"The Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

(?) The Answer Guy (!)

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

(?) Low Level Formatting

From William Smith on Tue, 19 Jan 1999

How do you perform a low level format on your hard disk, my system has a virus received when dwn loading from the net that keeps throwing it into safe mode. I have completed C:\format and re-installed windows, it ran great for six months and went back into the safe mode. I was able to get it back up and running, but I can't remember how to perform the low level formatting.

(!) You don't actually need a "low-level" format. You can just "zero out" or "wipe" the drive.
Boot up Linux (Tom's Root/Boot at http://www.toms.net/rb) and issue the command:
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda
... to wipe out the whole first IDE drive, or
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda
... to wipe out the whole first SCSI drive.
Actually you could just blow away one sector on these drives using
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda count=1
It wouldn't make sense to do this to other drives (/dev/hdb, /dev/hdc, /dev/sdb, etc) since their boot sectors aren't referenced as code and you can reformat those drives with normal DOS or Linux commands to re-make your filesystems on them. However, you can issue this command for all of your drives if you like. In fact you should be able to do something like:
for i in a b c d; do
	dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hd$i
... to get four IDE drives or
for i in a b c d e f g ; do
	dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hd$i
... to wipe out all seven disks on a SCSI chain.

(?) Can you assist me... Help!!!!!!!!!!! William :-)

(!) Now. I realize that you didn't ask about Linux, and you might have no idea why I'm responding to your question with a suggestion that involves it.
Before you write back to be to ask those questions --- DON'T.
I answer Linux questions. Microsoft sold you Windows 9x --- you can get tech support from them or you can find a free "Windows Answer Guy." I don't like MS Windows and I don't use it. I will not freely answer questions, from strangers that don't relate to the products that I do use and like.
[ Try Winfiles.Com, they have Tips and Howto areas. -- Heather ]
Linux, like other forms of Unix, is basically not susceptible to computer viruses. This is largely a matter of typical usage (they are multi-user systems which protect the system and most user accounts from most activities of individual users. Most Linux and Unix just don't run as "root" --- and consequently trojan horses and viruses normally cannot utterly cripple a whole system just because the guy at the keyboard ran them).
This is not to say that they are "safe" from trojans --- a trojan can still blow away or corrupt any files owned by the guy that runs them. But it's a lot better, in the long run, than the common case with DOS, Windows, and MacOS. I think it's worth the extra learning curve and the occasional inconvenience (of having to switch to another "virtual console" or window and log in as root).
So, consider getting a copy of Tom's Root/Boot. It's a relatively powerful Linux distribution on a single floppy with enough power and utility to be useful. There are several other Linux distributions that fit on one, two or three floppies, and run from RAM disks.
Consider trying a full blown Linux distribution (like Red Hat http://www.redhat.com, Debian http://www.debian.org, S.u.S.E. http://www.suse.com, Caldera, http://www.caldera.com, or any of the others). That will give you a choice. You'll have a basis for comparison and you then go back to (continue to use) Windows or you learn more about the OS that a few million others have adopted.

Copyright © 1999, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 37 February 1999

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