I work in a lab environment, and save data to a shared PC. This PC is not networked, and so the only way to get the data from that PC to my own, is through USB. The lab director has mentioned that the PC has been infected with malware many times in the past few years, and to be careful not to infect it again.

It's not the lab PC I'm concerned about though. In order to analyse my results, I need to copy the data to a USB and then plug the USB into my own machine and copy the files to it.

I'm worried that I'm going to end up infecting my machine. Is there any safe way that I can move the data with minimal risk to my own machine?

  • You could use optical media (CD-R or DVD-R) instead of USB.
    – antik
    Feb 23, 2014 at 1:26
  • One example: techspot.com/news/…
    – antik
    Feb 23, 2014 at 2:27

3 Answers 3


There are a few things you should do:

  • Disable autorun, this way you won't start any install scripts
  • Use an updated firewall / virus scanner, for obvious reasons

Or you could run a linux live cd and copy the data.

  • Am I correct in believing that disabling autorun is the only thing that is strictly neccessary, assuming that the actual data files would be safe (e.g. plain text) ?
    – Peteris
    Feb 22, 2014 at 19:48
  • 1
    @Peteris: For various reasons (e.g. Windows hiding file extensions), I believe this to be an over-optimistic assumption. Feb 22, 2014 at 19:53
  • The majority of the files are plain text, although every so often there will be jpegs too. Nothing more than that.
    – Matthew
    Feb 23, 2014 at 10:39
  • 1
    @Matthew - Viruses can hide in plain text files and jpegs, too. Under those situations, they require a poorly written program to read them (often, the dangerous file must be tailored to compromise a specific program or framework). Such a file may be obvious, depending on what other programs you use to look at it; image files have the EXIF section (metadata like camera model, timestamp of shot, etc), which isn't usually displayed with the image. Feb 24, 2014 at 10:41

Make it easy on yourself.

Go and get an ubuntu cd and start it up using your machine or use a vitural machine. then connect the usb directly to your vm or ubuntu cd. After extract the files required. make a copy and zip it for protection. run a spam cleaner on the files or upload it through a scanner.

2nd run a scan on your thumbdrive.



I would suggest that, if you are paranoid and believe that your antivirus is not up to the task, remove the hard drive of your computer first by unplugging the SATA cable. Disconnect your machine from all networks and ensure that ethernet cables and wireless connections are completely disabled.

Since the hard drive has been removed, you will need to use a Linux live CD to boot up the system and access the files on the infected USB. Plug in another USB drive, and move the files from the infected drive to the clean one. If the files you are copying are merely plain text and jpegs, they should not spread the virus.

It would be very unlikely that the virus would somehow make its way into the "clean" flash drive as well.

  • If the virus can copy itself from a flash drive to a hard drive, what makes you think it couldn't copy itself to another flash drive too? Note that text files and jpegs can harbor viruses - the payload is then delivered when a poorly-written (and over-authorized, usually) program reads them. Feb 24, 2014 at 10:35
  • Text files and JPEGs aren't executable unless they're opened, and the OP should scan the files first before opening them anyways. Additionally, the use of the Linux Live CD should prevent the files from being copied over again (unless the virus was designed for Linux, or if the virus is like you said embedded directly in the files).
    – user25787
    Feb 24, 2014 at 22:21
  • @d.free I normally scan all files before opening them. My worry is that my AV wouldn't pick up the virus. Removing my hard drive would be overkill for me, as I use a laptop. The Live CD approach sounds like my best bet so far. Would virtualisation software (such as VirtualBox) be any good in this situation?
    – Matthew
    Feb 25, 2014 at 18:44
  • The problem with a VM is that the possibly infected USB has to be connected to your "clean" computer as well. Unless there's some way (a setting or otherwise) that allows the VM to access the USB drive but not allow the computer to access it, the virus could potentially infect your clean machine as well (thinking paranoid here, but its possible).
    – user25787
    Feb 25, 2014 at 22:07
  • I thought as much. I couldn't seem to find a way to only have the guest VM recognise the USB. Live CD looks to be the answer.
    – Matthew
    Feb 27, 2014 at 16:53

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