What's on the Page: -
What are file system errors?
Before I go on.. Linux has its own, different, file system errors. I’m not dealing with anything to do with the Linux operating system in this article: Herein I’m dealing with the Windows operating system only.
Every (PC) computer has at least one fixed drive on which data is stored. The main or the primary system partition, usually the C: drive, contains the Windows operating system files in the Windows kernel: They were one of the first things, if not the first thing, in the way of data to be installed onto the C: drive when the Windows operating system was installed on the machine. – Before any other default Windows programs or any third-party programs were installed. Without them Windows cannot run properly or cannot run at all. These files themselves can become corrupted, a topic which is
dealt with in another article on this site. – But problems also occur when the file system in which they are stored on and referenced from/to the disk develops a fault for whatever reason. The good news is that the file system exists as software on the drive, and so can therefore be repaired at little or no cost other than ones’ time.
If your PC computer’s drive( s ) is/are formatted using the NTFS file system, as is the case with most drives, then the “bits” – the 1s or 0s – of data – are stored in groups of 8 bits called “bytes”, which are stored on the drive within its pre-written file-system in “clusters” and “sectors”. Without going all super-geeky and blinding readers with science; the simple fact is that if the pre-formatted file system develops a fault in which it becomes corrupted so that the processor has to try to work out what’s wrong in order to read the data from the disk – and/or there are too many bad sectors on the drive from which the data cannot be read or the read/write heads have difficulty reading said data – then you have file system errors, and/or data errors, which can slow down, confuse, or even crash the computer.
Keeping the computer( s ) maintained.
As a tech-geek with 3 or more computers I like to do my best to keep all 3 of them in tip-top condition at all times. I regularly check for corruption in the Windows operating system core files – But maybe I should pay more attention to the disk’s file system; particularly that of the C: drive.
My main computer; the Idol Tower (Which isn’t a tower.) has a propensity to develop operating system file corruption on its C: drive. – Moreso than the other two: That might be because it does considerably more than the other two, or it might just be inherent to the AData disk – but I doubt it because, since I built it in Summer 2018, I’ve reinstalled Windows a total of 3 times; one of those was a clean nuke & pave, and one was when I changed the NVMe C: drive for a smaller-capacity SATA drive with no loss of performance: – ‘See the main system gubbins can easily fit onto a 250GB drive with around 40% room to spare. – And I like to keep the main system drive as separate as possible from other drives, such as my 5 terabyte mechanical storage drive; which is a USB3-connected external hard-drive, and the 250GB NVMe drive which I use to house large programs on.. Anyway to cut a long story short I’ve had more corruption appearing on the Idol Tower’s C: drive than any of the other machines, regardless of which installation of Windows 10 has been on the drive, and regardless of whether the C: drive was a SATA drive or an NVMe drive: It is what it is.
Because of the above I regularly – at least every couple of months on average – run the SFC /scannow command, along with the DISM command too if necessary. ( See this article. ) – That keeps the critical operating system files on the disk in good shape, and Windows deals with the defragmentation and trim routines automatically, as pre-set by myself.
What does get left somewhat by the wayside, and is what I haven’t been keeping tabs on to such an extent, is the health of the disk’s file system. – Which disk? Mainly the C: drive; but with all of them functioning properly on a robust file-system; the machine runs one hell of a lot better.
The thing is that Windows 10 – and probably 11 too – will usually seem to run fairly well even if the disk’s file system is in a mess.
Windows is getting better and better: With each new release of each new operating system there are many unseen under-the-hood improvements which make Windows more stable and better able to endure such things as disk corruption and file system errors; but it’s still nowhere near impervious to them.
The machine may intervene at times; just as it did in XP and in Windows 7, by prompting you to check the disk at startup – before you boot into Windows.. But it doesn’t seem to intervene as much with W10, yet the file system corruption builds up just the same. The file system gets corrupted particularly when the power goes out suddenly while the machine is working. In fact every time that happens I run SFC and often repair corrupted operating system files as a result of the power-outage in doing so.
Yes I have 2 UPS’s, one of which, I recently discovered, in addition to having almost come to the end of its life, could do with being wired into the power circuitry differently in tandem with a third UPS. Again to cut a long story short I tested it with a deliberate power outage: It ran out of battery very quickly, and started shutting down the Idol Tower after less than a minute. When it had shut down the Idol Tower it waited around 10 seconds and unexpectedly cut all the power to my studio computer bench: The printer, the answerphone, the router, the mini air-conditioner with ioniser, all 3 screens, the Idol Worx Plus computer, the audio monitors and pre-amps, the bench power supply, the table light.. All of it went out, and then with the exception of the Idol Worx Plus computer came back on as the UPS reset: That shouldn’t have happened. – I intend to rewire the power leads so that the existing UPS powers the Idol Worx Plus only, and shuts down by USB before the UPS kills the power. I’ll get a new UPS for the Idol Tower and everything else; ideally this new one won’t cut the power after it shuts down the Idol Tower. – That’s something I’ll need to see to in the near future. – But that has nothing to do with the subject matter of this article – so moving on..
Now because the Idol Worx Plus was subject to a power cut while it was working, there was a chance that it was now suffering from corruption as a result.. So I ran SFC /scannow on C: drive and sure enough it found and repaired corrupt system files. – Target neutralised; but I then thought I could check the drive for file system corruption – since it hadn’t been checked for that in like ages..
So I did that, but nothing worth talking about was found.
My K: drive – A relic.
– And then I remembered the K: drive.
The K: drive (Drive K: ) used to be the C: drive on the computer – now retired and broken for spares – that I built in 2009 specially to run Windows 7 on. It took all night for Windows to repair and restore its file system: It wasn’t really a case of hard errors; it was simply in a bit of a mess due to degradation.
The K: drive, a 1 terabyte SATA1 mechanical hard drive, was reformatted in NTFS after the original computer that it was in was broken up for spares in 2014, and the drive was later included as a storage drive in the prototype of the Idol Worx Plus – the only one ever built – when I built it in Spring 2018. Since then its file system integrity had never been checked. Windows seems to only bother about the file-system integrity of the C: drive on any given computer. It doesn’t appear to be too bothered about that of any storage drives and rarely, if ever, automatically repairs their file systems. – And when it comes to external hard drives; well you’ll probably find most that have been in use for any extended period of time have a file system that is in a worse state than some kind of shipwreck
– Windows doesn’t seem to be as worried as it used to be about the file system integrity of the C: drive. – It goes on working, even with major file system mess-ups happening it appears..
Appearances can be deceptive.
But appearances can be deceptive: Windows has to do a lot more calculations to compensate for the erroneous state of the C: drive’s file system. Even reading from a bad file system on other drives can slow things down somewhat. Restoring order to the file system – particularly on the C: drive – will make Windows run faster and better. Also repairing the file systems of the other drives attached to the system will make it operate faster. – Maybe imperceptibly so; but faster all the same. In fact I’ve seen people throw away computers that were suffering from disk file system corruption; thinking that they had worn out due to age and use. – If only they’d realised that, given a little time and some TLC, the computer could be restored to working as if it were almost new.
If you have ANY issue with your computer; the likelihood is that it is due to a software problem rather than a hardware malfunction. – Before you go buying and replacing hardware at random to see if it fixes the problem; try a little software engineering.
How to do it?
So how do we check the integrity of a drive’s file system?
To do so I use the command prompt, which I run as administrator.
The process isn’t by any means rocket science: Far from it in fact. – Here’s what you have to do: –
Run the System File Checker to ensure the integrity of your files: –
Open a command prompt as administrator.
Type the following: –
CHKDSK C: /f /r
– That’s CHKDSK space C: space /f space /r.
Press enter and allow the operation to complete.
* Windows might schedule the operation to begin after a
restart – in which case reboot the computer and allow the process to continue as the computer boots up.
‘Like I said; it’s not rocket science. – It might turn out to be an exercise in patience though; the operation might well take several hours – in rare cases more than 1 day – it depends how much data you have on your C: drive.
For instance; if your C: drive is your only drive, and it exists on a physical 4TB disk, and it’s over 3/4 full – then prepare for a long wait. – Now you may understand why I endeavour to keep my C: drive, my system drive, separate from everything else and as small as I can reasonably make it, as I inferred above.
The above operation checks and repairs both the integrity of the file system on drive C:, and also the integrity of the data written to C:, as well as whether any of it is written to a dodgy sector. If it is so written to a dodgy sector then the data is read, moved, and the sector in question marked as a bad sector and never used again. This also involves shifting and recalibrating the file system around the bad sector. – ‘One of the reasons the operation can take so long.
You can run this operation separately and consecutively on each of your drives if you have more then one drive – other than a CD drive or similar – in operation on any given machine. Just replace the drive letter C: with the drive letter of the drive you wish to fix. For instance, suppose you wanted to fix E: drive. You type in the following: –
CHKDSK E: /f /r
Note: Always fix the C: drive first, before trying to sort out any other drive.
It really is that simple; and as long as you can be patient and wait for the process to complete, you’ll make a noticeable
improvement to your machine’s performance if it was
suffering from file system errors or disk errors.
A note on backups:
If you find that you have to keep repeating this operation on a single drive or on drives on a single physical disk; then chances are that the corresponding physical disk is failing and needs replacing: In which case I hope you made a backup of your data. There are so many ways that you can back up your data: To an external hard drive, to the cloud, to an optical disk – to mention just three. Now would be a good time to create a backup if you haven’t already done so, and remember; you should refresh your backup( s ) regularly.. But we’re now going off-topic, – Backups are beyond the scope of this article.
This information could one day be extremely valuable to you. Completing this operation on all of your drives could mean the difference between hours of stress in front of a non-responsive and difficult-to-handle computer, and happy computing using a responsive and cooperative machine. It could mean the difference between you throwing away a perfectly good piece of hardware out of frustration and spending money on a new one – or taking a few hours to sort out a software issue on your existing PC, with the upshot being a happy computing experience from that point onwards.
If you don’t schedule time for maintenance;
your equipment will schedule it for you.