Can a PC Virus infect RAM (computer memory) permanently?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Ken C. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

After a virus recently infected my PC, I was forced (once again) to format my harddrive and do a clean installation of Windows. I'm getting better and better at this. My PC is now protected by McAfee, supplied by AT&T U-Verse Wireless High-Speed. Aside from an erratic mouse, my PC is operating satisfactory.

My question is this: is it possible for a virus to infect memory modules (RAM) of my PC? I ask because a couple of years ago something went amiss, and one of the Dell techies (over the phone) advised me to unplug and then re-plug in each of the 3 memory modules of my Dell Inspiron B-130 which I did, carefully. The problem was resolved and I'm not even sure if what the technician told me was in fact related to a virus. That said, is it possible that a virus is still lingering in one (or more) of the memory modules? "

My response:

Good question.

The short answer is that viruses do live in RAM, but not permanently.

The long answer:

When you power off your PC, everything stored in RAM is lost. RAM is meant only for temporary storage and in techy speak is referred to as "primary memory." Permanent memory refers to data which is stored and recalled even after a loss in power. This type of memory is referred to as "secondary memory" or "secondary storage". Your harddrive (the "C Drive") is a good example of secondary storage.

With all that aside: viruses do live in RAM, but only when a virus-infected program is loaded into memory (from an infected file stored on your hard drive, for example) -- but the virus will cease to exist inside the RAM when you power off your PC.

Even if you have your PC turned off for minutes, hours, days, or weeks, RAM can become re-infected with a virus at any time once your PC is turned back on -- but only if you come in direct contact with the virus (stored on the harddrive, or downloaded, for example).

I hope that answers your question.

PS: you could save yourself a lot of pain and anguish by backing up your PC using Acronis True Image. Acronis can backup your personal data PLUS it can backup the Windows operating system. Few backup programs on the market have this capability.

All you need to do is make a backup of the system in a healthy state (I.E.: not infected with a virus). If you become infected at some point in the future, you can simply revert back to your healthy image backup and you'll be up and running in only a few minutes. In other words: you'll never, ever have to install Windows again -- or your programs.

You can download Acronis True Image through our website. Details here:

Acronis True Image 2010 Review

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