The Myth Behind Virus Attack And Hardware!

There have been talks and debates as to the extent to which a malicious code or virus can affect the computer hardware.

VirusThe debate is that, some powerful viruses when executed can crash the hardware (Hard disk, BIOS Chip, Memory etc) of the host machine and can never be repaired.

I am aware of the fact that many people have had cause to believe that viruses really destroy hardware especially the hard drive or the BIOS chip!

I disagree entirely in principle to this notion and I intend to raise the arguments for, and against this technically inclined issue so that you can judge for yourself.

As I seek to dissect this myth, I know we can all learn something new from this very important issue [I hope this article would not be too technical, I would not be making myself clear by not invoking some basic jargon]

The Virus effect

When your computer is infected with a virus and your data is corrupted, is the hardware at risk? (I will not explain the types of Viruses and their effects here since they can be ‘goggled’)

Computer virus is a term applied to any program that is designed to damage data stored on a computer system or network. The virus may infect documents, applications or worst of all system files that are essential to the correct running of the computer system.

A virus itself is program software and has effect basically on software and not hardware. It could have effect on the systems or Application software to execute specific instructions on the hardware.

Virus Fact

People argue that the Virus can affect hardware, because some viruses executed, the computer can shut down, restart, even open the CD ROM tray or manipulate other peripherals like the Keyboard! Of course they do, but technically they do not operate on them as you would want to think they do, they instruct the software or the respective peripheral drivers to perform.

So should those software or device drivers not be installed on the System, the virus could be redundant on the System whilst the hardware exist.

There are instances when upgrades from previous system or application software versions have ‘paralyzed’ viruses to malfunction on target computers. Should viruses have effect on hardware; open CD ROM tray, shut down Computers etc., they should do those when the software is upgraded so long as the hardware exist.

What happens is, they are unable to be compatible with the new upgrades signature to make them execute those instructions. I once rendered a computer useless, I asked the user to replace the motherboard of the PC if he still wants to use it because a virus have erased the BIOS and displays some funny characters after which it hung. I was stunned.

What BIOS Does

The BIOS is not a hardware, Basic Input Output Settings are sets of permanent instruction

Without the BIOS, the Computer cannot function since the Processor on its own does not get to the Hard disk where the Operating System is residing. It is the BIOS which provides the instructions for the POST (power-on self-test).Of course it is the same BIOS that oversee that other chips (Hard drives, Memory, CPU) functions together.

The BIOS Controls the entire functionality of the motherboard. You can imagine! Should a virus get to the BIOS and erase the BIOS instructions. Think about it!

The Computer would be dead. Don’t get me wrong, the BIOS is not hardware; it is a setting or set of instruction programmed by the computer manufacture.

Coming to Basics

When a BIOS is corrupted, does it mean a hardware (Motherboard, Hard drive, BIOS Chip) is damaged? or a software instruction failure! Unfortunately there was little i could do once upon a time and I rendered a Pentium III Computer useless. The motherboard had to be replaced because the BIOS has been erased by a virus. The currents on the bus was flowing and all other hardware components such as heat sink and fan and power on lead were on but the Computer was dead!

The fact of the matter is that the BIOS Component on some early motherboards with low processor speed (486, Pentium I, II, III) was on board or embedded( on the mother board) so when they are erased by a virus it could not be recovered and you have to replace the motherboard, since the bios could not be retrieved and programmed on separately inmost places. 

Today, nearly all computers manufactured have their BIOS specially designed on Chips based on flash technology which are detached to the motherboard.

The essence of the detachable BIOS Chip is specifically designed to allow the BIOS (which are set of instructions) to be backed up, repaired and analyzed when corrupted or damaged.

These days manufactures have listed for download online, BIOS updates and utilities and it’s making it very useful to bring computers back to life when virus affects the BIOS which was not so some time back, and ignorantly people kept on saying ‘virus has crashed my Computer’, There are also BIOS kits designed to redeem your computer. Since the BIOS is not a hardware, the manufacturer provides software to recover them whiles the chip is still intact.


One known virus that corrupts the Computer BIOS is the Chernobyl virus or the CIH Virus and this has been designed to corrupt older Windows 9x (95, 98, Me) operating systems. In the later part of 1998 the KILL_CIH tool was released by Symantec as the antidote.

Indeed, there would not be a need for a virus removal tool, an anti virus, an antidote, because they don’t repair hardware. Ironically all known Virus have got some sort of antidote even the CIH Virus which erases the BIOS.

I base this argument solely on the Microsoft Windows platform because viruses are platform based, i.e. A Symbian OS, Windows OS, Linux OS, MacOS Virus cannot be transferred to the other to execute.

So the question again, can a virus damage the hardware?

36 Responses to “The Myth Behind Virus Attack And Hardware!”

  1. Computer Repair Saskatoon » Late breaking news Says:

    […] The Myth behind Virus Attack and hardware! […]

  2. kingmahmud Says:

    the site is cool but theres more to do to make it a boom!!!

  3. kingmahmud Says:

    i agree with you because a virus is a programmed software and a software is being install on a hardware before it can work, because of that when a virus attack a computer some see it in a different way because the hardware seizes to work, but some refuse to think that hardware cannot go without software and the other way round. But all the same atimes a virus can make a computer useless, i mean the whole system.

  4. odzangba Says:

    David, David… David 🙂 You’ve cast your perspective too rigidly in stone. Off the top of my head, I can think of one way a virus could kill your hard drive… cause repeated disk reads and put enough Load/Unload cycle strain on the drive until it dies… really dies! (as I understand it, most HDDs have only about 600,000 load/unload cycles built into them; that usually guarantees about 10 years of reliable service but a virus could make that two days!) Let’s turn to your graphics card (perhaps the busiest component of any pc). Most modern cards come with their dedicated processors (and fans, heat sinks, etc.) so it would be possible for a smart programmer to write a virus that could trigger a cyclic event that would massively overheat the card processor; throw in the possibility of turning off the fan simultaneously and you’d better have a fire extinguisher close at hand. 😀 Oh, and this would work for the main processor too… scary huh? In essence, viruses could tear down your hardware if they’ve been programmed for it and it wouldn’t matter that it instructed software drivers or the OS itself to take actions that result in damage to the hardware… in the end, the virus was the cause.

    IMO, I don’t think these kinds of viruses are anything to worry about yet but if you’re going to be academic about it, we might as well analyze this from all angles. 🙂 BTW, what’s up with you these days? I haven’t seen you in a while.


  5. Sherwin Says:

    Sad to say that im a computer savy, and I didn’t see it coming.
    I have a Dell computer which I just cleaned up – fresh install windows XP about 2 months ago, and it’s been working fine. Then suddenly the virus scan, disappeared. and funky things happening. So, i knew that it got infected with a virus, then I start re installing virus scan, and in the middle of the install, the computer reboots by itself. I restarted and it keeps on rebooting, and got different kind of error message from P.O.S.T. “that a hardware failure had been detected”, first the mouse, the PCI, the keyboard, and everytime it reboots it gives me a new error message about a hardware failure and that I have to contact DELL. (I should have record the exact error message, but the computer reboots it self in just a matter of seconds).

    And today, I tried unplugging and flashing the BIOS, and taking out the battery (tried everything). And with the desperation i called DELL SUPPORT which told me to perform everything that i did already, and at the end – the guy said, you need to replace your motherboard.

    This problem started only with a virus, and i didn’t even have any idea what kind of virus hits my computer. Any thought on what could have happen, and what kind of virus was this?

  6. dniinoi Says:

    well! well! I can only give concrete advice when I meet your box face to face. But one thing you can do is to back-up your stuff and re-install windows XP. format all the box.

    Or try AVG Anti spam removal tool. Somehow, your PC might be infected by some other malicious programme multiplying than virus.
    If you should do any of these like scanning, unplug the internet and try these powerful tools SmitFraudFix and WinSock XP fix. These tools are recommended

  7. pp Says:

    Nice article. It is amazing how many people don’t have any antivirus software installed, or if they do it is out of date by months.

  8. jobe Says:

    odzangba is absolutely right, a virus could send instructions that would effectively break your cpu, gpu, or hard disk with a looping command.

    if youve ever flashed your bios you know it is possible to modify or change the bios. using the same set of instructions you could theoretically wipe out the bios, killing the computer. however the bios nowadays are all a little different and there are many of them, and they dont store much data, and they are designed to restore themselves upon invalid checksum. so it would be difficult or near impossible to kill the bios permanently.

    • dniinoi Says:

      It is unfounded……………Virus can make hardware stop working, malfunction, just becouse, they will corrupt the instructions that automate them…….thse sets of instructions are softwares………..the hardware is still intact and can not be damaged by a software like virus………….

  9. Jason Says:

    Modern CPU’s and GPU’s will shut down if they overheat, so I dont see how thr software could have that effect. As far as the HDD, unless your not around the computer for 2 days, I would think that one would notice the HDD going insane and act accordingly.

  10. G Johnson Says:

    It has been proven that peristent BIOS threats are possible: and,7400.html as well as ohers: If you try to flash a compromised BIOS and the removable, media drives, input devices and USB ports are malfuctioning there is no way to fix the problem except a new mainboard, The BIOS is usually not replacable on these new motherboards with flash memories used to establish the original argument.. I do admit that such a thing was not possible at the time of the original post, but now the declarative statement of the author is a moot point. Now we need to dispell the myth that this is not a fact.

  11. triantafyllos Says:

    i think there is a comuter language and you can make a program to give more electric power for example to the motherboard and bam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • dniinoi Says:

      But it not really about what you think, its about the reality and what what is happening in the industry. Anything can happen i really want to see a programed virus that crash the mother board. Show me something concrete my friend!
      Thanks for your responds jack!

  12. Bijith Says:

    virus that took over the floppy drive,
    causing it to “read” a floppy as fast as the motor would
    move the head back and forth. It is possible to tell the
    motor to drive the head BEYOND its limits, slamming it
    into the case, miss-aligning and burning out the motor.
    You can do the same thing with the CD head drive – moving it beyond its limits, faster than needed, repeatedly, and burning
    out the motors.
    You can, if you know the harddrive, do the same thing, telling
    the heads to read or write repeatedly, as a fast as they can,
    and burn out the head motor, or have the heads repeatedly
    land at some spot infinitely, until a head crash occurs.
    Your monitor DISPLY, ADVANCED, allows you to choose
    settings of resolutions and frequencies which often exceed the actual monitor’s capabilities, overdriving the high voltage windings, and if left for more than a few seconds
    as in the standard windows settings, would cause the monitor
    to go dead. If this were put into a screen saver ( no one is around to see it ) then it would overdrive your monitor until it smoked the high voltage transformer, or the
    horizontal and vertical transistors.
    If you know what drives, what monitor, what operating system, etc. a computer is set up with, you can specifically target the hardware itself, and destroy the hardware.
    Many websites check out your entire computer online, and will give you a list of what software you have, what CPU, ram,
    harddrives, printers, scanners, etc., you have installed.
    Microsoft “UPDATE” is typicaly of this, and many ” GAME ” sites make a thorough inventory of everything on your computer on a routine basis. Once this specific information is known, an expert in hardware code can do anything with the actual hardware. Any LINUX hardware driver guru ” HAS ” to be able to go into the machine drivers, and run harddrives, printers, monitors, and write the code from scratch, so that incorporating machine codes that ram the heads, or over-cycle components, is child’s play.
    Early Floppy anti-copy routines often used floppy hardware
    drivers that ignored DOS drivers, and moved the heads of the
    floppy beyond the limits of where DOS would normally write
    tracks. When someone tried to copy the floppy in DOS, the
    tracks beyond DOS’s limits would be missing. This “generally” worked, but there were floppys made that would not do this, and even now, in CD burning software, you can
    set the limits to ” OVERBURN”, moving the machine lasers
    further than the normal CD limits. If you do so, most software will warn you that you may damage your CD burner,
    and only ” CERTAIN” CD burners are capable, and even then
    only to certain limits. Getting a virus to drive the CD heads beyond the normal track area would slam the laser motors against the case, and if done repeatedly, would
    miss align and burn out the motors….

    But you should be aware that many harddrives and peripherals have built in safeguards, and “DOS” and such platforms usually have standard drivers that deliberately limit self-damaging routines. Only a very experienced hardware expert would be able to make the virus code
    over-drive a device, and in many instances he would have to know the SPECIFIC make model and manufacture of the device to have it work effectively.
    I know of a couple of routines that will destroy such things as a specific harddrive, or floppy…

    Such things are somewhat rare though, so so’t panic. !

  13. Phil Says:

    If the BIOS is corrupted so that the machine will no longer boot then how do you flash the BIOS?
    The only way would be to remove the BIOS chip and rewrite it using an external method. It’s probably cheaper just to buy a new motherboard.
    Most virus writes these days are in it to make money so they don’t want to destroy PC’s they want to keep them infected for as long as possible to run as part of a bot net.
    So although CIH type viruses are still possible they’re unlikely now that virus writers have learnt how to profit from their viruses

  14. Jim Says:

    Virus, Virus, Virus. Just do a fresh install, just back up you…..Just, Just, Just!!!!! Seriously?? People, listen. By a damned apple and be done with billy gates and the whole virus scan, drive format, data back up crap. It amazes me at how we have such little value of our time.

  15. Virus que infectan Hardware - TechTear Says:

    […] Varios especialistas ya demostraron que hay virus que existen en placas y chips, algo que fue considerado imposible durante años pero que hoy lamentablemente es una realidad. […]

  16. Wow Says:

    Nice article about virusus!

  17. xor7ervice Says:

    not to my knowledge permits me limited. sometimes it does not help reinstall the system from the base of infected hardware.
    without panic analyze learn to work. none of us is alone. Only those with no knowledge of what others notice the well-worn in the knowledge they consider to be normal. Discover new worlds visiting examine them as if everything depended on you. Your computer is a fortress, but why you do not know the forts and the basement is not having the keys to her. Your thought is the key I only shape the.
    xor7ervice greet. I think I do not know in August so I’m

    • shidaa nii-noi Says:

      i dont unserstand a thing of what ur saying my friend! 🙂 anyway thanks man……for the comment

  18. Infinite Says:

    operating system is the bridge between bios and the software it runs. it is on operating system to prevent these damages from occuring. most (all) viruses or more tehnical,malware are the concequence of insecure written o/s. take microsoft windows for example,there are at least 30 places from where an executable could be set to run. from the run keys,runonce keys,runservicesonce,microsoft/approved,the run folder,overwriting system32 applications or any application set to run automaticaly,injecting code,running code in memory.. and how can the end-user ever follow all this? with software? such as antivirus? firewall? not to mention class id. software isn’t perfect and can never replace administrator’s hand. a safe system would not need any kind of antivirus nor antimalware,user would be enough,let alone have possibilities to fry your graphic card or processor. seriously? you want to run your monitor on unsupported frequencies cause the system doesn’t detect it right? make a standard,add identity module like bios to every new monitor with strict specifics and allow system only to read it. should changes need to be applied,it should be only possible with external hardware, readers specially designed for this purpose, cheap and avalible in every pc service. turn off monitor,pull out the memory chip,take it to pc shop,select modifications or replace,plug it in,turn everything on again and if you break something,well that isn’t the software’s fault… if the system still can’t detect the right specifications for monitor,then system needs to be upgraded. or trashed if its for no better..

    instead we get hardware that allows software to do what ever it pleases,sofware that doesn’t even regulate this and a user that can brick all this sensitive and expensive equipment by changing few numbers in bios. and that is where the line between hardware and software disappears. if hardware setup were stored by external devices this wouldn’t happen. yes,you could tell the tehnician to set some insane voltage and you’d be pleased after a warning but if you fry it all,it would be only if you wanted it that way,not cause some person from another part of the world decided to write one little application to do it. that is what computers do. follow our instructions,simplify our tasks and automate them. if we don’t want something,machine shouldn’t do it. if we want something,machine should execute it,no matter how bad it is.

  19. electronics trade-in programs gaining holiday momentum Says:

    magnificent submit, very informative. I ponder
    why the other experts of this sector do not notice this.
    You must continue your writing. I am sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

  20. kf Says:

    The result is the same. It’s like saying AIDS does not kill people, yet they end up dead. Viruses don’t affect hardware, yet the hardware ends up damaged. Does it matter if it is direct or indirect?

  21. Bdtrickz Says:

    Thanks. I got very good idea about viruses. My computer wont turn on, so I thought may be it caught a virus!!

  22. Jeremy Says:

    I opened a zip containing a file which I believed contained a false-positive. Turns out it was a virus. AVG kept giving me prompts. Soon after, my graphics card started displaying artifacts, false colours, failed to display big chunks of the screen. Eventually I couldn’t even see the cursor. The virus didn’t put the card through anything graphic-intensive, since the fan never picked up its speed.

    I replaced the graphics card with a spare, a slight downgrade from GTX to GTS. After only a few days of use, the exact same turn of events started to happen. Still don’t believe my cards were affected? The artificats appeared on the motherboard’s splash screen, well before Windows even started to load. They even appeared in the bios. Two cards destroyed within a week of getting a virus? That’s one heck of a coincidence, don’t you think? After getting another replacement card, formatting my drive and reinstalling Windows, everything is OK. Oh, and my previous two cards are still ruined.

  23. uc_assistance Says:

    downgrade from GTX to GTS ? Ht ? uc is hot! crash boll on pcb.

  24. Jessica Says:

    Hi there, I believe I may have accidentally downloaded a virus through a snipping tool app. I can turn my laptop on and initially the led lights would just flash. .. so I blew out the air vents and tried again… this time the laptop flashed “bios update” then loaded and brought me up to the W8.1 login screen… but then continued onto to a black screen with random flicks of like white noise? And thoughts?

  25. TheRealZygmo Says:

    I love these guys who say: “Wise up, dump your Gates machines and get an Apple. No more viruses….no more wasting time reinstalling”,and so on and on.
    So. Please do that, people. Buy those glorified Linux computers (Of course, to get people to do this Apple would also have to trim their artificially inflated prices and allow independent companies to write software. Uh oh!)…..and then, when enough of you have them, the ‘evil doers’ will start making viruses for Apples because it would then be profitable. Get enough people off our PCs and pretty soon the ‘evil doers’ will forget about us. We will have the same small percentage of users that Apple/Linux has now. Then we can laugh at all the Apple users “wasting all that time reinstalling”, and so on and on.

  26. David Adams Says:

    oh my i am not sure people understand what the difference is between a virus malware adware and so on accually is. as far as a viruse destroying the hardware of a computer I would say no they cant . But thats only because we dont have a true word for an attack on a computer that accually destroyes the hardware. Its not really a viruse they can be given an antivirus :P. Lets call it a disease insted and there are many out there and many people who could if they cared create one send it to you and your computer would do one of many different things to fail and die.
    Say a viruse has been loaded to your computer well you did it to your self mostlikely but not allways. but anyway said viruse now has altered your bios now you may believe that your fan will auto kick on when temperatures go above certain limits but guess what reads and pushes those readings to the program that then turns on the fan? oh now if your computer has a fan attached with a self regulated temperature reading aparatus to tell it to turn on and off at the right time well you would say well shucks it cant get that kinda computer but again um the bios is what adjusts the voltage to and from all peripherals so guess what bios just turned the fans power supply off yep it aint kicking in no matter what temperature it reaches or said bios auto kills its power when temperature reaches so high 😛 sorry your comp caught a virus but it didnt die from it it died from Hyperthermia. this in essence is the same as if you entered the bios yourself turned voltage to max over clocked your cpu then stuck your finger in the fan blades when you hurd it kick in to overdrive if you can burn your own computer up and im sure the author can figure out how to. then yes a computer infected bye a virus thats makes a computer susceptible to a disease could infact damage the hardware. Just count it as possable. probabilities say that its ok though you are much more likely to trip over a cat and crash into a computer therebye destroying it. So next time your walking bye that nice outdoor wifi spot watch where your walking.

    • shidaa nii-noi Says:

      people share public opinions in the hope of research and education. Branding people as fools is very offensive and a lack of tolerance. you can share your views but we must regards our fellows of their opinions.
      What you have no knowledge of or experience thereof, you can not ‘simply’ claim exist, untill proven otherwise! what is the fool in this.

  27. Steve Says:

    There are actually viruses that will cause hardware damage. I learned this firsthand as a machine I had a couple of years back (predating SSD hard drives) became infected with a virus that did nothing but throttle the read/write head of the hard drive back and forth from one end of the platter to the other. Over the course of a couple of months that action physically killed the hard drive. – just an FYI

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