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Does a standard format reset the MBR


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albert lionheart's Avatar
albert lionheart albert lionheart is offline
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07-Nov-2008, 09:56 AM #1
Does a standard format reset the MBR
I need to clear/reset the MBR to remove a virus - will a standard windows format do this or should I use the manufacturers tools to perform a low level format? Or maybe another tool?
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07-Nov-2008, 10:02 AM #2
Windows install disk's format tool is about the most effective format tool out there. If you want to be sure, you could use some drive "nuking" program, but that poses a risk of actually making the drive unusable (can't format it anymore after the format has been nuked). So just do a full Windows format.


Off-topic: yay, 1 more to 2k post count
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07-Nov-2008, 10:07 AM #3
Thanks BG-O - I need to be totally sure that the MBR has been reset/wiped whatever!
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07-Nov-2008, 12:25 PM #4
If you DO have a virus, wiping the disk may or may not get rid of it. There are a number of virii that will igrate to memory, then write themselves to hard disk on shutdown, or that may just keep writing themselves. I would suggest adecent viris check before and after the format, and if you can, power off at the mains switch after format- I know its not goo dpractice, but it kills the ability to write itself. Leave it for a while, as this will allow any residual memory to leak off before starting up again
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07-Nov-2008, 12:44 PM #5
I take it you've never heard of the FIXMBR command then Albert? Run it form XP's Recovery Console, you do have an XP CD dont you?

Repairing a Damaged MBR

Your Windows XP setup CDROM has a tool called the Recovery Console, which is designed to help you repair a damaged master boot record or boot sector. To start the Recovery Console and fix your damaged MBR, follow these steps:
  1. Restart your computer with the Windows XP Setup disk in the CDROM drive.
  2. If you are prompted to press a key to start the computer from CDROM, do so quickly. Otherwise it may try to boot from the hard drive.
  3. After a few minutes, you'll see a prompt to press the R key to start the Recovery Console.
  4. When Recovery Console starts, it will prompt you to enter a number corresponding to the Windows XP installation that you need to repair. In most cases, you'll enter "1" (which will be the only choice). If you press ENTER without typing a number, Recovery Console will quit and restart your computer.
  5. Enter your Administrator password. If you don't enter the correct password, you cannot continue.
  6. At the Recovery Console command prompt, type fixmbr and then verify that you want to proceed.
Your damaged MBR will be replaced with a shiny new one, and you should then be able to boot your system normally. In some cases, you may need to repair the boot sector in addition to the MBR. If your system still doesn't boot properly, repeat the steps above, but issue the fixboot command instead.
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07-Nov-2008, 02:05 PM #6
I know about FIXMBR but do not know if that will fix an infected MBR - as far as windows is concerned it is not broken.
I am going to format the drive anyway - I just want to know if the format will install a new virgin fresh MBR or should I get heavy with it and run a low level format or even something else?
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09-Nov-2008, 10:10 AM #7
FIXMBR is probably a confusing title for the command as it doesnt fix what is bad to make good again, it simply writes a new, clean fresh MBR. completely overwriting what was there before.
think of it like a paint splodge on your wall, rather than remove the splodge you simply paint over the top of it with a fresh coat of paint
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10-Nov-2008, 04:38 AM #8
Thanks Jack - this thing is on the bench so will be giving it an enema later today!
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10-Nov-2008, 05:40 AM #9
To answer your original question. No, a format will not touch your mbr. in any way.
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10-Nov-2008, 07:23 AM #10
Thanks Koen7 - I had suspected this but how do you know? Nobody else I have asked has been so firm on the point.
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11-Nov-2008, 03:01 AM #11
I know, because formatting is about file systems, and the mbr has very little to do with this. And finally, I know because I've done it.

If you want to see what the disk contains before and after a specific operation, a disk editor will show you just that.
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11-Nov-2008, 03:27 AM #12
I'll take your word for it! Thanks again for your help.
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