Ask Leo: How do I safely backup an infected drive?


By Leo Notenboom

My hard disk got infected with virus. I am planning to format it. So is there a way to backup all of the data without carrying the virus?

The short answer is no, there’s no practical way to backup the entire hard disk without also including the infection in the backup.

Knowing that, however, I can make some strong recommendations on how to proceed.

Backup tools are not anti-virus tools

To be able to backup an infected system while carefully excluding malware from the backup means that your backup software has to be able to somehow identify what is and is not malware.

It can’t.

In fact, you don’t want it to. Imagine a false positive causing some incredibly important file to not get backed up – that could cause you some serious problems.

Besides, identifying malware is what your anti-malware tools are for.

Option 1: Backup and know that it’s infected

My recommendation is that you backup everything – infection and all – and make careful note that the backup is, itself, infected.

Then never, ever restore that entire backup.

As you’re probably already aware, restoring that entire backup would restore the malware, and thus leave you no better off.

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This post is excerpted with Leo’s permission from his blog.

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