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Standalone System Sweeper

How to clean an MBR and recover drive partitions

Sometimes it’s necessary to recover drive partitions because you accidentally repartitioned a drive you didn’t mean to, or because your MBR got infected or otherwise trashed. Here’s how to recover them, for free.

Infecting MBRs with malware is popular with virus writers again. And I fully expect chaos to ensue, because that’s what happened the last time there was more than one virus floating around that infected MBRs. They quit doing it for a good reason.

So here’s how to clean up the mess when an MBR gets infected, or when multiple infections blitzes the MBR and the hard drive loses the ability to boot, just displaying a message like Missing Operating System or Operating System Not Found.

We’ll be using the Gparted Live CD. Many Linux live CDs have the proper tools, but GParted works well and it’s a small download. You can try to use another Linux live CD, and it will work fine, but the icons might not all be where I say they are.

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First impressions: Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper

Microsoft has released an antivirus/antispyware live CD that runs in the Windows PE environment called Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper. I wouldn’t use it as a full replacement for a Linux-based live CD from an antivirus vendor such as Bit Defender, which I’ve written about before. It is, however, a good supplement–a second opinion. Nothing catches everything, after all.

The idea behind all of these is to boot into a sterile environment to scan a dormant hard drive for things that evade or disable your normal antivirus software. The need for this grows just about every day, as there’s a lot of really nasty stuff out there these days. It’s not a substitute for normal antivirus software–it’s what you call on if and when normal antivirus software fails and a malware infestation prevents normal use of the computer.

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