Running a drive error check, also known as disk checking, is an important way to diagnose and potentially resolve issues with your computer’s hard drive. A drive error check scans the drive for file system errors and bad sectors, giving you the chance to repair issues before they result in data loss or drive failure.
What is a drive error check?
A drive error check, often called “chkdsk” based on the name of the command used to run it, is a built-in utility on Windows and other operating systems that scans the file system on a drive and looks for disk errors. It has several main functions:
- Detect bad sectors – Damaged parts of the disk surface that can cause data errors.
- Find and repair file system errors – Errors in the file system metadata that may cause instability or data loss.
- Recover readable data – Attempt to repair corrupt files and make them accessible again.
- Reallocate bad sectors – Quarantine damaged sectors and remap data to healthy parts of the disk.
Running chkdsk helps identify issues that might otherwise go unnoticed until the drive fails entirely. File system corruption can happen due to unexpected shutdowns, virus infections, or underlying disk defects over time.
When should I run chkdsk?
There are a few instances when you should perform a drive error check:
- You suspect drive errors – If you experience unusual behavior like frequent crashes, the blue screen of death, or file corruption, chkdsk can help identify underlying disk problems.
- As preventative maintenance – Running chkdsk occasionally as a preventative measure allows you to resolve small issues before they become catastrophic.
- Hard drive health is poor – Monitor drive health with a tool like S.M.A.R.T. If readings indicate high bad sectors or the potential for failure, run a drive check.
- System files become corrupted – The System File Checker tool can scan Windows system files and initiate chkdsk if it finds corruption.
It’s a good idea to schedule chkdsk before an OS upgrade or migration, as file system errors can interfere with completing the process successfully. Bottom line – if you suspect drive issues or want to preempt problems, perform a chkdsk.
How do I run chkdsk in Windows?
There are a couple ways to run chkdsk on a Windows PC. The first is using the command line, and the second is using the graphical user interface.
Run chkdsk using the command prompt
- Open the Start menu and search “cmd” to open the command prompt.
- Type “chkdsk C: /f” and hit Enter to run chkdsk on your C drive. Use a different drive letter if needed.
- The scan will run at your next reboot. Type “shutdown /r” to restart your computer.
- Windows will display a message that it is scanning the drive on restart. Allow it to complete.
Adding “/f” will force chkdsk to attempt repairs. You can also add “/r” for a more thorough scan that checks every sector.
Using File Explorer
- Open File Explorer and right click on the drive you want to check.
- Choose “Properties” then click the “Tools” tab.
- Under Error Checking click “Check” to run a basic chkdsk scan.
- You can check “Scan drive” for a more thorough scan, and “Repair errors” to fix issues.
- Restart your computer to allow chkdsk to run.
This method provides an easy GUI for accessing the same chkdsk functions.
What does chkdsk do when it runs?
When initiated, chkdsk will run through several stages to check drive health:
- Scan file system metadata – Checks the file tables and other system structures for errors. Tries to fix issues automatically.
- Scan disk surface – Identifies physical bad sectors unable to reliably store data.
- Repair file system errors – Attempts fixes for invalid filenames, directory errors, cross linked files, etc.
- Recover readable data – Tries to copy data from bad sectors to good sectors when possible.
- Reallocate bad clusters – Quarantines bad sectors by mapping them out of the file system.
After completing, chkdsk will generate a report summarizing errors found, repairs made, and any unfixable errors that remain. You can view the chkdsk log for more details.
How long does chkdsk take to run?
The amount of time chkdsk requires depends on the following factors:
- Drive size – Larger hard drives with more data understandably take longer to scan.
- Errors and bad sectors – The more issues chkdsk finds, the longer repairs will take.
- Test thoroughness – A quick scan looks for obvious problems, while testing every sector takes much longer.
- System resources – Chkdsk speed depends somewhat on your CPU, RAM, and drive speed.
As a general guideline for traditional hard drives:
|Full Surface Scan
SSDs and NVMe drives tend to perform checks faster due to higher throughput. But a full scan can still take hours for large SSDs approaching 4TB.
How do I view chkdsk results?
After chkdsk finishes, you have a couple ways to view the results:
- Check Event Viewer – Windows logs chkdsk results under “System” events.
- Read the txt report – Located at %SystemRoot%\Results.txt after rebooting.
- View onscreen report – The summary displays during boot process after scan completes.
The report provides details like total errors found, repairs performed, unrecovered clusters, and unfixable errors. Review to see if any significant file system damage remains.
Can I recover data after chkdsk?
If chkdsk is able to repair your drive, any data still on the disk should remain intact or become readable again after errors are fixed. However, if the repairs fail due to extensive drive damage, chkdsk may report unrecoverable data loss.
In that case, immediately stop using the drive to avoid overwriting data. There are a few recovery options:
- Try data recovery software to rescue files from failing drives.
- On critical systems, consult a professional data recovery service for help.
- Restore data from backups if no other option exists.
Backups provide the ultimate protection against data loss when drives begin to fail. Make sure to regularly back up any critical data.
Can chkdsk damage my drive?
Rest assured chkdsk is designed to be a read-only process that will not directly damage your drive. However, there are a few caveats:
- Further use may cause damage – If chkdsk detects irreparable issues, continued use risks further data loss.
- Long scans cause wear – Repeated full scans do shorten SSD lifespan over time due to heavy reading.
- Risks of forced reboot – Forcibly powering off during chkdsk risks file system damage.
The risks of physical damage from chkdsk itself are low. But be cautious if chkdsk detects evidence of existing hardware failure.
Can I stop chkdsk?
It is not recommended to interrupt chkdsk because aborting the process can potentially corrupt open files and leave the file system in an unstable state. However, you may be able to stop chkdsk in special cases:
- Schedule for next reboot – Use the /F parameter when starting chkdsk to schedule it to run at the next restart.
- Interrupt from command prompt – If you started chkdsk from the command line, pressing Ctrl + C may end the process.
- Forcibly power cycle – Turning the system off will stop chkdsk but risks data and file system damage.
Try to avoid forcibly stopping chkdsk unless absolutely necessary. Wait for it to complete or schedule the scan during downtime instead.
What chkdsk errors should I worry about?
Many errors chkdsk detects are minor and can be repaired automatically. However, some errors require additional action:
- Unreadable sectors – Indicates unrecoverable disk surface damage requiring drive replacement.
- Invalid system files – Critical OS files are corrupted and need restored or Windows may not start.
- Disk read failures – The disk hardware is failing and data likely will be lost soon.
- Failing drive symptoms – Frequent scan errors combined with SMART warnings indicate a failing drive.
Repairing filesystem issues is expected. But ongoing physical scan errors or detection of faulty disk hardware require backup and replacement.
How can I avoid drive errors?
While periodic chkdsk scans help minimize errors, ideal practice is preventing drive problems in the first place. Some tips:
- Handle drives gently – Physical shock and vibration can damage disks.
- Don’t unexpectedly power off – Always eject and power down drives safely.
- Maintain a clean OS – Don’t fill the drive and run regular virus scans.
- Monitor SMART status – Keep an eye on disk health metrics.
- Upgrade failing drives – Replace disks once they show warning signs of failure.
Your system drive will inevitably fail someday no matter what precautions you take. But following best practices will maximize the lifespan and minimize problems.
Running chkdsk is a quick yet powerful tool to detect and repair drive errors before they become severe. Make drive checks part of your regular system maintenance routine. Invest in reliable storage, handle drives carefully, and replace failing hardware immediately once detected.
Back up any irreplaceable data, as even chkdsk isn’t guaranteed to salvage files from a severely corrupted drive. Detected drive failures early while recovery is simple. With proper precautions, you can avoid catastrophic data loss and keep your system running smoothly.