How to Repair Errors on a Hard Drive

Here's how to check and keep your hard disk drive (HDD) healthy

Detail of a Computer Hard Drive
Daisuke Morita / Photodisc / Getty Images

Of all the various problems that can strike your PC, few are as worrisome as hard disk drive (HDD) errors. Our hard drives can contain precious memories such as photographs and videos, critical documents, and a music collection built over years. These days a lot of this content can be duplicated on the cloud or an online back-up, which makes it safer from hard drive problems. 

Nevertheless, it's still a good idea to keep your hard drive in tip-top condition to avoid the chance of losing anything before it gets stashed in the cloud. The first sign that an HDD has problems is when there are logical errors on the disk. When a drive has logical errors they are unreadable or cannot be written to and known as bad sectors. When a disk has a bad sector it doesn't mean there is anything physically wrong with the disk, which also means it can be repaired. 

The best way to keep your HDD in good condition is to use the CHKDSK utility. As its name suggests this program can check your disk and fix hard drive errors. When it's working CHKDSK scans the hard drive, corrects logical sector errors, marks bad sectors that cannot be fixed and moves data to safe, healthy places on the hard drive. It's a handy tool, but this utility does not operate automatically. Instead, users must manually start it.

However, CHKDSK is not for everyone. The utility is primarily meant for PCs with hard drives. If you have a computer with a solid-state drive (SSD) CHKDSK really isn't necessary. It shouldn't hurt anything if you do run it, but some people do report that the utility has caused them problems. Regardless, SSDs come with their own built-in system to deal with errors and don't require CHKDSK.

If you are running Windows XP we have an older tutorial can check out to see a step-by-step process of how to run CHKDSK with images. In fact, pretty much any version of Windows can benefit from that tutorial as the process hasn't changed too much.

Nevertheless, here's how you run CHKDSK on a Windows 10 machine.

There are actually two ways to check your drive for errors on a Windows 10 PC. The first is to use the disk error checking utility. To get started, tap Ctrl + E to open a File Explorer window. In the left-hand navigation panel click on This PC and then in the main part of the window under "Devices and drives" right-click on your primary drive (it should be labeled "C:").

In the right-click context menu select Properties, and then in the window that opens select the Tools tab. At the very top, there should be an option that says "This option will check the drive for file system errors." Click the button next to it labeled Check

Another window will appear. It may say that Windows hasn't found any errors, but you can check your drive anyway. If that's the case click on Scan drive and the scanning will begin.

The old school CHKDSK can also be run from the command prompt. Unlike older versions of CHKDSK, you don't have to reboot your PC to run the utility. To get started in Windows 10 go to ​Start > Windows systemand then right-click Command PromptIn the context menu that opens select More > Run as administrator. To run the check disk utility on a PC with one drive all you have to do is type in chkdsk and hit Enter on your keyboard; however, that will only check your disk for errors it won't actually do anything to fix any problems it finds.

To get it to fix problems you have to add what are known as switches. These are extra commands that tell a command line utility to take an extra step. In our case, the switches are "/f" (fix) and "/r" (recover readable information). The full command, then, would be "chkdsk /f /r"-- note the spaces as these are critical with command line utilities. 

If you want to run CHKDSK on a system with multiple drives like a C: and D: drive, you'd run a command like this "chkdsk /f /r D:" but, again, don't forget about the spaces.

Now that you know how to use the check disk utility don't forget to run a scan once a month or so to keep tabs on your hard drive's health.