How to Fix Corrupted Files

There are several ways to repair that corrupted file

Image of the internals of a disk drive.

Patrick Lindenberg / Upsplash

Corrupted files can occur on any file type, including Word, Excel, PDF, image files, and even Windows system files. When this occurs, any of the following errors may occur when you attempt to open the file.

  • The file is corrupt and cannot be opened.
  • Word found unreadable content in "yourfile.docx". Do you want to recover the contents of this document?
  • H:\ is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and ureadable.

These errors occur when you try to 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, it's good to know how to fix corrupted files.

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

Cause of Corrupted Files

There are a number of reasons files can get corrupted. One of the most common 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, the cause is when multiple files are allocated to the same space in memory. Files are stored in memory in something known as a "cluster" and sometimes a bug in the OS, or a computer crash, may lead to two files getting assigned to the same cluster. This will lead to a corrupt file.

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

How to Fix Corrupted Files

Before we get started, keep in mind corrupt file errors can be very unpredictable, and can happen when you least expect them. Unfortunately, a corrupt file can only be repaired about 50% of the time.

  1. Perform a check disk on the hard drive. Open Windows File Explorer, right click on the drive, and select Properties. Select the Tools tab and select Check. This tool will scan and attempt to recover bad sectors on the hard drive.

    The tool works slightly different in other versions of Windows, but ultimately it will attempt to repair bad sectors on the hard drive. After the sectors are repaired, you can attempt to reopen your file again to see if it's no longer corrupted.

  2. Use the CHKDSK command. This is the command version of the check disk tool in step 1. It may be worth trying this command if the check disk tool failed.

  3. Use the SFC /scannow command. You can open the CMD window in Windows to find and repair corrupt Windows system files.

  4. Change the file format. You can either use free file converter apps, or open the file with any application that can automatically convert from other file formats. For example opening a corrupted Word doc with a PDF app will usually launch a file conversion utility. Often, a file conversion alone can repair file corruption.

  5. Use file repair software. If you're desperate to fix the file and recover your information, paying for a file repair utility may be worth it. Various tools are available for this, like Hetman, Repair Toolbox, or FileRepair. Use 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 take regular backups of your files. Consider using backup software to keep your most important files backed up at all times. This way if a file is corrupt, you can simply recover it from your backup.