In Windows, how do I safely rebuild my computer?

If you'd rather not do it yourself, the fee-based Carry-in Consulting service at IUB is available to install operating systems for IU students, faculty, and staff.

The most common reason for rebuilding Windows is the contraction of a computer virus, such as a browser hijacker, fake antivirus, or other malware. Rebuilding your computer removes all traces of the compromise.

To thoroughly clean and rebuild your computer, be sure to follow all of these steps; failure to do so can put both the entire IU network and your personal identity information at risk.

If you are a student needing either wired (Ethernet) Internet access or direct access to university databases, run Get Connected after the rebuild is complete. If you were blocked from the network, you must request that the block be removed. Once you receive confirmation that the block has been removed, you can use the network again.
  1. 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.
  2. 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 cloud storage (e.g., Box or Google Drive.
  3. Perform a clean install of Windows 7 or higher. (Be sure you've backed up your personal files; they will be unrecoverable after you wipe the hard drive.) Do not back up your programs; instead, reinstall the software applications you own using the installer files from the original disks or from IUware. Make sure you use a different password for the administrator account than you used in the previous installation. When you reboot your computer, allow automatic updates when prompted, which is the recommended action. For instructions, refer to the Clean install section of How do I install or reinstall Windows?
  4. 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 only connect to the IU network if it's your sole source for downloading and installing updates.
  5. Install security software 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 security software?
    For personal computers running Windows 8.x and higher, UITS recommends the Windows Defender antivirus suite, which comes as part of the operating system. For Windows 7, UITS recommends Microsoft Security Essentials, available free of charge from Microsoft. Be sure to have only one antivirus program installed.

    If you use security software from Microsoft, make sure the Windows Firewall is turned on.

    For help, see Microsoft Support.

    If you're using other third-party security software, make sure the firewall in that program is enabled; check your security software's documentation for further assistance.

  6. 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 website and download the driver.
  7. 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?
    Unless you reconnected to the network in Step 4, you'll need to have downloaded these patches and service packs ahead of time on separate media.
  8. 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).

    If you were blocked from the network, you must request to have the block removed. Once you receive confirmation that the block has been removed, you can connect to the network. For more, 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 automatic updates.
  • Schedule your security/antivirus software 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.

This is document anbp in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2015-08-24.

  • Fill out this form to submit your issue to the UITS Support Center.
  • Please note that you must be affiliated with Indiana University to receive support.
  • All fields are required.

Please provide your IU email address. If you currently have a problem receiving email at your IU account, enter an alternate email address.

  • Fill out this form to submit your comment to the IU Knowledge Base.
  • If you are affiliated with Indiana University and need help with a computing problem, please use the I need help with a computing problem section above, or contact your campus Support Center.

Please provide your IU email address. If you currently have a problem receiving email at your IU account, enter an alternate email address.