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What To Do With Your Old Computer - Keep it to Help Fight Viruses

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 2/14/2009

If your computer becomes infected with a virus or malware, you may often need another PC to get the tools you need to disinfect the other one. This is why you shouldn't be too quick to get rid of your old computer.

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    Your Old PC

    It is always fun to get a new computer, but then you often wonder what to do with the old computer. This article will look into the software aspect of why I think you should keep your old computer as a backup or spare machine, because the need may arise for you to have a second PC. Like a great many of my PC support type articles, much of this one is based on personal experience.

    There’s a variety of good reasons why it is very helpful to keep a backup computer on hand. One good example would be the current Windows XP vs. Vista debate. If you were to go out and buy a new computer today, it would most likely have Windows Vista installed on it. Your old computer will most likely have Windows XP, or maybe even Windows 98 if it’s really old. In case you didn’t already know, there are a lot of things from Windows XP that don’t work in Windows Vista. You just might need that old XP machine to get into some of your data or even to access software that won’t work with Vista. At my work, Vista compatibility with legacy hardware and software is the primary reason why we haven’t yet bothered to upgrade.

    Another great reason to have a spare machine is for fighting viruses. I’ve run into a few computer viruses that were darn near impossible to eliminate because they had so deeply embedded themselves into the operating system. Every time I thought the virus was gone, it would restore itself. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of reinstalling Windows and all the other software, so I used a spare machine to load the hard drive as a data drive, then do a full virus scan without actually opening any files off that PC. This allowed me to access every bit of data on the drive without any conflicts. Before then, trying to remove a virus using the same infected operating system was like trying to fix a flat tire on a moving car.

    Staying on the topic of viruses, another good reason to have a spare PC is for figuring out what has infected your new computer. I recently ran into a virus that was blocking me from downloading updates for the virus scanner and also blocking me from downloading Windows Defender from Microsoft’s site. Luckily, there was a spare laptop available for me to download and install what I needed on the infected machine. Virus and malware creators are getting very tricky with their wares, so much that once a machine is infected you almost can’t get rid of the problem without the help of another uninfected PC.

    Should you choose to dismiss my advice and get rid of your old computer, you should at least be sure to get all your personal data off the hard drive. There have been many cases of people buying used or factory refurbished machines and finding various personal information, including financial data, on the hard drive. I recommend using a utility like Darik’s Boot and Nuke to completely erase the hard drive in a way that you can’t even recover the old files using a file recovery utility. After getting rid of that old computer, you never know where it might end up and it’s best to make sure there’s nothing you don’t want to share with the rest of the world on that hard drive.