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for·mat - To divide (a disk) into marked sectors so that it may store data.

Formatting is what must be done to a hard drive (disk) in order to make it usable.  In this section we will talk about the reason that student must have their hard drive reformatted when they receive a virus and their internet connection is turned off.

Security Operations and Services (SOS) at University Park is responsible for tracking virus-like activity on the residence hall networks.  Once they determine that a student's computer is exhibiting symptoms that are congruent with the traits exhibited by viruses, they have that student's connection deactivated.  This is done primarily to protect other computers on the network from being infected with the same virus.  Once that connection is deactivated, SOS sends a notice to the ResCom Support staff here at Penn State Mont Alto and a ticket is created for that student.  The only way that SOS will reactivate that student's connection is if the student's computer is reformatted and a new operating system is installed.

The reason for the drastic solution of reformatting is that many viruses cannot be removed by the normal anti-virus software.  These viruses hide themselves inside of files and appear to be just like any other file.  They can also fool the anti-virus software into thinking that they are already removed and that no action should be taken.  The only solution that can really remove the virus is to reformat the entire hard drive and reinstall the operating system.

When a hard drive is reformatted, all of the information on the drive is "wiped".  That means it is all deleted.  The hard drive, in effect, becomes a blank slate.  A new operating system is installed after the reformat is complete.  Normally, reformatting and reinstalling the operating system will make the computer seem to run faster because it removes all the extraneous files that might have been taking up processing power and clogging up the system memory.  This is an added bonus besides just removing the virus.  However, one drawback is that since all the files were wiped, all of the programs were wiped as well.  In order to reinstall any programs that were on the computer previously, the student must have either the original installation disk or the installation file.  Also, if the student has a printer or a scanner or any other peripheral, they must have the original driver and installation disks that came with the device.  This is usually not cause for alarm, but has been known to cause problems to unwary individuals.

Once the computer is reformatted, the operating system is reinstalled, and a Student Technician certifies it, then a notice is sent back to SOS and they will have the connection reactivated.  The entire process can take as little as 24 hours.