What to Do When Chkdsk Gets Stuck Scanning

Frustrated man in front of computer
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If your computer's operating system is Windows 8, and you've run chkdsk (Windows' disk scanning and repair tool that will run automatically when you boot up the system), you may have encountered a frustrating situation in which it looks as if chkdsk has stopped working. The progress percentage has stalled for a very long time (usually somewhere between 5 percent and 30 percent)—so long, in fact, that you can't tell if maybe the whole thing has frozen up.

In most cases, chkdsk is actually still running. The problem is, in Windows 8, Microsoft changed the appearance of the chkdsk display. It no longer shows you what exactly is going on the way Windows 7 and prior versions did. 

The Waiting Game

The short "solution" for this problem is one that can be frustrating: Wait it out. This wait can be quite long, hours even. Some people who have encountered this issue and waited, trusting that the system would pull itself together, were rewarded with success after anywhere from 3 to 7 hours.

This calls for a lot of patience, so if you can, save yourself the stress when you need to run chkdsk by doing it when you won't need your computer for a considerable block of time.

If you're impatient, you probably want to do a hard shutdown on your computer by holding down the power button and start over. This is not usually advisable, because rebooting while the hard drive is in the middle of reading or writing could cause bigger problems—potentially even corrupting Windows in a way that would require a complete reinstall of the operating system. (Of course if your computer really has frozen up, and you've been waiting for longer than 7 hours for chkdsk to progress, that might be necessary.)

What Chkdsk Is Doing

Chkdsk is a utility in Windows that helps maintain the integrity of your hard drive's file system and its data. It also examines the physical hard drive disks, looking for damage. If there is a problem with your hard drive's file system, chkdsk can try to remedy it. If there is physical damage, chkdsk can attempt to recover the data from that portion of the hard drive. It doesn't do this automatically, but chkdsk will prompt you to run these processes in these cases.

Your hard drive's file system can become disorderly over time as files are constantly accessed, updated, moved, copied, deleted, and closed. All that shuffling around over time can potentially lead to errors being made—a little like a busy person misplacing a file in a filing cabinet. 

Remember that admonition above about not doing a hard shutdown using the power button? This is one way in which your hard drive's efficient and orderly file system can take a hit. Shutting down hard in the middle of the computer reading or writing files can leave the place a mess. This is why it is always recommended that you execute a shutdown in Windows; this gives the operating system a chance to tidy up the place before closing down.