How to Scan a Hard Drive Using 'Error Checking'

Quickly check your hard drive with this Windows version of CHKDSK

What to Know

  • Right-click Start, select File Explorer in Windows 11/10/8.
  • Select This PC. Right-click or tap-and-hold the drive. Select Properties > Tools > Check > Scan drive.
  • Wait for the scan to complete. Follow any instructions given. You may be instructed to restart.

This article explains how to scan a hard drive using the Error Checking tool in Windows 11, Windows 10, and Windows 8. Variations for Windows 7, Vista, and XP are included.

How to Scan a Hard Drive With the Error Checking Tool

Scanning your hard drive with the Error Checking tool can identify, and possibly correct, a range of hard drive errors. The Windows Error Checking tool is the graphical version of the command-line chkdsk command, which is still available and offers more advanced options than Error Checking.

Error Checking is available in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, but there are differences as shown.

  1. Right-click the Start button and select File Explorer (Windows 11/10/8), Open Windows Explorer (Windows 7), or Explore (Vista/XP).

    Windows 11 Power User Menu options

    File Explorer is available via a quick search, too. Windows Explorer, in earlier versions of Windows, is also available via Computer or My Computer in the Start menu.

    Windows 11, Windows 10, and Windows 8 check for errors automatically and will notify you if you need to take action, but you can run a manual check anytime you like.

  2. Select This PC (Windows 11/10/8), Computer (Windows 7/Vista), or My Computer (XP) in the left margin.

    You might have to show Navigation pane from the View menu if you don't see this option. In XP, this is in View > Explorer Bar > Folders.

  3. Right-click or tap-and-hold the drive that you want to check for errors on (usually C), and select Properties.

    Windows 11 hard drive menu options

    If you don't see any drives under the heading you located in Step 2, select the little arrow to the left to show the list of drives.

  4. Select the Tools tab at the top of the window.

  5. What you do now depends on which version of Windows you're using:

    • Windows 11, 10 & 8: Choose Check followed by Scan drive, and then skip down to Step 8.
    • Windows 7, Vista, & XP: Choose Check now and then continue with Step 6.
    Scan drive option in Windows 11

    See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure what you're running.

  6. Two options are available before starting an Error Checking scan in Windows 7, Vista, and XP: 

    • Automatically fix file system errors will, if possible, automatically correct file system related errors that the scan detects. We highly recommend checking this option every time.
    • Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors will perform a search for areas of the hard drive that may be damaged or unusable. If found, this tool will mark those areas as "bad" and prevent your computer from using them in the future. This is very useful, but could extend the scan time as much as a few hours.

    The first option is equivalent to executing chkdsk /f and the second to executing chkdsk /scan /r. Checking both is the same as executing chkdsk /r.

  7. Press Start.

  8. Wait while Error Checking scans the selected hard drive for errors and, depending on options you selected and/or what errors are found, fixes any errors found.

    If you get a Windows can't check the disk while it's in use message, select Schedule disk check, close any other open windows, and then restart your computer. You'll notice that Windows takes much longer to start up and you'll see text on the screen as the Error Checking (chkdsk) process completes.

  9. Follow whatever advice is given after the scan. If errors were found, you may be asked to restart your computer. If no errors were found, you can close any open windows and continue using your computer normally.

    A detailed log of the scan, and what was corrected if anything was, can be found in the list of Application events in Event Viewer. Look for Event ID 26226.

  • How do I check an external hard drive for errors?

    Locate the external drive in File explorer and right-click it, then select Properties > Tools > Check > Scan and repair drive.

  • How do I scan for a new hard drive?

    Make sure the hard drive is connected, then open the Disk Management tool. Locate the hard drive in the list and right-click it, select Initialize Disk, choose GPT, then select OK. In the next window, right-click inside the striped box and select New Simple Volume, complete the space allocation steps, assign a drive letter, choose a format, then select Next to finish.

  • How long does it take to scan a hard drive?

    The amount of time required to scan a hard drive depends on the size of the drive and the number of errors. Smaller drives can finish scanning in as little as 20 minutes, while larger drives can take six hours or more.

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