What is a Corrupted File?
A corrupted file is a file that has become unusable, damaged or unreadable. Corruption can occur for a number of reasons:
– Hardware failure – Issues with a storage device like a hard drive or USB drive can cause data corruption. This can be due to bad sectors, connection issues, or physical damage to the hardware.
– Power failure – An unexpected loss of power while a file is being written can corrupt the file. This is because the write process is interrupted before completion.
– Software bugs – Bugs or errors in software code can sometimes corrupt files. This is often seen with media files and documents.
– Transfer errors – Problems occurring during file transfers across networks or between devices can lead to corruption.
– Intentional corruption – In some cases, malware or users themselves may intentionally corrupt a file to make it inaccessible.
How Do I Know a File is Corrupted?
There are a few key signs that indicate a corrupted file:
- You cannot open or access the file
- An error message states the file is corrupted or damaged
- The file contents are garbled and unintelligible
- The file size is smaller or larger than expected
- You cannot copy, move, rename or delete the file
- The file name extensions are altered or missing
If you encounter any of these issues, it’s very likely the file has become corrupted.
Can Corrupted Files be Recovered?
In some cases, yes – corrupted files can potentially be repaired and recovered. However, there is no guarantee. It depends on the type and extent of the corruption.
Recovering from Drive Errors
If the corruption is due to a physical hard drive failure, recovery is possible by repairing or replacing the damaged hardware. A professional data recovery service may be able to repair the drive and extract data.
Using Backup Copies
If available, an uncorrupted backup copy of the file can simply replace the damaged version. Cloud backups or file version histories can provide access to uncorrupted versions of the file.
Using Data Recovery Software
Special data recovery software scans the drive and attempts to reconstruct corrupted files. Popular tools like Recuva, EaseUS Data Recovery, and Stellar Data Recovery have decent success rates for software-based recovery.
Manual File Repair
In some cases, users are able to manually repair simple file corruption using a hex editor or other utilities. However, this requires technical expertise.
File Format Repair Tools
Programs specifically designed to repair corrupted media, documents or other file formats may be able to fix the damage. For example, video repair tools can fix corrupted MP4 and MOV files.
Best Practices to Avoid Corruption
Using appropriate preventative measures can help avoid file corruption scenarios:
- Use a surge protector to prevent power fluctuations
- Always safely eject removable media before unplugging it
- Maintain regular backups of important files in multiple locations
- Use a reliable antivirus program to detect malware
- Store files on healthy hard drives or other reliable media
- Check files after transfers to ensure they are not corrupted
Following these tips will help minimize the chances of file corruption occurring.
How to Delete Corrupted Files
If a file becomes corrupted beyond repair, you will likely want to remove it. Here are the steps to delete corrupted files:
1. Locate the Corrupted File
Open File Explorer or Finder and navigate to the folder containing the corrupted file. The file may be indicated with an error symbol or trouble opening.
2. Delete the File Normally
Right-click or control-click the file and select Delete from the menu. This will move the file to the Recycle Bin.
3. Empty the Recycle Bin
Open the Recycle Bin folder and right-click the corrupted file. Select Empty Bin to permanently delete the file.
4. Use Command Line
On Windows, you can use the Command Prompt to force delete the corrupted file. Open Command Prompt as Administrator and use the “DEL” command:
On Mac, open Terminal and use the “rm” command:
5. Try Third-Party Tools
Programs like FileASSASSIN and Unlocker can sometimes delete corrupted files that resist normal deletion methods.
How to Repair a Corrupted SD Card or USB Drive
Corruption on external storage devices like SD cards and USB drives is common. Here are some potential solutions:
1. Use Disk Checking Utility
Run the built-in disk checker on your computer. On Windows, right-click the drive and select Properties > Tools > Check. On Mac, open Disk Utility and run First Aid. This may find and repair errors.
2. Reformat the Drive
You can reformat the SD card or USB drive to factory settings to wipe corruption. This also erases all data, so only do this if you have backups.
3. Test with Another Device
Try plugging the drive into another computer or device and see if the corruption persists. This helps determine if the issue is with the drive or computer.
4. Contact Manufacturer
For SD cards, the manufacturer may replace or repair the card if still under warranty. Contact them for support.
5. Low-Level Format
A low-level format realigns sectors on the drive. This can repair corruption but also erases data. Use disk utility software to perform this format.
How to Repair Corrupted Files on Windows
Several built-in Windows utilities can help repair corrupted system files and disk errors:
Run SFC and DISM
SFC scans Windows system files and replaces corrupted files from a cache. DISM does an online check and repair of the Windows image.
Use Startup Repair
Startup Repair will scan and replace corrupted Windows startup files that are preventing system booting. Access this by booting into recovery mode.
Restore Previous Version
Right-click the corrupted file, go to Properties > Previous Versions tab and select a functional earlier version to restore.
Reinstall Windows or Program
A clean reinstall of Windows or the associated problematic program can replace corrupted files. Try this if all else fails. Backup data first.
How to Repair Corrupted Files on Mac
MacOS has some integrated options to fix file corruption:
Run First Aid with Disk Utility
This performs a check and repair of directory corruption and structure errors on drives. Access Disk Utility via Finder > Applications > Utilities.
Restore from Time Machine
If enabled, you can restore previous uncorrupted versions of files from Time Machine backups.
A clean reinstall of your Mac operating system can replace any corrupted system files. Backup data beforehand.
Delete System Caches
Deleting caches for programs like Photos can clear corrupted cached data. Close the app first, then navigate to ~/Library/Caches folder and delete cache.
How to Repair a Corrupted PDF File
PDF files often become corrupted but luckily there are a few ways to try repairing the damage:
Open File in Adobe Acrobat
The full version of Adobe Acrobat (not Reader) has a built-in diagnostics tool that may fix PDF corruption. Open the PDF, click Analyze and select Repair File.
Use Online PDF Repair Tool
Several free online tools claim to repair corrupted PDFs. Upload the damaged file and download the repaired version. Test a few to see which works best.
Convert PDF to Word then back to PDF
Use Adobe Acrobat or Word’s export function to convert the PDF to Word, then reconvert it back to PDF. This may fix simple corruption in the process.
Restore Earlier Version or Backup
If you have a backup or earlier version of the PDF from cloud storage, Dropbox etc you can retrieve this uncorrupted copy.
Manually Recreate PDF
If all else fails, you will have to manually recreate the PDF by copying and pasting content from scratch into a PDF creator tool. Print physical documents to PDF again.
How to Repair a Corrupted MP3 File
MP3 audio files can become corrupted but are repairable through these methods:
Play in VLC Media Player
VLC is more robust at playing damaged MP3 files than Windows Media Player or iTunes. Open the MP3 in VLC to see if it can repair and play it.
Convert MP3 to WAV then back to MP3
Use a free audio converter tool to convert the MP3 to WAV format, then reconvert the WAV back to MP3. This may fix the file.
Use MP3 Repair Software
Specialized MP3 repair utilities like mp3doctorPRO claim to fix various MP3 corruption errors. They use repair algorithms tailored for MP3 files.
Re-encode the MP3
Use an encoding tool like dbPoweramp to re-encode the MP3 file from scratch, applying proper settings. This creates a new healthy file.
Restore from Backup
If you have an earlier working version of the MP3 from a backup, use that copy instead. Cloud music libraries may have corruption-free versions.
How to Repair a Corrupted MOV Video File
Corrupted MOV files can be a headache. Try these possible solutions:
Play in VLC Media Player
As with MP3s, start by trying to open the MOV in VLC player, which is often able to play damaged files better than QuickTime.
Use a Video Repair Tool
Programs like Remo Repair MOV, DivFix++, and EaseFab Video Repair can analyze MOV files and fix various corruption errors. Test them out.
Re-encode the Video
Rip the video again using Handbrake or other encoding software. Set optimal encoding settings. This rebuilds a healthy version.
Convert MOV to MP4 then back to MOV
Convert the MOV video to MP4 format then reconvert the MP4 file back to MOV. This may workaround the corruption.
Restore from Backup
Find an earlier uncorrupted version from a video backup or cloud source and use that copy instead.
How to Repair a Corrupted JPG Image
Here are some troubleshooting tips for salvaging corrupted JPG/JPEG images:
Open Image in Different Viewer
Open the image in an alternate program like IrfanView, FastStone Image Viewer or GIMP instead of Windows Photos. It may render correctly.
Convert JPG to PNG and Back
Use image editing software to change the JPG to PNG format, then convert it back to JPG. This may fix invalid data.
Use JPG Recovery Software
Utilities like JPEG Fixer claim the ability to repair corrupt JPEGs and restore the visual image. Several free options are available to test.
Extract JPEG Thumbnail
Some images may store an embedded thumbnail inside the file separately from the full image. Extract this to salvage a small version.
Restore Earlier Version
If you have access to a previous uncorrupted copy of the image from a backup or autosave, use this working version instead.
How to Repair Corrupted Video Files
Video corruption manifests in visual glitches, freezing, skips or crashes. Attempt these fixes for common video file types:
Repair corrupted MP4 files with VLC media player, video repair software, or by converting to and from different formats.
Troubleshoot MOV files with dedicated MOV repair tools, VLC player, re-encoding or format conversion to MP4 and back.
Try repairing damaged AVI videos with VLC, DivFix++ tool, reformatting, or converting to another format then re-encoding as AVI.
MPEG video repair can be attempted with recovery software, conversion to MP4, or by generating a new MPEG encoding from source.
Fix corrupted WMV files by encoding original source video to WMV again or remuxing streams with recovery software.
Restore from Backup
Having an earlier working backup copy of the video is the most failsafe recovery method. Use cloud or file backups if available.
How to Repair a Corrupted Word Document
Microsoft Word documents (DOC/DOCX) frequently become corrupted. Here are troubleshooting tactics:
Open in Word Safe Mode
Launch Word, hold CTRL as you open the file. This disables add-ins which may be causing corruption issues.
Open in Google Docs or Pages
Web apps like Google Docs and Pages often can open damaged Word files, allowing you to recover and re-save the contents.
Use Open and Repair
In Word, select File > Open > Recover Unsaved Documents > Open and Repair. This will extract text from the damaged file.
Convert to Plain Text
If DOC won’t open at all, try converting it to simple .TXT format or RTF using Word or other software. This may salvage text.
Restore Previous Versions
If File History or OneDrive backups are enabled, you may be able to restore an earlier uncorrupted autosave version.
How to Repair Corrupted Zip Files
Zip archives can become damaged and lose compressed data. Try these zip repair tactics:
Extract Archive Contents
Use file unzipping software and attempt extracting files from the archive normally. Some contents may still be recoverable.
Open Zip with Archive Utility
On Macs, the Archive Utility can open and repair corrupted zip files by extracting intact data and rebuilding file structure.
Use Zip Repair Software
Tools like Zip Repair Pro analyze damage in zip archives and selectively recover files. They may rebuild corrupted archives.
Recompress Source Files
If the original source files still exist, just recompress them into a new working zip file again using file compression software.
While file corruption is an annoying problem, recovery is often possible using appropriate troubleshooting techniques for the file type affected. Follow the data recovery best practices outlined to give yourself the best chance of repairing or restoring important corrupted files that become inaccessible. Leveraging backup copies of files is the most foolproof method of recovering from corruption issues.