Have you ever booted up your PC and only gotten a black screen? If so, something’s clearly wrong. You probably then tried a variety of steps to get your PC running again. But what if these don’t help? You might be looking at a nasty malware infection that is messing with your system’s boot files. Let’s take Microsoft’s System Sweeper for a spin to see if this offers any help.
What is it?
Microsoft’s System Sweeper is a bootable recovery environment that cleans viruses, rootkits, and other malware infections from your system without you having to boot into Windows. Based on Microsoft Security Essentials, System Sweeper should get your PC back on track. It works on essentially all PCs with a FAT32 or NTFS file system, so you should even be able to get your age-old Windows XP or 2000 PC back into shape. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to run System Sweeper and get rid of malware in no time.
Step 1 – Download Microsoft System Sweeper (Beta)
Go to Microsoft Connect to download the beta version of System Sweeper. Make sure you choose the right version (32-bit or 64-bit) depending on what the infected system is running.
Step 2 – Create the bootable recovery CD or USB thumb drive
System Sweeper can be installed on both a CD and on USB flash memory (check to see if your PC supports booting from USB). You’ll need a blank CD or a USB thumb drive with at least 250 MB of free space to install System Sweeper. Ready? Then, go to your Downloads folder, and run the “mssstool32″or “mssstool64″files, respectively.
In this example, I’ll go with a USB drive because it’s much handier and a bit faster than a CD.
Make sure the USB drive is empty and hit “Next” to reformat it. MSSST downloads the latest anti-virus signature files onto your disk, and then burns it onto either the bootable CD or USB thumb drive.
Next, insert the CD or plug in the USB key to the computer you’re trying to clean up, and make sure it boots from your CD/DVD drive or the USB port.
To do that, go to the BIOS of your machine (it usually involves pressing DELETE, F2, F12, or another special key repeatedly right after you turn on your PC). Go to its boot section and make sure that the “Boot Priority” is set to either CDROM (DVD) or USB. Restart your PC!
Step 3 – Use System Sweeper
Your PC should ask you to “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD”. Follow this advice and wait until the recovery environment is loaded.
Once MSSST appears on screen, hit “Start full scan” to scan all of your hard disks for viruses and malware.
Let it run its course. This might take a while! On a system with about 170 GB worth of system files and data, this process took about three hours. In the end, however, you’ll (hopefully) enjoy a clean and bootable PC again. To be on the safe side, I suggest taking the USB thumb drive wherever you go if you have a laptop.