How to Repair Errors on a Hard Drive

Here's how to check and keep your hard disk drive healthy

Detail of a Computer Hard Drive
Daisuke Morita / Photodisc / Getty Images

Keep your hard drive in tip-top condition to avoid the chance of losing anything before it gets stashed in the cloud. The first sign that an HDD has problems is when you encounter logical errors on the disk. When a drive has logical errors, affected parts of the drive become unreadable — these parts are called bad sectors. When a disk has a bad sector it doesn't necessarily mean there is anything physically wrong with the disk, which suggests that it might be repairable. 

The CKHDSK Utility

The best way to keep your HDD in good condition is to use the CHKDSK utility. This program checks your disk and fixes hard drive errors. CHKDSK scans the hard drive, corrects logical sector errors, marks bad sectors that cannot be fixed and moves data to safe, healthy places on the hard drive. It's a handy tool, but this utility does not operate automatically. Instead, you must manually start it.

However, CHKDSK is not for everyone. The utility is primarily meant for PCs with hard disk drives. If you have a computer with a solid-state drive, CHKDSK really isn't necessary. It shouldn't hurt anything if you do run it, but some people report that the utility caused them problems. SSDs come with their own built-in system to deal with errors and don't require CHKDSK.

We offer an older tutorial featuring see a step-by-step process of how to run CHKDSK with images, on computers running Windows XP.

Windows 10 Disk-Checking Utility

There are two ways to check your drive for errors on a Windows 10 PC. The first is to use the disk error checking utility. To get started, open a File Explorer window. In the left-hand navigation panel click This PC and then in the main part of the window under "Devices and drives" right-click on your primary drive (it should be labeled "C:").

In the right-click context menu select Properties, and then in the window that opens select the Tools tab. At the very top, there should be an option that says This option will check the drive for file system errors. Click the button next to it labeled Check

Another window will appear. It may say that Windows hasn't found any errors, but you can check your drive anyway. If that's the case click Scan drive and the scanning will begin.

CHKDSK in Windows 10

The legacy CHKDSK tool runs from the command prompt. Unlike older versions of CHKDSK, you don't have to reboot your PC to run the utility. To get started in Windows 10 open the Command Prompt as an administratorTo run the check disk utility on a PC with one drive all you have to do is type chkdsk; however, that simple command will only check your disk for errors — it won't actually do anything to fix any problems it finds.

To fix problems, you must add command switches, which are optional parameters that tell a command-line utility to take an extra step. For CHKDSK, the switches are "/f" (fix) and "/r" (recover readable information). The full command, then, is:

C:\chkdsk /f /r

Note the spaces in the command, as these are critical with command-line utilities.