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I have a laptop I fear is compromised. I've run all the scans possible and nothing came up, but still I am dubious given that one night, just for a split second or so, I saw the mouse moving without me being actually sitting in front of it. It might have been a glitch and, again, all the scans I could possibly run were negative, but I'm still unsure.

I would therefore like to wipe it all clean and do a full OS reinstall, but before doing so I would like to back-up some files. I would like to do a secure back-up though, given that I'm not sure about what happened to that computer.

My idea was to create a partition on an external hard drive and back-up my stuff there, but I'm afraid that, even if it's a separate partition, it will still get mounted when I plug in my external hard drive to another computer and therefore spread whatever could be in there to said computer.

My question is: is it possible to make some kind of "safe"/"quarantine" partition that does not pose the risk of spreading stuff anytime the external hard drive is plugged in? Or is that not necessary as long as I do not access that partition?

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Use an encrypted volume, like VeraCrypt. That way, you need to enter the decryption password before anything can transfer.

However, your risk is low without such a measure. Viruses don't run around on their own. There is the slight possibility that the firmware of the external drive could get infected from the laptop, but this risk is so low and unlikely as to be almost "urban myth" in its possibility that you would run into it. And if this was the case, then a "safe" partition won't protect you from it (it's at the hardware level).

So, either way, you likely don't need a "safe" partition to protect you from this threat. Copy your files over and run a virus scanner on the drive before you open/run any of the files.

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