based OSes, Oh & did I mention its FREE!

http://www.Ubuntu.com

Both 32-Bit & 64-Bit 100% free & easy to setup & you can even run it from CD just to check it out.


Posted by:

jhon
29 Sep 2011

I think it cannot be some kind of curse im almost 100% sure that there is some kind of indetectable virus what destroying a hdd arm .


becouse ur hardware is controled by ur software so if virus can affect a software it can do anything by ur hardware also like for example increse a power to disk or affect it if ur connected to internet some hacker can send you a packets in java if u playing any game or if you are directly connected to some kind of game server or if you are using a software . i think admin is capable to send you an any packets to your computer what can destroy your hdd. Becouse they have posibility to do that. i think i resign from internet becouse its became a verry dangerous weapon against people .


Posted by:

Dan
03 Oct 2011

I think this HDD attacking virus is real. I had a low hour Maxtor 320Gb IDE go down the other day, getting more and more corrupt and slow, until it did nothing but move like a snail, or sometimes alternately freeze up. My Bios sees it, and the serial number is there. SMART shows the drive is good and a full, slow sector scan shows perfect. But, it shows a capacity of Zero,=Nothing. It will not reformat, and utilities do not work including Acronis. Disk management cannot make partitions, but sees a tiny one it cannot change, rename, reformat or remove. This drive, depending on the repair utility, has reported itself as either 58K, 80Gb, 8Gb, or, now get this, 2 terabytes. I've gotten the same old Seagate advice to use Seatools for DOS, which I already did. For some reason, even on another PC, Windows XP boots up from HHD, rather than from the CDROM drive, even though Bios is set to CD Bootup and the drive is Autorun. The drive drags down any PC it's connected to as a slave. What's going on here?


Posted by:

ogo
24 Nov 2011

dammn i had same prob.....every time i restart computer its becoming slower...and after some time i cant acces to windows or hdd at all...i had to replace it with new hard drive...cant belive they actually makeing these kind of things


Posted by:

diane
30 Oct 2012

My computer had a black screen with only a cursor flashing, I could get to the safe mode area but very unsure of computers,it will bring me to my sign on page in vista, as soon as I enter my user name etc.. it will go back to black screen, took the computer in, she said a virus was in there so badly that the only way was to send my hard drive out, which could cost hundreds, or thousands, she said she took my hard drive out , put it in her system and it still wouldn't stay up and running, my babies pictures are in there, my fathers before he passed away, my son in law who just passed in June at 29, leaving behind a 5 and 3 year, all his last videos are in there, I hate to believe I can't be helped, or that my "life" is basically gone... please help ..or if you know someone I could take it to. I live in Illinois. Thank you. Diane


Posted by:

charlie
01 Nov 2012

i got old hp (10yrs +-) i had it upgraded and virus cleaned. got another or 1dt came back. i wish to erase hard drive without any saves and use as a word office computer. at pressent i get blank black screen when it comes on. last view before last turnoff most progames on startup were yellowish. what can i do. im a senior disabled vet om fixedf income can u help me dave this hardware?


Posted by:

iana
29 Jan 2013

Is there any type of virus that can destroy and pixelate HD video files??


Posted by:

BL
01 Jun 2014

I don't know why people point out that they have friends in IT that tell them something is not possible - being in IT, even in a major corporation does not require all that much knowledge, 2-3 weeks of crunching Linux commands, and being really good at talking can get you into 95% of all IT positions.

I know if a way for a virus to destroy a hard drive physically, it does exist, and there are a couple ways to program it - but the possibility of you having such a virus is unlikely, the point of most viruses is to gain entry. A virus that destroys data is only useful on a wide scale when trying to scare people, or prove power. Most likely if your having a hard drive problem due to a virus, it probably just wiped the partition table - which can be fixed. People that destroy stuff usually want the credit for it, and breaking everything leaves no calling card.


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