Hard Drive Maintenance

One of the questions I ask customers that is practically guaranteed to result in a blank stare is "Have you ever run Check Disk (chkdsk) on this computer?" Typically, this question comes up after I'm called to fix a computer that won't boot or it boots but it's just not running correctly. With hard drives, being proactive is the key. If you are being reactive with hard drive problems, you might find that you have a problem after it's unfixable. 

I'm not trying to imply that running chkdsk is going to magically fix your computer, but if you run it every 3 months or so, you can certainly detect problems before they are critical. Critical as in getting a "Boot Device Not Found" message when trying to turn on your computer.

*Disclaimer*

It's possible that chkdsk can come across hard drive sectors that are damaged so badly, that chkdsk can't repair them. When this happens, those sectors are marked as unreadable. In other words, the data in the those sectors are lost. If those sectors happen to be at the start of the hard drive, the computer might no longer boot. I can't stress enough that you should make sure you have backed up your data before running chkdsk.

I'll be using Windows 10 for reference, but the same ideas apply to older versions of Windows as well. 

1) Go to "This PC". If your Desktop doesn't have the "This PC" icon, you can use File Explorer instead.

2) Under "Devices and Drives", right click the drive you want to check. In this case, it's the C: drive. Click "Properties". Click on the "Tools" tab, and then click on "Check".

3) Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 8 will tell you if you need to scan the drive. Even if Windows reports that "You don't need to scan this drive", do it anyway. Windows Vista and Windows 7 will tell you that you need to reboot your PC in order to run chkdsk. Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 8 will tell you if the disk check was completed successfully. If errors were found, you will be given the option to attempt to fix them. This isn't something you should ignore. If there are errors that can't be fixed, consider using a tool like SpinRite.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista give the user the option to "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors". Be sure to check both options. If you have a SSD, do not check the "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors" box. Your SSD should be doing that automatically.  Reboot the PC when you are ready for the disk to be checked. When the PC restarts, you will see a screen that announces that a disk check has been scheduled. You have 10 seconds to click any key and postpone the disk check.  If you don't feel like watching the entire chkdsk process, you can view the results in the Event Viewer when the PC has booted back into Windows. Event Viewer can be accessed through the Windows Control Panel.

You can run chkdsk from a Command Prompt as well. If you choose to run it this way, you'll want to make sure that  you are using Administrator Privileges. You can get to the Administrator Command Prompt by right clicking on the Windows Start Button. Windows 7 and Windows Vista users can reach the Command Prompt by clicking on the Start Menu and going to "All Programs" and then "Accessories".

The most common flags to use with chkdsk at the Command Prompt are /F for fix and /R for repair. The full listing of commands are here:

Finally, if you've scheduled chkdsk but need to cancel it, you can do that from the Command Prompt too.  The string for that is:  chkntfs /x c: