Fix Hard Drive Corruption and File System Errors

By | November 11, 2018

Hard drive corruption is not a pretty thing, and to make things worse, it is not noticeable at first. Meaning that in some cases, it can go unnoticed for weeks, or even months, until it’s too late. Moreover, it can cause numerous Windows errors that initially seem unrelated to hard drive corruption or file system errors.

I recommend you scan your hard drive regularly for errors to avoid system crashes. In this article, there are a few methods to scan for, and deal with hard drive errors. However, just choose the one you feel comfortable with; all of them fundamentally work the same. But first, a little more about hard drive corruption.

What is Hard Drive Corruption?

Although, I mainly refer to hard drives in this article, corruption is not isolated to magnetic storage devices – solid-state-drives, flash disks, memory cards and many other types of storage devices can suffer from corruption.

Fix Hard Drive Corruption and File System Errors

In the wild, there are two types of disk errors. The first is caused by physical damage or mechanical failure. And the second is software related, known as logical errors. When faced with physical damage, and you can still access the drive; use a good data recovery tool and retrieve as much data as possible. Unfortunately, physical damage cannot be repaired using software alone, so toss it. On the other hand, logical errors are easy to repair, if you know how.

Causes

Basically, hard drive corruption occurs when a system cannot finish writing data to a file. For example, when your computer experiences a sudden shutdown due to a power failure or forced restart. This prevents the hard drive from carrying out a requested read or write process properly, which result in file damage. Other causes of hard drive corruption include; mechanical component issues, software errors or even electrical events. But more specifically, below is a list of the most common causes.

  • Sudden power failures during file operations
  • Bad sectors
  • Read and write head tracking issues
  • Malfunctioning software
  • Virus attacks

Symptoms

As mentioned previously, hard drive errors can go unnoticed until it’s too late. Fortunately, there are some suspect symptoms you should look out for. For example; files will refuse to open, files and folders disappear completely, or you receive error messages like, file name not recognized, and/or file format not recognized.

But the most common symptom must be the dreaded blue-screen-of-death (BSOD). Although it can be caused by many other factors, hard drive corruption is the most common cause.

Scan hard drives for errors and fix it

Now that you know what causes hard drive corruptions and file system errors, we can discuss how to look for, and fix it. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are several methods to deal with hard drive corruption or file system errors. The first being the native Windows Check Disk tool or chkdsk as the techies call it, because chkdsk is the command used to invoke the Windows Disk Checker from the Command Prompt.

The Windows Check Disk Tool

Although the Windows Check Disk tool is not pretty and slow, it works. Moreover, running it regularly can help prevent bigger issues and permanent data loss. Check Disk basically scans the integrity of the file system and file metadata on a drive (disk), and fixes any logical file system errors. This includes; master file table (MFT) corruption, bad file security descriptors and misaligned time stamp or file size information.

Optionally, Check Disk can scan the surface of a hard drive for bad sectors. Bad sectors can also be divided into two types – those caused when data is written badly, called soft bad sectors and those caused by physical damage to the drive, called hard bad sectors. Check Disk also tries to fix bad sectors by repairing soft bad sectors and marking hard bad sectors, so that data is not written to them.

Check Disk often rescues me from disaster and total data loss. However, when Check Disk encounter problems that it can’t repair, data loss can occur. So, keep a regular backup of your data and use a S.M.A.R.T. tool for drives that support it.

Check Disk works pretty much the same in all Windows versions. But the screens in the steps below may look different, because we will be working with Windows 10 in this article. Even if you are using Windows 7 or 8, it should still be easy to follow. However, I will point out the differences where possible. Additionally, we will discuss running Check Disk (chkdsk.exe) from the Command Prompt and how to run even if you cannot boot into Windows.

How to scan a drive for errors in Windows 10

It’s easy running Check Disk from Windows; open File Explorer, go to This PC and then to Devices and drives, right-click the drive you want to scan for errrs and choose Properties. Alternatively, you can click on the drive and then press the ALT + Enter keys on your keyboard.

Hard Disk Properties

On the Properties window, go to the Tools tab and then click the Check button in the Error checking section. In Windows 7, click the Check now button.

Hard Disk Tools

Drive Properties Tools tab

Windows 8 and 10 may tell you that you don’t need to scan the drive, because it hasn’t found any errors. But you can still click on Scan drive to perform a manual scan.

Hard Disk Error Checking

Drive error checking screen in Windows 10

Windows will perform a quick scan without attempting any repairs.

Hard Drive Scanning

Drive error checking progress in Windows 10

If no errors were found after Windows scanned the drive, just click Close or click Show Details to open Event Viewer with a detailed log of the error checking process.

Hard Disk Error Checking No Errors Found

Drive successfully scanned in Windows 10

Specifically, Event Viewer will show you what the disk Error Checking tool did. You might notice that the Windows Disk Error Checking interface runs the chkdsk tool in the background. As a result, the information stored in the Error Checking event is the output of the chkdsk tool.

Event Viewer Check Disk Details

Check Disk information (event) in the Event Viewer. No scroll bar for the text box, so use the your mouse’s scroll button to read everything.

As per the Check Disk event, the chkdsk tool runs checks in three stages:

  • Stage 1 – Examines basic file system structure.
  • Stage 2 – Examines file name linkage.
  • Stage 3 – Examines security descriptors.

When done reviewing the information, close the Event Viewer and the Error Checking window.

How to fix drive errors in Windows 10

If the Check Disk tool found errors, it will prompt you to repair the drive.

Error Checking Repair this Drive

Repair this drive prompt in Windows 10

To start fixing the drive, click Close and then Repair drive on the new Error Checking window.

Repair a drive screen in Windows 10

On the next screen, choose between Repair now and Repair on next restart.

Cannot repair the drive while it is in use

Choose Repair now or Repair on next restart

If you choose Repair now, it will attempt to repair the drive and show you when it is done. Again, the Show Details link on the last screen, will open Event Viewer with a complete log of the repairs that were made. Please note that if you try and repair a system drive (C:), it may be required to restart your computer before attempting the repairs.

Error Checking Drive Successfully Repaired

Drive successfully repaired

If you choose Repair on next restart, the repair process is automatically started the next time you restart your computer. On this screen, you can press any key to skip disk checking. However, I recommend you allow the repair process to finish.

Repair drive on restart

Repair drive on next restart

In Windows 7, things look a little different; when you click the Check now button, you can choose a few extra options: Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. Selecting both will perform a thorough disk check. However, when you select the second option (surface scan), it can take quite a while. Sometimes, a few hours, depending on the size of the drive.

Windows 7 Check Disk

Check Disk in Windows 7

Windows won’t be able to perform a scan while the disk is in use. If so, you can Schedule a disk check for the next time you restart Windows or Cancel the scan.

Windows 7 Schedule Disk Check

Schedule a disk check in Windows 7

How to run Check Disk (chkdsk) from the Command Prompt

You can skip the interface and run the chkdsk command from the Command Prompt for more control. Furthermore, this is the only way to force automatic fixing or enable surface (bad sector) scanning. The chkdsk command supports a number of optional switches, but for now, we will only look at the /f and /r parameters.

It is required to run the chkdsk command with administrative privileges. So, to open the Command Prompt with administrative privileges, press Start and then type command prompt. Right-click the result and then choose Run as administrator. Alternatively, press Windows + X on your keyboard and choose Command Prompt (Admin) to open the command prompt with administrative privileges.

Now, type chkdsk in the Command Prompt and press Enter. Check Disk will scan your drive in read-only mode. Meaning it will report errors but will not attempt to repair them. Normally, if Check Disk is run in read-only mode, a restart is not necessary. To can a specific drive, other than the default system drive, type the drive letter after the Check Disk command; for example, chkdsk D:.

CHKDSK Read-only mode

If you want chkdsk to attempt to repair file system errors during the scan, add the /f switch to the command. The /f parameter tells check disk to immediately fix errors it finds. Note that you will be asked to schedule a scan on the next restart if the drive is in use, and it most probably are.

CHKDSK automatically fix errors

To perform a surface scan for bad sectors, use the /r switch. When the /r swith is used, the /f switch is implied. Meaning that Check Disk will then scan for bad sectors and file system errors.

CHKDSK Looking for bad clusters

chkdsk parameters

Below is a complete list of the parameters available for chkdsk:

C:\>chkdsk /?
Checks a disk and displays a status report.

CHKDSK [volume[[path]filename]]] [/F] [/V] [/R] [/X] [/I] [/C] [/L[:size]] [/B]

  volume          Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon),
                  mount point, or volume name.
  filename        FAT/FAT32 only: Specifies the files to check for fragmentation.
  /F              Fixes errors on the disk.
  /V              On FAT/FAT32: Displays the full path and name of every file
                  on the disk.
                  On NTFS: Displays cleanup messages if any.
  /R              Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information
                  (implies /F).
  /L:size         NTFS only:  Changes the log file size to the specified number
                  of kilobytes.  If size is not specified, displays current
                  size.
  /X              Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary.
                  All opened handles to the volume would then be invalid
                  (implies /F).
  /I              NTFS only: Performs a less vigorous check of index entries.
  /C              NTFS only: Skips checking of cycles within the folder
                  structure.
  /B              NTFS only: Re-evaluates bad clusters on the volume
                  (implies /R)

The /I or /C switch reduces the amount of time required to run Chkdsk by
skipping certain checks of the volume.

Conclusion

I have a feeling that this article is a little overdone. But who knew there was this much to say about the humble Check Disk tool? If you have read through the entire article, well done and thank you. Please leave a comment if you would like to add something or if you feel I made a mistake somewhere. I am happy to learn from my readers.

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