How to Check and Fix Your Problematic Hard Drive [Windows 7]

There are many things that your computer depends on to function normally. For the computer to function at all, you need the big five: power supply, motherboard, RAM, hard drive, and CPU. Of the five, the hard drive contains the most important stuff required for you to use the computer – the operating system. When that component acts up, all sorts of funny things start happening.

What Happens?

If your hard drive starts acting nasty, you’ll know it because the computer loads much more slowly than usual, perhaps executing this behavior on one or two programs in particular. BSOD (blue screen) errors will happen more frequently than previously when they were absent. Although these also may be signs that your physical memory and other components might not work properly, you shouldn’t discount the possibility of the hard drive being the cause of this mess. Other problems that narrow down to the hard drive are CRC errors when transferring files from one folder on the same drive to the other. Other times, the progress bar just stays stuck in the middle and doesn’t move for hours.


Why Does This Happen?

Hard drives aren’t eternal, and neither are solid state drives (SSDs), contrary to what some may say. SSDs, in fact, are more volatile than hard drives. The degradation of a storage drive’s interior is something perfectly natural and happens after years of use, depending on the quality it was manufactured with. This degradation manifests itself in the form of bad sectors, which are small areas of the drive that can no longer be used due to physical damage. To ensure that your drive doesn’t risk being further damaged, you must run the disk checking utility in Windows to mark the areas that aren’t functional anymore. 

Notice how close the R/W heads come to the platters. The precision necessary makes the hard drive a very delicate instrument.

Before You Run Disk Checker

Try restarting your computer. There are times when your drive might have a minor fluke. Don’t restart your computer like you usually do. Shut it down, wait 20 seconds, and turn it back on. This gives the drive time to reset its read/write heads and bring the internal platters to a complete stop. If your hard drive is having errors only working with one file, try putting a copy of it somewhere else on the drive. See if it works after that. If it’s still not working, the file might have a problem, not the drive.

Running Disk Checker

To run the disk checker utility, access your command prompt. If you don’t know how to do this, click your “Start” menu, go to “All Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt“. Once in the command prompt, type “chkdsk /r” and press “Enter” on your keyboard. If and when you get a prompt, type “Y” and press “Enter.” Once you restart your computer, the disk checker utility will run on its own. Let it do its job and it will take care of your drive.

If you’re curious, the “/r” flag tells the “chkdsk” utility to scan the drive for errors and recover readable information from bad sectors. If the utility finds errors, it will also correct them because of the implication of the “/f” flag. If someone tells you to type both “f” and “r” flags, just use the “r” one and let them know that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Photo Credit: flickr

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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