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In Windows, how do I safely rebuild my computer?

Notes:

The most common reason for rebuilding your Windows computer is a system-level compromise, such as an infection caused by 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 are a student, you must 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.

  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 to other computers on the network.
  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 disks.
  3. Perform a clean install of Windows 8.x or 7. (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 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 At IU, how do I install Windows 8.x or 7?

    Note: At IU Bloomington, if you aren't comfortable rebuilding your computer, you can use the Carry-in Consulting service.

  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?

    Note: For personal computers, UITS recommends Windows Defender for Windows 8.x, which comes as part of Windows 8.x as a full antivirus suite. For Windows 7 and Vista, UITS recommends Microsoft Security Essentials, available free of charge via IUware. Be sure to have only one antivirus program installed.

  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 web site 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?

    Note: 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. Turn on the Windows Firewall.

    For help, see Microsoft Support.

  9. 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 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 2015-02-12.

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