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.
This works the same in Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10, so while the screens may look slightly different in each version, they are all in the same place.
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.
Then select the Tools tab, and click the “Check Now” button.
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.
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.
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 stop it.
Open up an administrator mode command prompt by searching in the Start menu or screen for “cmd” and then right-clicking on the item and choosing “Run as Administrator”. Type in the following command, substituting the drive letter if necessary.
chkntfs /x c:
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:
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.
You could also use this command to just query the dirty bit:
fsutil dirty query c:
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:
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, Windows 8, and Windows 10 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.