Hard disk drives have a finite life span. Depending on your usage, you’ll get about four years out of a hard drive before it’ll start to show signs of wear. Signs that your hard drive is failing include erratic or slow performance, lost data, failed read/write operations, clicking, and whirring noises, and random crashes. The sooner you diagnose and fix or replace your hard drive, the better; otherwise, you might find yourself with a malfunctioning hard drive and no way to get your data off of it.
System drives can also become corrupted for non-mechanical reasons. In both cases, Windows includes tools that will scan your disk for errors and attempt to fix them. Depending on your computer and hard drive, you may even be able to use a manufacturer’s diagnostic tool or a tool built-in to your BIOS. We’ll show you how to use all three in this tutorial.
Error Checking Hard Drives in Windows 10
If you can boot to the Windows desktop, you can start a hard disk scan from within File Explorer. Click Start > File Explorer > This PC.
Then, right click the system drive where Windows 10 is installed, then click Properties. Select the Tools tab then click Check.
Windows 10 only offers a single option, which lets you continue using the drive while it scans for errors. If errors are found, Windows 10 will offer the option to fix them.
Scanning can take some time depending on the size of the drive and severity of any errors found.
When complete, Windows will determine if errors are found or not. You can review a detailed report within Event Viewer by clicking Show Details.
Running Chkdsk from the Command Prompt
If you want to scan the disk for errors the old-fashioned way, you can execute the Chkdsk command from the command line. Press <Windows key> + <X> and click Command Prompt (Admin). Type: chkdsk /r /f at the command prompt then hit <Enter>. This will prompt you to schedule a scan of the hard disk when Windows 10 starts up. Type Y then hit <Enter>.
Running Chkdsk on an Unbootable Hard Drive
If you are unable to reach the Windows 10 desktop, you can try booting into the Windows 10 recovery environment, launch the command prompt, then schedule chkdsk there.
Turn your computer on and off three times while booting. Make sure you shut down the computer when you see the Windows logo. After the third time, Windows 10 will boot into diagnostics mode. Click Advanced options when the recovery screen appears. Click Troubleshoot > Advanced options then click Command Prompt. Proceed to enter the chkdsk commands: chkdsk /r /f then hit <Enter>.
What if you are not able to boot into Windows 10 at all? Some manufacturers include drive checking tools built into the computer’s BIOS. On my HP desktop, I was able to initiate the hard drive self-testing utility called Drive Protection System (DPS) Self Test.
If your computer does not include a drive testing utility, you can utilize third party solutions. If you can boot to the Windows 10 desktop, press <Windows key> + <R>, type: msinfo32 then hit <Enter>. Expand Components -> Storage in the System Summary tree, then click Disks. Look for your hard drive. (Note if you have your phone or another hard drive plugged in, ignore that entry. Check the size of the disk to make sure you have the right one.)
Take note of the model information, copy it into your favorite search engine, then download any available drive testing utilities available from the manufacturer’s website. Check out Austin’s earlier article on How to Check if Your Computer’s Hard Disk Drive is Bad in Windows 7 and Windows 8 to see some of these tools. If none are available, then you will have to make do with the built-in solutions that come with Windows 10 or built into your computer’s firmware or BIOS.
If your hard disk is beyond repair, check out our previous article for recovering data from a non-booting hard disk.