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Thread: Can malware kill a computer?

  1. #1
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    Can malware kill a computer?

    Is it true that there are malware that can actually brick a pc, ie render it unusable, unfixable, so you have to either buy new hardware or basically just throw the computer in the trash? Or are all malware curable software-wise, ie at worst you just have to reformat the hard drive, reinstall operating system and start all over again? The reason I ask: I have a not at all tech-savvy (Windows 7-using) friend who's been talking to me on the phone, crying that a virus or something has killed her computer and she has to buy a new one. Can I assure her that when I visit next week I will be able to make her computer work again, even if it means I have to reformat the hard drive and install Ubuntu? Or are her fears possibly justified?
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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    Yes and No.

    What I mean is that yes, a computer can be bricked, but the malware to do so needs to be highly targetted and this is unlikely to happen normally, there is no money in it for the writes normally.

    So most probably, you will be able to fix her computer by an OS re-install, might be worth introducing her to Linux? Edit: Doh! Should read posts properly before replying, you already said you'd do that...
    Last edited by spynappels; April 5th, 2013 at 04:50 PM.
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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    If in fact it's a virus, it's highly unlikely that any hardware damage has happened.

    I've found, though, that people tend to call it a "virus" any time their computer does something unexpected. Bad RAM or a failing HDD can cause all kinds of erratic behavior in a machine that a user might confuse with malware.

    But if the symptoms described to you sound clearly like malware, then you can be pretty sure an OS reinstall will fix it.

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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    Do not assume anything. Start from the beginning with the diagnostics. 1) Is the machine plugged in to the power socket? 2) is it switched on? Etc. Check the hardware, first.
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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    If she can reset the boot order, could you get her a live CD/DVD/USB? That might give an idea if the hardware is functional or not.

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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    Only if said virus or malware damaged track zero on the drive or re-flashed the bios. Not much of that around and it would take some steps over and above just clicking on a link to install those .. even on Windows. If the box is truly dead .. start with the hardware check as suggested.

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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    It would be, in theory, easier to do than one would think.
    step 1 disable any system sensors, cpu temp sensors, etc, etc.
    step 2 disable any cooling systems. Fans etc,etc.
    step 3 execute a cpu heavy program/process. something like a video rendering app.
    step 4 wait for the cpu to melt.

    In practice though, it would have to be very specific toward a certain machine.
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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    I agree with the responses. However, there was a comment in the OP's statement that I've heard all to often.
    friend who's been talking to me on the phone, crying that a virus or something has killed her computer and she has to buy a new one.
    I can't count how many times I've heard this from Windows users. Primarily, I think it's due to fear and a lack of understanding the box. They may have taken a PC to a repair facility (assuming they can afford it) only to be quoted or pay a high price for repair. Thus, immediately upon any future issues or failures the response is "I need a new PC". If I recall correctly, there's even a TV commercial for an online diagnostics site where a young lady says exactly that.

    With all the available support on this forum, I'd be shocked if one started a thread here about the box issues and didn't receive assistance in diagnosing the problem. It may be a hardware problem, but until one takes the initiative to identify the problem the source remains unknown. For example:
    As others have pointed out.
    Does it even turn on: AC power switch (including the power supply switch)/cord/outlet, etc.
    If it turns on, can one get to the BIOS to change boot order?
    If so, will it see either a Linux live disc or stick on startup?

    Identifying these three basic steps may place one in a position of "running" from boot Ubuntu/Linux or one of it's versions, which can then be used to check system functionality. With little to no experience, one could (with just a little help) establish that their system is operational and all that need be done is to install or re-install an OS. Which should then format and petition the drive, hopefully removing the offending software. If one's not sure how to test their system, start a thread here and ask questions. You may be surprised at not only how much you learn, but how many here are more than willing to help.

    I was once told that: "If it's already broken and you don't want to pay to fix it, then anything you do - can't hurt it". Don't be afraid to mess with it. Be cautious you or your someone else doesn't get hurt, but you may find that it's something simple and easily correctable. Ignorance is curable, we all have it to certain extent. But IMHO by being afraid or refusing to try/learn, one simply remains ignorant on certain topics.

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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    Quote Originally Posted by t0p View Post
    I have a not at all tech-savvy (Windows 7-using) friend who's been talking to me on the phone, crying that a virus or something has killed her computer and she has to buy a new one. Can I assure her that when I visit next week I will be able to make her computer work again, even if it means I have to reformat the hard drive and install Ubuntu? Or are her fears possibly justified?
    All it will require is a backup of her data & email (remember the email as most people always forget this seeing it lives in a different place) followed by a format and reinstall of the OS. Take a linux livecd with to copy the data across and format the drive.

    That is unless she is associating a normal hardware failure being due to a virus which 99.99999% would not be the case.

    Take a 25mm (1inch) horsehair/natural paint brush with you and while you are there clean out all the dust inside the computer with it.

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    Re: Can malware kill a computer?

    When the friend says "killed", it could simply mean that somthing made the computer temporarily unusable. For all we know, it could be easily correctable. I remember managing to freeze a machine when I was new to Windows, and getting in a panic as a result. With hindsight, it was probably mostly PEBKAC.

    Others have suggested some good troubleshooting tips, e.g. does the machine turn on, can you get to BIOS, how far along in the boot process does it get?
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