In Windows, how do I safely rebuild my computer?
- Read through these instructions and links
before you begin, so you're sure to have everything in place.
- If you're running a Windows operating system earlier than XP, UITS strongly encourages you to rebuild with Windows 8, 7, Vista, or XP; see Recommended Windows operating systems at IU. For purchasing information if you're an Indiana University student, faculty member, or staff member, see the "Acquiring the software" section in Software available through IU's agreement with Microsoft.
The most common reason for rebuilding your Windows computer is a system-level compromise, such as infection with a system-level worm (e.g., Blaster, Welchia) or a system bug that's been exploited. Rebuilding your computer ensures that you remove all traces of the compromise.
To thoroughly clean and rebuild your computer, be sure to take all of the following steps; failure to do so can put the entire IU network at risk.
Note: If you live in campus housing, you must run Get Connected after the rebuild is complete. If you were blocked from the network, you must request and wait for the block to be lifted before you can use it.
- If your computer has been compromised by a virus, remove it from
the network by unplugging the network cable from the computer, or by
turning off the wireless or dial-up connection. Do
not reconnect your computer to the network until you have
begun step 3; otherwise, you risk spreading the virus to other
computers on the network.
- In preparation for wiping your computer's hard drive, back up your
personal files to an external source, such as a flash drive, an
external hard drive, or disks.
- Perform a clean install of Windows 8, 7, Vista, or XP. (Be sure
you've backed up your personal files; they will be unrecoverable after
you wipe the hard drive.) If your Windows XP CD says "with Service
Pack 3", you can skip step 8 below. Use the original disks to
reinstall any other software applications you own. Make sure you use a
different password for the administrative account than you used in the
previous installation. When you reboot your computer, allow automatic
updates when prompted, which is the recommended action. For
installation instructions, see the appropriate document for your
version of Windows:
Note: At IU Bloomington, if you aren't comfortable rebuilding your computer, you can use Carry-in Consulting.
Unless you've prepared media ahead of time
with the updates, drivers, and patches mentioned in steps 5 through 7,
below, you may connect to the Internet at this time to update your
operating system and security software. However, you should connect to
the IU network only if it's your only source for downloading and
- Install antivirus software and spyware detection and
removal utilities from a flash drive or other external
source; you'll want to prepare this ahead of time. Refer to:
- In Windows, how do I safely upgrade to the latest Symantec Endpoint or AntiVirus software?
- What is Windows Defender and how do I use it?
Symantec Endpoint Protection and Microsoft Security Essentials are available free to students, faculty, and staff.
- Reinstall drivers for your network card, printer, and other
devices. Either use the driver disk provided by the manufacturer of
the device or visit the manufacturer's web site and download the
- Install the latest Windows patches and service packs. All patches
are available from the IU Microsoft Update Service; see What is the IU Microsoft Update Service, and how do I configure my computer to use it?
Note: Unless you reconnected to the network in Step 4, you'll need to have download these patches and service packs ahead of time on separate media.
- Turn on the Windows firewall.
For help, see Microsoft Support.
- If you have not yet done so, reconnect to the network, and change
your IU Network ID passphrase immediately
after you have rebuilt your computer. When
crackers have control of your computer, they can monitor
and log every keystroke you enter (e.g., passwords, email
conversations). See At IU, how do I change my Network ID passphrase?
Note: If you were blocked from the network, you must request and wait for the block to be lifted before you can do this from your own computer. For more information, see If my network access has been disabled by UIPO or UISO, how can I get it re-enabled?
UITS also recommends the following to help prevent future system compromises:
- Keep your Windows service packs current by scheduling daily
- Schedule your Symantec Endpoint Protection to perform daily
updates and scans.
- Practice the principle of least privilege when using your computer. If your computer gets exploited, it helps prevent crackers from acquiring administrative access.
For help, see Microsoft Support.
Last modified on January 02, 2013.