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Published on 06.25.07 by Brent Trahan

How to Use Check Disk in Windows Vista

This guide shows you how to use the Check Disk tool in Windows Vista.

Many errors in Windows are caused by corrupt files. Those files could have become corrupt because of errors on your hard drive. The Check Disk tool checks for errors and attempts to fix any it finds.

Warning: Use Check Disk at your own risk. On rare occasions I’ve experienced problems when using check disk in Windows Vista. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • If you run check disk and your computer has to be restarted to scan your computer and your computer hangs at a black screen when it boots up, do the following:

    Turn the computer off and back on and immediately start pressing F8 on your keyboard repeatedly. A black screen with different boot options will appear. Select to use the Last known good configuration (advanced) boot option.

  • Never stop check disk once it has started. It could take hours to days to scan your hard drive depending on its size.

How-to Use Check Disk

Using the Graphical User Interface (GUI)

  1. Open the Start Menu and click Computer.
  2. Right-click the drive you want to perform a check disk on and select Properties.
  3. Click the Tools tab in the drive Properties window.


  4. Click Check Now under error checking.
  5. To perform a complete check of your hard drive for errors check off both options in the check disk window that pops up.


  6. Click the Start button to start the process.
  7. If you are trying to check a hard drive that has open files you’ll get a message similar to the one shown below.


    Click Schedule disk check. Disk check can’t check a hard drive that has open files. Your computer will reboot and check the disk before Windows Vista boots up. If you want to cancel the scheduled disk check for any reason, check out this guide.

Using the Command Line Interface

Check Disk can also be run using the command line (DOS) prompt.

  1. Open the command prompt with administrative privileges by typing cmd in the search box in the Start Menu and right-click cmd.exe in the search results and then select Run as Administrator.
  2. Type chkdsk followed by one or a combination of switches listed below in the command prompt.

If you run the check disk (chkdsk) command from the command prompt by typing just chkdsk check disk will run in read only mode. All it does is check for errors. It will not fix any errors it finds unless told to do so. This is done by adding switches when typing chkdsk in the command prompt.

A switch looks something like chkdsk /F. Notice the switch /F after the chkdsk command.

Below is a list of most of the switches used with the check disk command. You can use one or a combination of switches with the check disk command.

D: If you want check disk to scan a drive other than the C: drive, add the drive letter after chkdsk to tell it to scan that drive. If the drive is called X: on your computer it would look like chkdsk X:.

/F: The /F switch is the most common of the chkdsk switches. It tells chkdsk to fix any errors it finds. Chkdsk can’t fix errors on a disk that has open files. If chkdsk asks you if you want to check the drive next time Windows Vista boots or dismount the drive choose to check the drive next time Windows Vista boots. Never choose to dismount the drive. That option should only be used by a professional.

/R: The /R switch tells chkdsk to attempt to recover any bad sectors of the hard drive if any are found. A bad sector is a spot on the hard drive that can’t hold saved data anymore.

/I: The /I switch tells chkdsk to perform a less detailed but faster disk check.

/C: The /C switch tells chkdsk to skip the checking of cycles within a folder structure which reduces the scan time. Don’t ask me what this means.

An example of an exhaustive disk check using the command line interface is:

chkdsk D: /F /R

The check disk command shown above will fix any errors it finds and also attempt to recover bad sectors of the D: drive if any are found.

If all else fails, try SpinRite.

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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37 Responses to “How to Use Check Disk in Windows Vista”

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  1. Andrew says:

    omg, thank you very much. lol, i didn’t know how to actually make chkdsk fix my drive. THANK YOU!!!

  2. ex_paranoia says:

    after scheduling chkdsk when i reboot no chkdsk happens..why is it like that?

  3. Brent Trahan says:

    What version of Windows are you using and exactly how are you trying to schedule chkdsk? The more information you give me the better of a chance I can help you.

  4. keith says:

    restart pressing F8 to get into the boot options
    choose the repair option (should be the first one)
    choose a keyboard layout (just hit enter)
    select a user and enter the password
    choose to open a command prompt
    type “chkdsk c: /f” without the quotes where “c:” is the drive/partition in question
    once complete type “exit”
    click restart/reboot

  5. Chris says:

    Great, I didn’t have to run a check disk since w98 and both forgot how to do it and how to do it with Vista. Like the two levels description.

  6. Dave Lightfoot says:

    Thank you . . Thank you . . Thank you . . 1,000 times Thank you . . Until I found this site my new laptop was horribly locked up. Its all good now

  7. Chris says:

    Can I hit F8 to bypass chkdsk at boot up? If so once I bypass it how do I disable it from doing it again when I reboot my system?

  8. Tim Nicholson says:

    When I schedule the chkdsk at next boot, it still indicates the file system is NTFS and the disk is locked and it can’t perform the check. I thought the chkdsk was suppose to run before Windows started up. I suppose it must be using *some* files on the disk at that point. But wouldn’t pretty much everyone with a factory-shipped configuration of 1 large hard disk partition have this issue? So how are others able to successfully fix their hard disks?

    Is there the equivalent to a DOS Boot Disk for Windows Vista? Some files that can be burnt to a CD (or in my case thrown on an external hard drive) and you boot to a command prompt from there and run the chkdsk command?

  9. Brent Trahan says:

    What it’s telling you is the disk is locked because it’s in use and the next time Windows boots up the disk will be checked before Windows is loaded.

  10. Yoru says:

    How long could it conceivably take for check disk to run on vista home premium with a 720g raid 5 array? It goes through all the check and repair stages ok but seems to hang at the free space stage 5 of 5. I can’t cancel it as the keyboard is deactivated during for some reason even though it works for in the bios screen before check disk starts.

    • pharlap says:

      Help I have the same problem, hangs up in stage 5 at 7835451 no matter how many times I try….
      Can anyone help me? Please…

      • Rocky says:

        You can expect this to take a good 24 hours depending on the options you’ve set for chkdsk. Best thing to do is to let chkdsk run through it’s process until it’s complete. Even better to run chkdsk at startup, before Windows loads, as it will complete faster this way. Some external drives won’t be detected in time after rebooting your computer and the scheduled disk check run won’t kick off – in that case, boot from your install CD and run the command prompt from there instead. Good luck.

      • Rachel says:

        I have the same problem. I waited for 2 days and it wouldn’t go beyond 98%. Finally I just powered down the whole thing and started again, with it getting stuck at the same place. I hope that my turning it off before finishing wasn’t a fatal error. Is it worth trying again, even if it might get stuck there? I would really like to get some things on my disk checked and repaired.

  11. jeezaa says:

    “Never choose to dismount the drive. That option should only be used by a professional.”

    The best thing on Unix based OS is, that you don’t need HDD – you can run only on RAM memory.

  12. Maria Rouse says:

    thanks so much;went to run ckdsk but said I didn’t have authority to run it. Your instructions helped with everythign. I have now run chkdisk on the two drives I needed repaired and looked at

    thanks so much

  13. Very Useful Article. Thanks a lot.

  14. chris says:

    I’m not even sure that check disc is what i need to do but i tried it and after i restarted it didn’t come up and now the command prompt isnt even comming up.

  15. Ritinuech says:

    I think the HD I’m working on for a friend is shot. Has real problem booting. Gets to desktop about every 3rd try. HP Advisor says bad block in boot sector is the issue. I decided to run chkdsk /f on it. Been running for over 24 hours and still stuck at exactly 20% completion of stage 4 of 5. HD light alternates between short blips and longer blips coming in series. How long should I allow this to continue with reasonable hope of soloution? I read that chkdsk should not be halted. However what more harm than irreparable can there be? Will CNTRL C halt the program? Just power down? How long is long enough to assume defeat?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I know a little about PC’s but I’ll never know enough.

  16. Brandon says:

    When i start up my computer again it doesn’t perform the disk check?!

    OS: Windows Vista Home Premium
    Bit: 32bit OS
    Laptop Brand: Lenovo
    Processor: Intel Celeron 1.73ghz

  17. When the disk check got finished, the data results flashed so fast I never could read them. Does Windows Vista store these results anywher so I can read them and print the results out? Thanks.

    • wmholt says:

      William – you can capture the results by setting up a batch file which consists of only these lines of text:

      chkdsk.exe d: /f

      I’m using Drive D: as an example.

      Save your file as something like, “Checkdisk_D.bat”, and when you run it, the window will stay open after the results are displayed, allowing you to go to the menu in the command window and choose, “Edit -> Mark”, which allows you to highlight the text, and then “Edit -> Copy” after the text is marked. You can then copy the results into a regular text file.

      The command window’s menu is accessible by clicking on the little black icon in the top left corner with the picture showing “C:\”.

  18. SirMartin says:

    Hope it works. but thanks anyway :)

  19. Greg says:

    As stated previously (and not really answered) — a second restart does NOT invoke Chkdsk.

    “When I schedule the chkdsk at next boot, it still indicates the file system is NTFS and the disk is locked and it can’t perform the check.”

    Soooooo, I repeat and ask again —- Now what?

    • John says:

      Greg says:
      June 18, 2009 at 12:42 amAs stated previously (and not really answered) — a second restart does NOT invoke Chkdsk.

      “When I schedule the chkdsk at next boot, it still indicates the file system is NTFS and the disk is locked and it can’t perform the check.”

      Soooooo, I repeat and ask again —- Now what?

      If your getting this in command prompt you will need to say Yes (or Y) to the option of unmounting your harddrive on next restart….

  20. Ann Printer says:

    Good stuff.

    I saw something like this in SE Michigan recently on machine in for repair.

  21. davitof says:

    Cycles are when folder A contains folder B which again contains folder A. I mean that B actually contains A again, not that it contains a folder which happens to be named “A”. When this happens, you can endlessly open A, then B, then A, then B, then A, then… and opening the full tree structure will probably hang the Explorer. This of course should never happen, but it is possible. I never saw this happen on a NTFS drive, but I saw it in FAT, which does not mean it is impossible in NTFS. Some disk repair or file recovery tools could do this kind of mistake. I guess that in this case chkdsk removes the reference to folder A in folder B.

  22. Charles says:

    I had use scandisk under windows vista… My computer restart to do the scan… everything works great!

    I try to boot my OS after.. and nothing, windows don’t want to boot

    I take my HD and I put it in another computer… But, not able to work on.

    Someone can help me. Please : I lost many files. I need to repair it.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Charles,

      Putting the drive in another machine was a bad move but your data will still be there. It would never boot in the 2nd machine unless you’re really lucky. The problem is it may have changed something that will stop it booting in the original PC.

      I suggest you put everything back as it was, then press F8 during the black screen phase when you first power on. Then either choose System Restore, or Startup repair.

      I don’t know why it didn’t boot after scandisk in the first place. Startup repair is the FIRST one to try. Both these options will NOT lose any data – they will just repair windows boot files if they need it.

      If neither works don’t panic. You have a second PC. If it has a working copy of Windows (Vista) you can just put the disk in as a second drive. Once booted the drive will just appear as another drive letter automatically.

      If it doesn’t still don’t panic. Just talk to a professional and they will easily fix it.

      Of course the disk *may* have died but I doubt it.

      Good luck

      PS: I do this stuff for a living so am more than qualified.

  23. Michael says:

    I am running windows vista 32-bit. I try to do disk check and I tells me that i need to schedule it for the next restart. so I schedule it. I restart the computer and it goes directly to my desktop. I tried running disk check through the cmd. and again it tells me to schedule it for the next restart. I schedule it and restart my computer. I goes directly to my desktop. I tried restarting my computer and pressing F8 and select repair computer. again it goes directly to my computer. Does anyone have any suggestions? thanks

  24. Mike says:


    Don’t choose repair. Just watch the first screens during the boot process. It should announce it is going to do as seen here:



  25. Maria says:

    I have Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 32 bit operating system with Vista Home Premium and I tried to do the DOS prompt disk check and I get:

    Access Denied as you do not have sufficient privileges. You have to invoke this utility running in elevated mode.

    What does that mean and how do I do it?

    • Brent Trahan says:

      You need to run the command prompt with admin privileges. Look at step 1 under the Using the Command Line Interface section.

      • Ralph G says:

        Does chkdsk creat a report of the check results? Where is the report and how do I get it?

        • Brent Trahan says:

          Go to; Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer and click on the Application Log. Scroll down to the time of the disc scan and look for an entry similar to: Information xxTime xxDate Winlogon xxx xxx N/A. Double click on it and scroll in the report.

  26. vipul says:


    i had run scan disk on my external hard drive but after some hours my laptop automatically shut down and after some hours i again started my laptop…….now my laptop is not detecting that external hard drive or hard drive is not being shown in my computers

    please………please………..help…………….its very very urgetn issue……………i read ur feedbacks and its really helpful thats why i am asking you for help………

  27. JANE RHODES says:


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