How to Get Rid of a Virus When the Computer Won't Boot

By Alexis Lawrence

If your computer has been infected with a virus that prevents the computer from booting up, this can make it considerably more difficult to get rid of the virus. Without being able to boot the computer in standard mode, you will not have access to many files and programs on your system. Traditional virus removal tools, like anti-virus software, may or may not be able to be accessed. If the anti-virus software is available, it should be utilized first.

Things You'll Need

  • Anti-virus software
  • Screwdriver
  • Working computer
  • External hard drive
  • Windows installation CD

Using Anti-Virus Software

Step 1

Turn on the computer and press “F8” continuously to boot the computer in safe mode. It is possible that the inability of the computer to boot is actually due to the virus’ effects on the startup programs and not on the operating system itself. When the startup menu comes up, select “Safe Mode” and the computer will boot up in safe mode.

Step 2

Attempt to run your anti-virus software on your system. Depending on the type of virus and your anti-virus software, it may or may not operate while in safe mode. Run the anti-virus software multiple times to attempt to remove all of the bad components.

Step 3

Shut down the computer after each sweep of your system by the anti-virus software and attempt to boot up normally. If the computer won’t boot up, boot in safe mode again and run the anti-virus software again.

Step 4

Note the names of the files that are being removed by the anti-virus software. The file names that are part of the virus should have a characteristic, usually one descriptive word, in common.

Step 5

Go to the registry of your computer if the anti-virus software fails to remove all of the virus components after four or five sweeps of the system. Access the computer’s registry by going to the “Start” menu, typing “regedit” into the search box and pressing “Enter.”

Step 6

Search each folder of the registry for any files that are the same as those that have already been removed by the anti-virus software or are similar to those that have been removed. Don’t delete any files that are just numbers and letters for the file names. These are usually system files and are essential for running your computer.

Step 7

Attempt to reboot the computer regularly. If the system does not reboot, the virus likely cannot be removed and you must do a clean install of your operating system.

Reinstall Windows

Step 1

Remove the hard drive from your computer. The hard drive is generally connected to the computer with wires and a few screws. Note the location of the wires for reconnecting.

Step 2

Connect the hard drive to an operating computer by noting the way the current hard drive is connected on the computer and following the same connections. Go to the “Start” menu of the new system, open “Computer” or “My Computer” and double-click on the hard drive.

Step 3

Plug in an external hard drive, go to “Start” and “Computer” or “My Computer” and double-click the external hard drive to open it as well. Drag and drop any files that you want to keep from the virus-infected computer onto the external hard drive.

Step 4

Return the hard drive to the virus-infected computer and boot the computer in safe mode. Make sure you choose the “Safe Mode with Networking” option so that you will have access to the Internet.

Step 5

Download and install the most up-to-date drivers for your computer. Driver information and downloads can be found at Driver Guide. Once the drivers are installed, shut down the computer, insert the Windows installation CD into the drive of the computer and turn the computer back on. While it is booting, hit any key when the “Hit any key to boot CD” message appears on the screen. Choose “Clean Install” from the installation options and follow the screens to erase your hard drive and reinstall Windows.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the working computer begins to show any odd behavior once the hard drive from the virus-infected computer is attached, remove the hard drive immediately to prevent the working computer from being infected with the virus.