Using the Windows Utilities
The F@t Guy
With all operating systems it is very important to make certain that
the hard disk is in good shape and that it's files are indexed in a way
that the operating system can access them. Windows is no different in
this respect, so this page is designed to help you use the available
utilities to maintain your hard disk properly.
The symptoms of a hard disk problem can range from slow performance
or inaccessable files all the way to disappearing files and
"freezing up", or even an inability to boot up at all, so it is very
important to check the disk every now and then to make sure it is "ok",
and especially so if the machine is "acting weird" in any way. Hard
drive troubles are only second to virus activity in terms of likelyhood
of occurrance and also in terms of data loss.
But while important, it isn't recommended as a part of your critical
regimen... Usually it is acceptable to check your disk(s) about once a
month or so, with some noteable exceptions:
Of course, if symptoms are present which might be attributed to disk problems, checking the disk would be a high priority.
If the machine has lost power without being properly shut down the
unexpected power loss can prevent the file system from writing "exit"
information to the disk causing errors. This is another good time to
check the disk, and especially so if the machine has suffered multiple
power loss incidents.
is always a good idea to be sure your data is backed up (off the
machine or at least off the volume in question) before running any
Depending upon your operating system, you must use a different utility:
Choose this link if you are on a Win9x system (Win95, Win98, Win98SE, WinME)
Choose this link if you are on a WinNT system (Win2000, WinXP)
On WinNT systems (Win2k, WinXP) the utility is called Chkdsk
Chkdsk can be run using a number of different methods. The easiest way
to use checkdisk on all Win2000 and Win XP systems is as follows:
Open "My Computer". Find the drive (partition or volume) you wish to check. We'll use "C:" for the purpose of this exercise.
Right-click the desired drive and choose "Properties"
The "Properties dialog" will appear. Select the "Tools" tab
On the "tools" tab, within the "error-checking" section, poke the "Check Now" button.
You are now looking at the gui interface for the chkdsk utility. Here it is:
Pretty anti-climactic, huh?
We now have a decision to make... Do we do a Simple Check or a Full
Check? I will explain both, though I would really recommend a "full
check" as detailed a bit further on...
The Simple Check
For a simple check, one can just press start...If you do, the utility
will only do "3" of the possible "5" tests because it must be able to
lock or control the volume to do the rest. It cannot lock the volume if
Windows is running. You can run it this way, and if you do, you'll soon
see the zippy-bar ca-chugging along as chkdsk dutifully reports which
phase it is in:
When it's done, it will let you know:
The Full Check
I would really recommend
against the "simple" check, mainly because I have never in my life seen
it fix a single thing. I would much prefer the "whole 9 yards
approach"- After all, even though the full scan takes a while, and is
irritating in that one must reboot, when it is done properly and
completely, it leaves no room for error (pardon the pun). This adds a
level of confidence in the process that is most necessary- Especially
when faced with problematic symptoms.
So lets start again... we pick up at the "Chkdsk Gui" (as before, "My
Computer"=> Rclick "C:", choose "Properties"=>Tools tab=>
"Check Now" button):
This time, lets check the
two boxes, "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and
attempt recovery of bad sectors". Then press "Start":
Now, things will be
different from the "simple check". In the first place, if the drive
(volume, partition) you chose is "lock-able" the scan will take a
considerable amount of time, much more time than the "simple check". Be
prepared for a wait equal to the time it takes to drink a cup of
coffee, and possibly even a couple of hours, depending upon the size of
the volume you are scanning.
If the operating system is using files on the volume it will not be
"lock-able". This is always the case if the operating system is located
on the volume (as is the case most of the time with Drive C:), and may
also happen with other volumes where the operating system is "tracking"
any files therein. If the volume is not lock-able for any reason, the
following notice will be displayed:
That's o.k... It is just
saying that it cannot do the check with Windows running and asks to run
it's check on the next restart of the machine. Choose "Yes" and
shutdown_and_start or restart the box.
During the boot sequence an unusual DOS-looking program will run. This
is the chkdsk utility as it apears in it's boot-mode. Don't touch the
keyboard, as pressing any key while chkdsk is starting will cause it to
quit (though it will continue to come up at any future startup until it
is allowed to complete it's job).
During the check, chkdsk will display the various phases it is going
through (there are 5 phases). The first three phases go by rather
quickly, though the last two phases are insufferably slow. Be prepared
to wait a long while for access to your computer.
While the check is running, it may cause the machine to reboot and come
back to chkdsk. It may even happen several times. This is indicative
that there was a problem of some consequence, but is not necessarily
When it is finished, your machine will boot into Windows normally.
If you find your machine is running chkdsk automatically at boot,
especially if it does it often, special care should be taken: This is
often a prominent sign that the file system is crashing or that the
hard drive is physically failing. If this is happening to you, save
your data ASAP and call me (or your own tech)
The Chkdsk utility can also be run from a console, or from the installation CD, but that is a lesson for another day.
This conclludes the WinNT portion of this lesson. The rest of this page is dedicated to the Windows 9x Scandisk utility.
Back to the top
The Win 9x disk utility is called Scandisk.
This section coming soon.
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