How to Fix Corrupted Files

There are several ways to repair that corrupted file

Corrupted files can occur on any file type, including Word, Excel, PDF, image files, and Windows system files. When this occurs, you'll see an error that says something like, "The file is corrupt and cannot be opened," or "The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable." Another message that you'll see is, "Word found unreadable content in [filename]. Do you want to recover the contents of this document?"

These errors occur when you double-click the file to open it, or when you attempt to open it from within an application. If you encounter one of these messages, here are some ways to fix the problem.

These fixes apply to all editions of Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7, including 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

The internals of a disk drive
 Patrick Lindenberg / Unsplash

Causes of Corrupted Files

There are a number of reasons files can get corrupted. One common reason is that the sector on the hard disk where the file is stored had physical damage. A sector with physical damage is known as a bad sector.

In other cases, multiple files are allocated to the same space in memory, triggering a corrupted file error. Files are stored in memory in a cluster, and sometimes a bug in the operating system, or a computer crash, may lead to two files getting assigned to the same cluster.

Viruses that erroneously mark hard drive sectors as bad can also lead to files getting corrupted.

How to Fix Corrupted Files

Corrupt file errors can be unpredictable and can happen when least expected. A corrupt file can be repaired only about half the time. Try these fixes to see if you can get to the bottom of your corrupt file error.

  1. Perform a check disk on the hard drive. Running this tool scans the hard drive and attempts to recover bad sectors. After the sectors are repaired, reopen your file again to see if it's no longer corrupted.

  2. Use the CHKDSK command. This is the command version of the tool we looked at above. It's worth a try if the check disk tool failed.

  3. Use the SFC /scannow command. This command aims to find and repair corrupt Windows system files.

  4. Change the file format. Use a free file converter app, or open the file with any application that automatically converts from other file formats. For example, open a corrupted Word document with a PDF app to launch a file-conversion utility. Often, a file conversion alone repairs a corrupt file.

  5. Use file repair software. If you're desperate to fix the file and recover your information, try a file repair utility. There are both free and paid tools, such as Hetman, Repair Toolbox, or FileRepair. Try Digital Video Repair for corrupt video files, Zip Repair for corrupt ZIP files, or OfficeFIX to repair Microsoft Office files.

Protect Files From Corruption

Since file corruption can happen on any file and for many reasons, it's important to make regular backups of your files. Use backup software to keep your important files backed up at all times. This way, if a file is corrupted, you can recover it from the backup.

  • Is a corrupted file a virus?

    A corrupted file could be a symptom of a virus, but it isn’t a virus itself. To determine whether a virus might be causing the problem, run one of the best antivirus software programs.

  • How can I prevent damage when a file is corrupted?

    Power outages can corrupt files, so adding a battery-powered uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to your home or office setup protects your hardware from damage and files from corruption. Team this strategy with a top-notch backup service where you can retrieve any file that is corrupted, and you can usually avoid corrupted files.

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