Checking for Drive Health with the Check Disk Utility

Disk errors and bad sectors are always the weak link of any backup system, or any system maintenance work for that matter, so it is important that one frequently checks for them.

The Problem

The weak link of any setup is its anchor. Simply strike it, and the whole structure falls.

In system maintenance, or even working with any form of data, be it storage, retrieval, backup or any chore in-between, the storage media is the anchor. It is critical as it is the pyscal container of the data you work with.

However, from time to time, disks develop some errors, some of which, if left unchecked, result in not only disk failure but the whole system crash. How can one be alert on tracking the health of a disk?

The Solution

You must do an error-checking of your disk using the built-in utility known as the Check Disk. This utility is run on a given disk to check for bad sectors and repair them.

You can start a Check Disk utility in three ways, one of which requires the use of an operating system installation CD. This option we will not discuss it here as it depends on the assistance of a third-party in some cases. So the two ways we will talk to run a Check Disk utility are:

Going to the Drive where you want to check for errors

Do the following:

  1. Navigate to the drive you want to check for errors. For instance, the C: drive.

  2. When you get there, press Alt-Enter to open the drive properties dialog.

  3. Now either

    • Press the Right arrow on page tab headers; [1] or
    • Press Control-Tab to go to the Tools tab.
  4. Here you would see that the first field is about error checking: simply press the Check Now button to launch the Check Disk utility.

The advantage with this method is that the error checking utility is launched and run in the familiar GUI window. So the whole process of checking for disk errors and for repairing them will be through friendly dialogs.

Using the Command Prompt

You can also run the check disk utility from the command line. Just do the following:

  1. From the start menu search box, type CMD.
  2. When the command prompt window comes up, type, "chkdsk" followed by the drive you want to check errors and any options (also known as switches).

That is, the syntax for the command can be specified as:

chkdsk volume: /f /r

Where volume: is the drive you want to check for errors, and the letters after the slash symbol represent the options you are specifying along with the chkdsk. These include, but not limited to:

/f To check for errors and repair them without checking for bad sectors on the disk.
/r To check for bad sectors and repair them.


Regularly checking for errors on your disks is an important step in your system maintenance work: you must always do it. However, since this is important, your system often schedules it for most of its boot operations. This is because once a system disk develops bad sectors, this may lead to serious problems in future.

If your system, for some reason, fails to start up, you can even run a chkdsk check using the Windows repair disks or even the installation media: it would check for any errors and fix them.

Once a disk is corrected, data lost could be recovered and placed in a special folder known as found.<nn> where nn are numbers representing the repair operations. The first time, the folder would be found.00, the next, found.001 and so on.

Well, that is it for today. Thanks for reading this post. Until next time when we discuss disk fragmentation, it is goodbye for now.


[1] You can only use this method to change pages in a dialog box only before you press the Tab key: that is, just at the top of any page before the first field.