If someone worries that they have a virus, there are many things that they might do. Some people spend hours attempting to sort through their files looking for malware. Others will attempt to install new antivirus programs and run them in an attempt to find it. However, spending hours attempting to comb through your computer can all be fruitless if you manage to miss even a piece of malware. In this situation, one thing that can be done is to reinstall your operating system. This essentially resets your computer to the settings it had before you purchased it.
When considering the best thing to do, take your options and situation into account. Obviously, the best way to prevent damage done by malware is to prevent your computer from being infected in the first place. Having a good antivirus program and using good judgement on your computer can help. However, these are not failsafe. In the worst-case scenario, viruses can be completely undetected, and now you have a false sense of security. If the malware is not known to your program, or your program is compromised, it won’t be of any help.
Reinstalling your operating system is a kind of nuclear option for malware. It will kill everything. Even the persistent programs which install themselves deep on your system will thankfully be removed if you do a fresh install. However, there are consequences. Any files you have on the infected computer will be lost if you do a fresh install without having them backed up. And if you do back them up, there is the potential for a virus to survive hidden among them. With that said, there are ways to get around this, but they rely on a bit of technical expertise. If you are doing a fresh install and have valuable data, programs, or files on a machine, hire an expert to ensure that they are removed safely, and avenues for infection are removed.
While reinstalling your OS may seem drastic, it is actually not that long of a procedure. If you know what you are doing, you can do a complete fresh install and have the machine back to its previous state (sans malware) in just a few hours. Therefore, if you have persistent malware, your best option might be to go ahead and reinstall your operating system. As always, the number one priority is to have a system that will not compromise your data, now or somewhere down the line.