Viruses and other malware are an unfortunate reality of the modern age. If your phone or computer has fallen prey to them, one of the recommended solutions is to perform a factory reset. But will it ever make your device secure again?
Before we discuss whether factory reset is helpful in case of a malware infection, it is good that you understand what a factory reset entails on the device.
What is a factory reset?
Factory reset is an option found on many modern electronic devices, including computers and smartphones, that allows you to return the device’s operating system (OS) and drivers to their original state. It also returns all settings to their default state and removes any programs or files that did not come with the device. However, in the case of computers, you get the option to keep files. But if you are resetting your system to remove viruses, you should delete everything after that Backup any important files.
Interestingly, the title Factory Reset indicates that your device will return to the same condition when it was shipped to you or when you purchased it. But this is not always true from a technical point of view, especially in the case of phones and tablets that got an upgraded operating system.
For example, let’s say you tried to use the factory reset option on a phone or tablet that got an upgraded operating system. In this case, your device will revert to a fresh installation of the current operating system on the device, not the original operating system. But it will work the same for any malware infection as an actual factory reset will work.
Is factory reset helpful in removing viruses?
You can get rid of almost all viruses and other malware by performing a factory reset. By returning the operating system to its original state, the factory reset option inadvertently removes any infected programs or files on your device. It’s the nuclear option, but it works, except in some very rare cases.
Every year, viruses become more sophisticated, and cybercriminals find new ways to infect unsuspecting devices. So, you may encounter trojans and rootkits that can survive after a factory reset, but they are relatively rare. One such Trojan – xHelper –appeared in 2019. Targeted Android devices and survived Factory reset. Fortunately, by 2020, the folks at MalwareBytes were able to Find a way to remove it.
What if the virus comes back after a factory reset?
If your device is infected with malware that keeps coming back even after a factory reset, there is a chance that you are dealing with one of the following scenarios:
- Your backup is infected, and as soon as you try to restore it to your newly reset device, malware goes to your device and reinfects it.
- Another possibility is that malware has invaded your device recovery partition. It is a space on your device storage that keeps a clean system image for the factory reset option. So if the recovery partition itself gets infected, factory reset won’t do you much good.
- rootkit And the shoes collections It may also be responsible for infection in your device. Unfortunately, these are notably complicated and can avoid detection and removal by doing a factory reset.
- Some modern malware can also sometimes Take cover in your system’s peripheralsSuch as Wi-Fi adapters And the webcams. Many modern peripherals have internal storage to store user settings, and malware can use them to keep a copy of them. So even if you reset your device, they can jump back from the peripheral to your device.
Fortunately, all of these are relatively rare. But if you’re dealing with one of these malware, there are a few things you can try, or if you’re not technically inclined, reach out to an expert, such as a computer technician.
One of the first things you can try while dealing with malware that keeps a factory reset going is to check the drive that holds your backup. You can connect it to another device with a good antivirus and scan it. You can also use rescue disk To thoroughly scan your device, including the recovery partition, to make sure there isn’t anything outrageous hiding there.
If both don’t work, you totally can Erase SSD or HDD for your PC And do a clean install after using nukes for all partitions.
Although these methods are useful for computers, it is best to contact your device manufacturer if malware is present in your mobile device and factory reset is not helpful. The lack of root access on the mobile makes it difficult to do anything beyond a factory reset. It is possible that the manufacturer of your device will be able to wipe the entire volume and flash a new operating system image to eliminate the infection.
Related: Could my iPhone or iPad get a virus?
How to avoid getting viruses again
As they say, prevention is better than cure. So if you can ward off a malware infection by performing a factory reset, it is a good idea to secure your device to avoid getting viruses in the future. One of the best and easiest ways to do this is to keep your device’s operating system and apps up to date with the latest updates.
It is also a good idea to install apps and software from reputable sources, preferably from official app stores. Don’t fall into the trap of free games or free apps and install something from an unverified source. However, always stay alert because even Applications from verified sources are known to contain “sideload” viruses. By requiring users to download malicious updates from external sources.
As a general rule, avoid clicking on unfamiliar links or opening suspicious attachments in chat messages or emails.
While all modern operating systems have built-in malware protection, you can also install Malware to me Completes your operating system’s security software. It is available for all popular operating systems. Additionally, you can check out our guide on Best antivirus software For more recommendations.
the final destination
Factory reset is a powerful tool and can come in handy as a nuclear option if your computer or smartphone is infected with malware. But it should only be used as a last resort because you will have to set everything up again, which is very time consuming. In the end, good electronic hygiene and Basic safety precautions It can go a long way in living a malware-free life.