What causes scan drive for errors?

A scan drive error occurs when your computer is unable to read data from your hard drive or external drive properly. This can be caused by a number of different factors that prevent the drive from being accessed correctly. Some common causes of scan drive errors include:

  • Bad sectors – Damaged parts of the disk that cannot be read
  • Corrupted files system – The data structure of the drive is damaged
  • Drive failure – The drive has mechanically failed
  • Connection issues – The drive is not properly connected to the computer
  • Outdated drivers – The disk drivers are damaged or out-of-date
  • Viruses and malware – Malicious programs have infected the drive
  • Age of the drive – Older drives are more prone to errors

Understanding what is causing your specific scan drive error is important in determining how to fix it. Here we will explore some of the most common causes in more detail.

Bad Sectors

One of the most frequent causes of scan drive errors is bad sectors on the hard disk. A bad sector refers to a small section on the drive that has become physically damaged and unreadable by the drive head. As a result, when the computer tries to access data in a bad sector, the read/write head cannot extract the data, resulting in an error.

Bad sectors can occur for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Physical damage – Dropping or knocking a hard drive can damage the platters and disrupt sectors.
  • Manufacturing defects – Imperfections in production can lead to sectors prone to failure.
  • Magnetism – Exposure to magnetic fields can alter data on the platters.
  • Old age – Disks wear out over time leading to more bad sectors.

Initially, a few bad sectors may not cause major problems. But over time, the number of bad sectors tends to grow which can lead to more frequent scan drive errors. The only fix for bad sectors is to replace the damaged hard disk. Software cannot repair physical damage on a drive.

Corrupted File System

Another common source of scan drive errors is file system corruption. The file system refers to the logical structure or framework that organizes and manages data storage on a disk. It is responsible for data organization and tracks where everything is located on the drive.

If this file system structure becomes damaged, it can no longer reliably find and access file data when requested. This can happen for several reasons:

  • Improper shutdowns – Turning off the computer before writes are completed.
  • Power outages – Sudden loss of power can interrupt file operations.
  • Driver conflicts – Conflicts between operating system components.
  • Viruses and malware – Malicious programs that target the file system.

File system corruption often causes general input/output errors when trying to access data on the drive. The computer may struggle to open files and programs. Unlike bad sectors which are permanent, file system corruption can frequently be repaired with disk utilities.

Hard Disk Drive Failure

One of the most severe causes of scan drive errors is complete hard disk drive failure. This means the physical hard disk has failed mechanically and no longer functions. Some causes include:

  • Spindle motor failure – The central motor hub stops spinning.
  • Head crash – The read/write heads scrape the platters.
  • Electronics failure – The disk controller or circuitry stops working.
  • Degraded lubrication – Friction builds up and overheats components.

A failed hard drive will not boot up and usually produces clicking or beeping noises. If the BIOS cannot detect the drive at all, this indicates a hardware failure. A crashed disk cannot be repaired – the only solution is to replace the faulty drive and recover data from a backup if possible.

Connection Issues

Scan drive errors also frequently stem from a faulty connection between the hard disk and the computer. Issues like a loose cable, damaged connector pins, or insecure mounting can disrupt communication between the drive and the motherboard.

Common connection issues include:

  • Damaged SATA/IDE cable – Kinks or tears in the data cable.
  • Loose plugs – Data or power connectors are loose.
  • Port damage – SATA/IDE header is damaged or bent pins.
  • Disk vibrations – A loose drive mount can cause vibrations.

Checking that data and power cables are correctly seated and undamaged is a good first troubleshooting step. On laptops, reseating the hard drive and checking the port integrity can help resolve intermittent connection issues.

Outdated or Corrupted Drivers

To communicate properly with the hardware, hard drives rely on drivers – device-specific software that acts as an interpreter. Outdated or corrupted drivers can result in scan drive errors in several ways:

  • Incompatibility – Old drivers may not work properly with new operating systems.
  • Missing commands – Corrupted drivers fail to send proper access instructions.
  • Conflicts – Driver clashes with other disk components.
  • Bugs – Defective code in driver causes glitches or crashes.

Updating to the latest manufacturer-approved disk drivers often resolves such issues. For external drives, installing the drive maker’s drivers rather than generic operating system drivers is recommended.

Viruses and Malware

Viruses, worms, trojans, and other malicious software can also lead to scan drive errors by damaging or manipulating data on the hard disk. Types of malware that directly target storage devices include:

  • Boot sector viruses – Infect the bootloader and master boot record (MBR).
  • File infectors – Inject malicious code into existing files.
  • Partition viruses – Attack the partition table and filesystem structures.
  • Macro viruses – Write malicious macros that overwrite data.

Anti-virus software is essential to prevent such malware infections. If an infection is detected, running a full system scan with updated antivirus software can help locate and remove the malware causing errors.

Age of the Hard Disk

Like all hardware, hard disk drives have a limited lifespan. After years of continuous use, components start to wear out and the likelihood of errors arising increases. Causes related to an aging hard disk include:

  • Expanding bad sectors – Developing more bad sectors over time.
  • Increased friction – Bearings and platters degrade.
  • Data misalignment – Older drives lose track positioning accuracy.
  • Magnetization loss – Magnetic strength that stores data declines.

Hard disks typically last 3-5 years on average. Some warning signs indicating an aging drive in need of replacement include slower performance, loud clicks and vibrations, and an increasing scan drive error rate.

Troubleshooting Scan Drive Errors

When a scan drive error occurs, there are several steps you can take to troubleshoot the issue:


CHKDSK is a built-in Windows utility that scans drives for filesystem errors and attempts basic repairs. To run it open the Command Prompt as administrator and enter “chkdsk C: /f” (replace C: with the affected drive letter).

2. Update Drivers

Updating your hard disk controller and SATA/IDE drivers can resolve driver-related errors. Get the latest versions from your manufacturer or motherboard OEM website.

3. Change SATA Cable

If you suspect a faulty SATA cable, swap it out for a new high-quality cable to rule it out as the cause.

4. Diagnostic Software

Tools like SeaTools for DOS can perform diagnostic tests to check the drive health and scan for defects. This can identify issues with the disk hardware.

5. Remove Virus Infections

Boot into safe mode and run a full antivirus scan to remove any malware that could be contributing to drive errors.

6. Low-Level Format

For recurring issues, consider a full low-level format which completely erases and recreates the hard disk’s filesystem. Backup data first as this will wipe the drive.

Preventing Future Drive Errors

You can reduce the chances of developing scan drive errors by:

  • Using UPS battery backups – Protects against sudden power loss.
  • Installing surge protectors – Guards against power spikes.
  • Handling drives carefully – Don’t drop or jolt powered hard disks.
  • Managing drive heat – Ensure proper airflow and do not cover drives.
  • Updating drivers – Use latest drive controller and SATA drivers.
  • Running disk checks – Perform regular CHKDSK drive scans.
  • Monitoring SMART status – Tool like CrystalDiskInfo track drive health.

Catching and addressing the signs of a failing or struggling drive early on, before serious problems emerge, is key to avoiding major scan drive errors down the road.

Recovering Data from Drives with Errors

If your disk is showing scan drive errors, one priority is safely recovering your important data before attempting repairs. Options to salvage data include:

  • Boot to a different drive – Install the drive in another PC or external enclosure.
  • Linux live CD – Boot a Linux distro and copy data to separate storage.
  • Data recovery software – Utilities can read various failing disks and recover files.
  • Data recovery service – Experts disassemble drive in cleanroom and extract data.

The right recovery method depends on the type and extent of the drive damage. The sooner you can retrieve data after a failure, the higher your chances of success.

Replacing a Damaged Hard Disk

If your hard disk has failed completely or has excessive bad sectors, replacement is the only option. When selecting a new replacement drive, look for:

  • Equal or larger capacity – Get adequate storage to restore your data.
  • Same interface – Choose SATA/IDE/etc. to match your computer.
  • Reputable brand – Stick with major manufacturers like WD, Seagate, etc.
  • Warranty – Multi-year warranties provide more protection.
  • Positive reviews – Check user reviews to avoid problem-prone models.

Also pay close attention to compatibility factors, like physical size, speed (RPM), and type (HDD vs SSD) depending on where it will be installed.


Scan drive errors have a range of potential causes, from corrupted files to complete drive failures. By understanding the most common sources of these errors, you can better identify issues with your own drive and take appropriate corrective action. Catching problems early before they escalate can help recover important data and avoid costly failures down the road. Paying attention to preventative drive maintenance and backups is key to keeping your data safe when issues eventually arise.