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How to Use Check Disk 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 [1]. 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:

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.

    check-disk1.PNG [2]

  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.

    check-disk2.PNG [3]

  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.

    check-disk3.PNG [4]

    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 [5].

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 [6].