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The How-To Geek Guide to Using Check Disk in Windows 7 or Vista

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Anytime somebody has hard drive errors, I always recommend that they run chkdsk—what geek wouldn’t? Here’s a full guide to using the Check Disk feature built into every version of Windows.

The chkdsk or “Check Disk” utility is used in Windows to scan through your entire hard drive and find problems… it’s like a lot like doing inventory… it’s boring, but it has to be done sometimes. I recommend that you run through a check disk every month or two.

Image by Nemo

Using CheckDisk the GUI Way

Open up Computer and then right-click on the drive you want to check, and choose Properties, or just click the drive, and then click the Properties button.

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Then select the Tools tab, and click the “Check Now” button.

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A little dialog will pop up to allow you to choose the options you want for the disk check. You should check both options if you want to really check the disk properly, but if you just want to do a quick check you could select only the first one.

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The only problem with that is that Windows can’t check a drive that’s being used, such as the system drive, but Windows will let you schedule a disk check for the next reboot.

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You should keep in mind that running through a full check disk takes quite a while, sometimes hours depending on how big the drive is and how many files you have.

Cancelling the Scheduled Disk Check

If you had scheduled a disk check but decided you would like to cancel it, you can run a command to

Open up an administrator mode command prompt by right-clicking on the item in the start menu and choosing “Run as Administrator”. Type in the following command, substituting the drive letter if necessary.

chkntfs /x c:

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Seems like they could have a better command line output… something like “canceled!” would have even worked… oh well.

How to Tell if a Manual Disk Check is Scheduled

Open an admin mode command prompt, and then type in the following command:

chkntfs c:

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How to Tell if an Automatic Disk Check is Scheduled

Sometimes if your computer has not shut down correctly, Windows will mark the drive as “dirty” basically as a reminder to itself that the drive probably has filesystem errors and should be checked. When the flag is set, you’ll be told the disk requires checking during the next bootup.

You can easily see the state of this flag by using two different command line options. The first is the same command as above, but you can see the output is different if the drive is set to be automatically checked.

chkntfs c:

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You could also use this command to just query the dirty bit:

fsutil dirty query c:

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Using CheckDisk from the Command Line

Open up an administrator mode command prompt, and then type in the following command to do an exhaustive check of your drive. Substitute C: for whatever drive you want to check.

chkdsk /f /r C:

If the drive is a system drive or has files in use, you’ll be asked to schedule the check for the next reboot:

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The above command is the recommended way to perform a disk check, but if you want to do a less exhaustive check, you could remove the /R option from the command.

Here’s the full list of parameters for your geeky enjoyment:

C:\>chkdsk /?
Checks a disk and displays a status report.

CHKDSK [volume[[path]filename]]] [/F] [/V] [/R] [/X] [/I] [/C] [/L[:size]] [/B]

  volume          Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon),
                  mount point, or volume name.
  filename        FAT/FAT32 only: Specifies the files to check for fragmentation.
  /F              Fixes errors on the disk.
  /V              On FAT/FAT32: Displays the full path and name of every file
                  on the disk.
                  On NTFS: Displays cleanup messages if any.
  /R              Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information
                  (implies /F).
  /L:size         NTFS only:  Changes the log file size to the specified number
                  of kilobytes.  If size is not specified, displays current
                  size.
  /X              Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary.
                  All opened handles to the volume would then be invalid
                  (implies /F).
  /I              NTFS only: Performs a less vigorous check of index entries.
  /C              NTFS only: Skips checking of cycles within the folder
                  structure.
  /B              NTFS only: Re-evaluates bad clusters on the volume
                  (implies /R)

The /I or /C switch reduces the amount of time required to run Chkdsk by
skipping certain checks of the volume.

Note: You’ll probably notice that this guide was originally written a few years ago. We’ve updated it for Windows 7 and are republishing it for all the readers that might have missed it the first time.


You can also use chkdsk on Windows XP as well, but some of the options are slightly different. In general, it works the same way.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/16/10

Comments (52)

  1. rbailin

    With modern hard disks that detect and remap bad physical sectors on the fly, there’s no real need to use the option (/R) to scan the disk for bad sectors. It could take hours on a several-hundred GB partition, and won’t accomplish anything useful. If you truly suspect something is physically wrong with your disk, run the manufacturer’s disk analysis/testing utility instead.

  2. ukion

    Yes, it help to me. Your detailed explanation help me a lot. Thank you and keep a good and valuable posting.

    Regards,
    Ukion

  3. pipo

    when i try to schedule a check disk for my primary (C:) drive and i reboot, i get a blank/black screen. i waited for about 10 mins, but the screen didn’t change, was that the check disk or does that mean that something’s wrong?

  4. Desi

    Thank you for posting this, it was really clear and helped a lot, but I ran into some problems once I got to the disk check on startup. All was fine, until the check got stuck on 7-8%. It didn’t change or anything- I can’t get to my desktop! This of course, is a huge problem. Any advice?

  5. DR

    Was helpful. Thanks for doing this..

  6. Sarah

    What if you schedule the disk check and when you start up it says the disk check is recommended and then it says it is cancelled? There is obviously something wrong because when I open I.E. about a hundred pages open and same with microsoft outlook.

    I’ve actually got Windows XP, though.

  7. Carrie

    My disk check is stuck at stage 4! I am having major problems with a just 2 day old laptop! Do I just let it sit, or cancel? could it be a manufacturer issue with the driver? An suggestions… please e-mail me.

  8. nancy floyd

    I also have the problem that it says cant scan when the disc is in use…..do you want to schedule? so i schedule …but then when i reboot…..nothing happens….it doesnt scan…if there a way to force a scan or what do you do next?

  9. Gerard Espinas

    Great Article and very informative.Thanks!

  10. Elmer Homero

    Thank you for taking the time to do this.
    Very helpful.

  11. Chep K

    I log in as an admin but cannot carry out simple tasks such as chkdsk. This problem started the day i had a new anti-virus installed. Please hep.

  12. leah

    Hi,

    I have the same problem as Nancy Floyd. I’ve tried doing the scannow in the cmd prompt and only get to about 69% before it stops. I can’t do a system restore, i only have 2 restore dates to choose from and both of them have corrupted files and then i’m told to do a check disk, but can’t get my computer to do the check disk. How do i force my computer to do the check disk?

    thanks,

    Leah

  13. Zippo

    i have a problem in ma laptop. i need help. On the partition “C” which where is the “OS” i did a “Error-checking” and i scheduled the disk check when it restarts. but after i restarted it, its says press any key to skip the error checking, with the time limitation of 10sec..at the point of 1sec nothing happens
    the screen remains as it is and i have to shutdown it by force. the error checking
    doesn’t continue (on the process i did not skip the check by pressing any key) but my partion C is approximately about 187gb. i didn’t partitioned it. is anything wrong with it…

  14. Allen

    How to run Check disk utility manually

    problem is you can not run check disk on C drive while windows is running. You have the option to schedule a check disk the next time you system restarts but this does not aways work.

    To run it manually Restart computer. At the Dell logo push F8 repeatedly. The computer will open a utility window with a few options. Select Repair Computer then
    another window opens – enter your password

    The next window lists a number of applications Chose the Command Prompt

    This will open a DOS command window with the following prompt showing

    x:\windows\system32>

    At this prompt Type chkdsk c: f/

    hit enter

    This should start the check disk utility. By typing the f/ this tells the computer to fix any corrupt files it finds
    once complete type EXIT

    The Dell service tech walked me through this last night and it worked

  15. Kent

    I have tried cleaning disk twice and both times it stops at 70% complete in stage 5. Any way to interupt and stop this starting every time I boot?

  16. Mary

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! My laptop kept not starting up right as it said one of the disk had errors, and then it never let me schedule disk checking now, i can do it manually! xxx

  17. Jann

    My Windows Vista will not do a chkdsk /f when I do it with f8 option in Safe mode or via the DOS command. It indicates it will do it at startup. Checked with the chkntfs c: command – nothing indicates it will run or has run after startup. It continues to indicate run chkdsk when I try to run a restore. Purchased an $89 package and after running for 32 hrs, it found no errors on my drive; yet I can not do a Restore. My screen continues to turn black Intermittently but comes back 90% of the time – other 10% it reboots itself! Nuisance that I have tried to solve for 2 weeks now – restore was one of my options to fix the problem!!!

  18. Farfar

    Whenever I schedule a disk check, the disk check is automatically cancelled at start-up even when I do not touch anything.

  19. Deepak

    Dear All,

    I have tried all commands and trick. I am sure the disk check on windows 7 startup is enabled with all type of commands like mentioned the end of this post.
    STILL for some reason when windows 7 boots up it tries to do the check disk but getting cancelled for some reason. Please can some one help what other setting is getting in-place to prevent the check disk happening? My machine is Windows 7 home edition with 500 GB HDD.

    Thanks in advance!

    chkdsk c: /F
    chkntfs /D

    C:\windows\system32>fsutil dirty query c:
    Volume – c: is Dirty

    C:\windows\system32>fsutil dirty query d:
    Volume – d: is NOT Dirty

    C:\windows\system32>chkdsk /f /r C:
    The type of the file system is NTFS.
    Cannot lock current drive.

    Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another
    process. Would you like to schedule this volume to be
    checked the next time the system restarts? (Y/N) Y

    This volume will be checked the next time the system restarts.

  20. Daniel Williams

    Crap, I set this to run on next startup. Now my PC will not start! It begins the check, step 1, and gets about 50% through, then the screen goes blank.

    Does anyone have any helpful advice on this terrible situation? I see that a few people have had this happen to them, but I do not see anyone responding.

  21. Leonard

    Is there a way to capture or log the final results screen? When I run chkdsk the final screen flits by too quickly.

  22. Leonard

    Re my previous post: I mean I would like to capture the final screen after running chkdsk /f

  23. JLB

    Just curious. Any chance running ‘fix file system errors’ would affect a dual boot system also running Ubuntu Linux? This would not attempt to overwrite the MBA would it?

  24. ankur

    hii
    i am ankur .. i want to say that , if i do checkdisk in simple command promot then i have some error occour , and it is not check at that time in windows -7 and again when i use it with the admin permission , . its check it
    so win – 7 provide security for that causes .. it does
    and if u want to check at boot mode u ‘ll have to write in command
    chkdsk /F
    it’s work

  25. BS

    Is it ok to run chkdsk on an SSD drive (or even required?)

  26. Deb

    Thanks for all your good articles.
    Do you know where the results of the scan are stored?

  27. jimc52

    Frankly, I expected to see something new here. I am already familiar. I just wish there were more powerful DOS driven utilities like chkdsk, something along the line of compacting the hard disk so all the free space is in one contiguous piece. I know Norton Utilities defragmenter did this many years ago, but I haven’t seen anything like it for a long time. It would be cool to be able to do a complete chkdsk, compact the hard disk and wipes all the free space clean and contiguously.

    Microsoft could damned well make DOS a lot more powerful than it is right now, IF they wanted to. The whole idea years ago by Microsoft was to get rid of DOS, and go completely visual. But thus far, 15 years later – we still have DOS in the background, however crippled, compared to its once powerful self.

  28. jake

    @Deepak, press F8 just as you pc moves from bios to booting win7 then go into repair mode then run the chkdsk from there as prescribed above. please note that your c: drive will be some other letter other than c: so i also recommend searching for it first by typing “dir d:” and on until it lists the contents of your c: drive.

    HTG, please say something about the bug in certain laptops causing the wireless card to hang the laptop during chkdsk and necessitating the cancellation of chkdsk and the installation of an obscure microsoft patch.

  29. Lou Carey

    Leonard:

    Use the following command to output the chkdsk results to c:\results.txt (keep in mind that you will not see the results on the screen because they are being redirected to the c:\results.txt file):

    chkdsk /f /r C: > c:\results.txt

  30. Dipesh

    Thanks, for posting this.

  31. John

    When my Win7 Ult notebook tries to run chkdsk it displays an error message saying to use system restore and go back to an earlier point. Okay, but when I start system restore it says it can’t run due to file errors and to run chkdsk first.

    Chkdsk won’t run until I restore to an earlier point, but that can’t be done until chkdsk runs.

    In other words, each one says the other has to run before they will. So now what do I do?

  32. HCamper

    @Leonard and @Lou Carey
    The results for Chdsk are in the Windows System log, just look for events before the GUI
    logon section. Capturing chkdsk outpu is a bit of a waste when all details are in the log.
    @ jimc52
    The defragging and compacting funtions you desire are native with disk “Defrage.exe”.
    For more functions IE Visual use Defraggler from Pirform or Auslogics Defrag.
    Just for reasons of correctness Windows NT based systems WINDOWS XP, WINDOWS 2000,
    WINDOWS 7 and Windows Vista do not have the classic “DOS” you have only a “SHELL”.
    The utlities avaliable in “SHELL” and “POWER SHELL” make Windows 7 and Windows Vista very
    powerfull at “CMD” level far from being crippled.
    I hope this helps.
    Martin :-)
    Windows and Linux can Work Together

  33. TMZ

    For those of you looking to figure out HOW TO FIND the RESULTS of your SCANDISK/ChkDsk look under the “Events Viewer” Application snap-in found by typing in the RUN box “compmgmt.msc” with admin privillages.

    This “event” will usually be displayed under the “Winlogon” tag. Once you open that log file you have a few choices to scroll and export/copy/paste the info.

    If you forget some of this info you can just browse for the date and time of when this utility was run and you will find the corresponding entry.

    Or try the auto-export of the results using poster “Lou Carey’s” option.

    If you run a full File system and “Surface Scan” of your drive this could take more then hours to complete. A surface scan is a scan to detect and repair bad or failing sectors on your hard-drive. If your disk is newer its not usually something that needs to be done very often and is a waste of disk access unless your either having problems or your drive is making noises.

    In either case, a few bad sectors are not abnormal. If they start happening often or your drive is making louder noises… imminent drive failure is lurking close by :)

  34. eduard

    I never saw anyone having a HDD of 1GB on 1 partition. I am sure that 90% of us we have at least 2 partitions. One for OS and one for storage. Now, is there any way of disk checking the entire HDD at once or we have to do it one partiton at a time?
    Thanks ;)

  35. kenneth

    what should i do if i will start checking the disk,,and i restart the computer and the computer says checking device has been cancelled…help me asap….

  36. Cole Stevens

    I am using Windows 7 and disc check would not work. It would disappear when I tried to schedule. I unchecked the auto-fix boxes and it ran right away. Seems to be a programming glitch. In short, uncheck both “fix” boxes and run the utility.

  37. maria

    i checked both boxes and on scanning and fixing bad errors. and when i reboot my lappy, i saw a blank screen. it does not say anything. what should i do? please help… huhuhu… do u think its running physical scanning and fixing bad sectors? how come its blank?

    maria

  38. maria

    by the way, im using windows 7. thank you…

  39. maria

    how long should i wait? half a day?

  40. lucy

    my disk check is running and stoped on 69 % been sitting there for hours now any help is greatly appreciated thanks; can i stop it so i can use my computer

  41. Verne

    Loveable article. I LOVE CLI. I appreciate, found useful, and enjoyed the photos of gui (heightened familiarity with windows, an OS I like less than gnu/linux but with which I want much more familiarity) and most importantly for the CLI commands for keeping my hds healthy and defragmented and without bad sectors. Thanks for listing the params for chkdsk as well!

  42. Jojo

    Hey, I’m running my check disk at the moment. So far it has been scanning my C drive for almost 8 hours and it’s maybe 3 quarters done. Just wondering if it always takes this long? Thanks!

  43. alex

    TOP Man You got me out of the clag. Thankyou (tools chkdsk stuck on 28%) I bopped the F8 and went to last known good boot. I know something is amiss but at least I can now go forward, CHEERS

  44. jake

    when i run a disk check there is an error and tells me to run system restore. when i try to run a system restore it tells me to run a risk check. nothing is getting fixed and im just going in circles please help

  45. Tess

    My vista chkdsk has been running for a day now. It’s stuck on stage 5 (94%) for hours. I can’t use my laptop and I don’t know if I should just shutdown the laptop and reboot again. I didn’t know it will take this long.

  46. Sanja

    @Tess
    Leave it work away. If the light is blinking it means it’s in the middle of fixing. You must have loads of files and probably bad sectors. I had my windows 7 just freeze on me yesterday twice, which I ignored and than today again. I ran the chkdsk c:/f/r and it took 4,5 hours to finish (I also had by chnace my hdd defragmented the day before, so I don’t know by how much could have this speed up the process).
    When the fixing was done it went straight to the Windows from where I rebooted and went to Safe Mode again and now I’m fixing the external hdd…hope it helps

  47. jake

    when i run a disk check there is an error and tells me to run system restore. when i try to run a system restore it tells me to run a disk check. nothing is getting fixed and im just going in circles please help

    my comp has errors and its telling me to do this but it seems impossible

  48. morgan

    ok I ran the disk check and now I can’t access IE, it’s just a white screen with all my toolbars and my connection shows full…what do I do now? I’ve been trying for 2 days and my whole computer just freezes when I try to access IE, and I’m not able to restore to an earlier date or time?

  49. avery

    just wanted to know about how long does it take for chkdsk to work it says now repairing the unreadable security descriptors data system what do that mean

  50. MP

    just wanted to point out that chkdsk /r (or /f) that schedules to run at boot time will not display if you have GUI boot off (present in msconfig’s boot tab), even though the dang output appears to be in text mode if you have GUI boot on. It may or may not be running in the background with GUI boot off, which would result in you staring at a blank screen for 30 minutes (which may cause you to power down the system) before your computer boots into Windows without having a clue as to why.

    also certain laptops (HPs in particular, but others as well) automatically send some sort of keystrike or interrupt signal during the countdown, which cancels the scheduled disk check. You have to get around this AFAIK by setting the timer to 0 (which means that you can’t ever cancel it on demand). To do this

    chkntfs /t:0

    Two different frustrations with Microsoft (and/or manufacturers) at once!

  51. MP

    Morgan: you can try
    sfc /scannow from a command prompt or start->run

    or you could run windows/microsoft update from your start menu and see if there’s a newly updated version of IE out there (which will overwrite the corrupted one)

  52. Kieran

    When I turn on my laptop is ir running a check disk. but when it is complete the screen stays black and i cannot get to my desktop?
    Any idea how to resolve this?

    Thanks

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