I want to preface this post with: this is not about malware per se. Rather, I have provided some background info to put the question into its proper context. Also, this may sound like a bit of a stupid question but I'm going to ask anyway.
Background on the issue: I've had my desktop PC for about eight years and I've never backed it up or formatted it (yes, it's stupid). Recently I've been concerned that I may have the notorious Conficker virus (and I will post about this later when I have more time). If I do have it, the infection on my desktop computer would have been via usb from my laptop computer, which in turn was most likely infected by usb (and I may have another infected usb from using it on an infected computer). (My desktop and laptop also share a secured wireless network connection, which may be an additional problem I have to deal with later).
I have heard that Conficker disables system restore, and since I never backup my computer, I would like to try doing (or at least transferring my files) that before attempting any malware troubleshooting. So here are the questions:
1. If I attempt to transfer files/backup to an external hard drive that connects via usb, the drive will become infected and then connecting it again after cleaning any malware from my machine will simply re-infect my computer(s), correct? In the event that I do not have Conficker but have some other non-usb-transmitted malware would transferring files (.mp3, .doc, etc) to an external HD have the same result - infect that HD and re-infect when re-connected to my now-clean computer(s)?
2. Also, is a printer that connects by usb able to be infected and capable of re-infecting a machine (for a conficker infection)?
3. Finally, how do you clean the actual removable media that has been infected (i.e. is there a way I can make sure I don't re-infect myself)? One more, sorry - what about preventative measures such as disabling "autorun" (or any of those auto- affiliates)?
4. Does my personal network need to be cleaned somehow as well? Currently I am connected with my desktop by wired LAN instead of wireless
- Windows XP SP3 (both Desktop and laptop PCs)
- Linksys WRT54G Router
- Removable storage (a) usbs: 256MB San Disk Mini cruzer + some crappy 4GB Mobile Disk GXT (used in both desktop and laptop)
( external HD 160GB Maxator OneTouch - software and driver installed several years ago, but no data has ever been transferred (only installed on desktop PC)
- Printer (if it matters) HP DeskJet F4120 All-in-one
Thank you for any help you can give me!!
P.S. - I didn't include any hjt or other analyses because I didn't deem it to be appropriate at this point. I hope that's okay. Let me know any other information that is needed.