Check and Fix your System – Bad Sectors and Disk Errors




Do you remember the time when  your computer used to display the message that it needs to check for disk errors because of an accidental shutdown? Although this particular error is seen infrequently these days , thanks to laptops and backup batteries, your hard disk can still accumulate errors over time if proper maintenance is not carried out.  These errors generate “bad sectors” on your disk drive. A bad sector can be on a computer’s hard drive or flash memory (USB drives, memory cards) which can not be used for storage due to permanent damage to the disk surface (types of hardware/software damage are listed below).

Disk errors can present themsleves in different forms,  in case you have forgotten what they look like, some examples are given below to refresh your memory of these delightful tidbits 😉

  • Serious Disk Error Writing Drive
  • Data Error Reading Drive
  • Seek Error – Sector not found
  • Program_name has encountered a problem and needs to close.

Why so erroneous?

There are many reasons for disk errors, a quick list will include:

  1. Accidental Shutdowns
  2. Physical Damage to the HDD (due to heat, moisture, wear and tear etc)
  3. Damage to other hardware including RAM, motherboard, Bad processor or fan.
  4. Corrupt operating system or driver software
  5. Malware

How to catch the errors?

Chkdsk can repair problems related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files, and directory errors. To use full functions of Chkdsk you should have administrator access.




Running Windows native chkdsk utility

The easiest way to check for error is through the Windows chkdsk utility.  In both Windows XP through 7, the tool can be accessed from right-clicking on the disk drive icon>Properties>Tools Tab>Click on Check now. See  the below figure  for example.

Checking Disk Errors

Image showing how to access disk checking utility in Windows 7

You might remember, once the disk checking starts, that this is the same utility that the Windows 7 prompts for when a USB drive is plugged in. A point to note here is that Windows won’t let you scan the disk that is being currently used, which in most cases is C drive where the operating system is installed. In that case simply schedule disk check for a later time. The disk will be checked for errors on reboot.

Schedule Check Disk

Image showing the option for scheduling a check disk for the next system restart

Running chkdsk from CHECKDISKGUI

Now this was one way to check and fix errors. Some users would like to download a freely available disk checking utility called as “CheckDiskGUI“. The software has an intergrated look from where you can choose whether you just want to scan, fix or fix and recover disk drives.

CheckDiskGUI

Screenshot of CheckDiskGUI: Disk Drive D: was checked and fixed for errors

In this utility you can choose from all the available drives. Select from the options Scan, Fix, Fix and Recover. The software essentially performs the same functions as the Windows native chkdsk utility, to its credit it has a friendlier interface.

Running chkdsk from DOS

In order to find and fix disk errors through command line inetrface, use the following steps:

  1. Type in cmd.exe in Search or Run dialog box of Start menu OR go to Start menu>Programs>Accessories> Command prompt (Right click and “Run as administrator”)
  2. Type in chkdsk X: (X is the name of the hard drive partition you want to check). This will only check for disk error, not fix or recover them
  3. Switches can be used in DOS to modify a command’s fuction like: Use “chkdsk X: /f” command if you want to scan and fix disk errors simultaneously
  4. Use “chkdsk X: /d”  to recover any bad sectors of the hard drive, if any
  5. Use “chkdsk X:/i”  to perform a less detailed but faster disk check
  6. Use “chkdsk X:/c” to skip the checking of cycles within a folder structure which reduces the scan time.

You can use multiple switches with a single command as well.

Problems with Disk Checking

Sometimes disk checking might hang in the middle and won’t proceed any further. In order to troubleshoot this situation, try anyone or all of the following:

  • Boot from the original Windows CD then run chkdsk utility
  • Run chkdsk from command prompt (DOS), as explained earlier
  • Get a diagnostic utility from the hard drive’s manufacturer’s website. Make a bootable cd for it. Boot with this CD and thoroughly test your hard drive for errors.
  • Go to command prompt and type in “fsutil dirty query X:”. This will tell you if there are any dirty file systems. If yes then:
  • Reinstall Operating system OR
  • Run memory diagnostics from Start menu. Search for “Memory Diagnostics” and execute, this will run when the system reboots. If there are errors in memory you will have to get the RAM replaced (I can just hope that you are still covered by the warranty).

Check for errors on a regular basis, and your hard drive will work for the life of your computer and beyond!

 

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