Virus Vault Files

Dear Computer Lady,

I’m wondering about the virus vault concerning my computer scans.  I usually have about a dozen cookies each time the computer is scanned.  They are removed to the virus vault.  

There is the option of emptying the virus vault. I know people who have never emptied theirs.  But, I’m thinking they would be taking up space if they are left in there.  

Should it be emptied and what happens to them when you empty the virus vault? 

Thanks, Alice


Dear Alice,

In order to understand if you should empty your virus vault or not, it helps to first understand what it is, and how it works. Lets start there.

Your antivirus program is always scanning for virus on your computer system, and when it finds a file that has been infected with a virus, it often will clean the virus out of the file, but just as often, it will not be able to clean the file but will need to remove the entire file.

If the program were to just delete the infected files it finds, you would not have the option of recovering the file if you need it later on.

Now, you might be asking yourself why you would need a file that has been infected by a virus, and the simple answer is that some viruses, replace necessary system files with their own infected version of that file. Let’s say that we have an example computer running here and it gets infected with a nasty virus. This particular virus not only adds its own files to the computer, but it replaces several files that Windows needs to run with its own infected versions of these files. 

The user of this computer starts to notice that things are not working quite right, and so they run a virus scan. If the antivirus program finds the infected files and just deletes them, the infected files that windows needs to run will be deleted too, and after restarting the computer, windows will no longer be able to run, and the user will not be able to use the computer or access their files.

If the antivirus program had put these files in the virus vault, it is usually possible to restore those files to your computer (yes, it will be infected, but at least the user would be able to backup their important files) and run the computer long enough to get their important data off the computer.

Often, the virus infected files will not disable the entire computer, but just one or two programs that are running on the computer.

When your antivirus program moves files to the virus vault, it changes the file name of each file and keeps a log of what the original file name was. Changing the name of the file makes the file useless, so that it will not run or re-infect the computer. If you do decide to restore file to your computer, the antivirus program looks up the original file name of the infected file, and restores the original name when it restores the file.

When you run a scan on your computer and files are moved to the virus vault, the best thing to do is leave them in there for a week or so, to make sure everything on your computer is still working correctly. When you are sure you really don’t need those files, it is then safe to go in and empty the vault.

The files in the virus vault usually are small files (cookies are extremely small files) and don’t take up a lot of room, but it is good to get rid of them occasionally.

Since the only things your virus program is removing are cookies, and I personally have never found cookies to be harmful, you really don’t have to remove them at all.


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