Corruption is a nasty and often unexpected problem that occurs in hard drives and results in the loss of some of your data, or worse, your entire hard drive. It’s a problem that plagues anyone who’s unfortunate enough to encounter it, and it’s a very real possibility for anyone who uses a hard drive.
Symptoms of Hard Drive Corruption
When a hard drive has become the victim of corruption, it’s quite easy to tell. Before we look at ways to repair a corrupted hard drive, we must first understand how corruption presents itself.
- ⛔ Drive is inaccessible – When attempting to access your hard drive, you’re met with a prompt stating that the drive is inaccessible. The same is true for any shortcuts you had pointing to files on that drive.
- 💥 Blue screen of death (BSoD) – If the hard drive that contains your operating system files is corrupted, you may receive the infamous blue screen of death that indicates your hard drive has sustained damage.
- 🔍 Bad sectors – Bad sectors are areas on your hard drive that are no longer usable. Data that’s stored on those sectors has a high chance of becoming corrupted. Bad sectors can be found by analyzing the S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) data (more on this later).
- 🐌 Slow performance – Corrupted hard drives operate at slower speeds and may struggle with even the simplest tasks like opening a folder or transferring data to and from the device.
- ❓ Disappearing files – Corruption can cause some areas of the hard drive to become inaccessible, which means a chunk of your files may suddenly disappear. While they may still physically reside on the hard drive, they can’t be accessed while it’s corrupted.
Just because your hard drive is corrupted doesn’t mean your data is lost. In many cases, a corrupted hard drive doesn’t always mean corrupted data.
How to Recover Data From a Corrupted Hard Drive
Before we look at ways to repair your damaged hard drive, we’re going to cover what you can do to recover your data beforehand. Some methods used to fix a corrupted hard drive may involve the deletion of your data, so recovering what data you can now prevent some loss.
To recover your data, you need a data recovery tool. The one we’re using is Disk Drill. Not only does it have an impressive track record of successful recoveries, it’s also packed with useful features that can be used to monitor your hard drive’s health and preemptively warn you of potential problems (we’ll look at those later).
- Download Disk Drill. Install it, then open it.
- Select the corrupted hard drive and click Search for lost data.
- Click Review found items when the scan has finished.
- Select what files you want to recover. Make note of the Recovery chances column to determine the chance of successfully recovering that file. Click Recover.
- Choose where the recovered files should go.
How to Check Your Hard Drive’s Status
Checking the status of your hard drive before attempting to fix it can give you an indication of how bad the damage is. We’ll show you two different ways to do so.
PowerShell commands can be used to quickly get an indication of your drive’s health using its S.M.A.R.T. data.
- Right-click Start and click Windows PowerShell (Admin). Click Yes if prompted to confirm.
- Type wmic diskdrive get status and press Enter.
If the status returns as “bad”, “unknown”, or “caution”, there’s a good chance that your hard drive has sustained some form of damage and should be backed up immediately.
Disk Drill includes a S.M.A.R.T. monitoring feature that actively checks your drive and reports if there is anything for concern. This way, you can get a headstart on fixing the problem rather than manually checking from time to time.
- Download and install Disk Drill if you haven’t already.
- Select the corrupted hard drive and click the S.M.A.R.T. tab on the right.
- Click Check all S.M.A.R.T. attributes. This will show you the hard drive’s status. If you want to enable active monitoring, proceed with the below steps.
- Click the three dots at the top right and click Preferences.
- Click S.M.A.R.T. in the left panel, then tick Enable S.M.A.R.T. disk monitoring and Show status in system tray.
8 Methods to Fix Corrupted Hard Drive
Finally, let’s look at ways you can fix your corrupted hard drive. Some of the below methods allow you to repair a corrupted hard disk without formatting, others may require formatting if such methods don’t work. While some methods may seem basic, it’s important you work through the list methodically to ensure no troubleshooting steps are missed.
: Connect to Motherboard USB Port
Your drive may not be visible or accessible due to the port it’s connecting to. Instead of connecting your hard drive using a port on your PC case or USB hub, connect to the USB port that’s on your motherboard. In most PC cases, this is located on the back I/O panel of your computer.
Connecting through the USB port on your motherboard ensures a direct connection and rules out the possibility of ports being broken on your computer’s case or USB hub.
: Test Another Device
In order to isolate whether the issue sits with your hard drive or the computer, try connecting the hard drive to another computer. If the hard drive works in another computer, then the fault may actually be with your own computer.
If the hard drive is still corrupted when connected to another computer, proceed with further troubleshooting.
: Scan for Viruses
Corruption can be caused by a virus attack. An easy way to identify if this is the cause of the problem is by running a scan using your antivirus software. This can effectively eliminate the problem and prevent further corruption.
: Assign or Change the Drive Letter
Drive letters aren’t essential to accessing storage devices. Look at Mac OS X and Linux, for instance. The lack of drive letters seems to work just fine for those operating systems, so why are they still necessary in Windows? Well, the biggest reason would be backwards compatibility. Each change Microsoft makes includes great consideration for what came before.
Without a drive letter, your operating system might struggle to locate and access the hard drive. You can fix this by either assigning a drive letter, or changing the existing one.
- Right-click Start and click Disk Management.
- Right-click the corrupted partition and click Change Drive Letter and Paths.
- Click Change. If there is no drive letter, click Add instead.
- Choose a drive letter from the dropdown menu. Click OK.
- Click OK again.
: Update or Reinstall Drivers
Drivers are responsible for establishing and maintaining communication between the operating system and the hardware you use. If your drivers are outdated or corrupted, your computer may not read the hard drive correctly (or at all). Updating them or reinstalling them may be enough to fix a broken hard drive.
- Right-click Start and click Device Manager.
- Expand the Disk drives dropdown and right-click your hard drive. The name will likely be different depending on your hard drive. Click Properties.
- Go to the Driver tab and click Update Driver.
- Click Search automatically for drivers. Otherwise, if you have the updated drivers, you can click Browse my computer for drivers to do this manually.
- If you find that there are no updated drivers, click Close. Now, click Uninstall Device.
- Click Uninstall.
If you had to uninstall your driver, restart your computer so it automatically installs the drivers again.
: Repair Using CHKDSK
Check Disk (CHKDSK) is a command in Windows that can scan and resolve any problems it discovers on your hard drive. It’s customizable using different parameters, depending on what you want the command to do.
We’re going to use the /r parameter. This will fix any errors on the disk and search for bad sectors, consequently marking them as unavailable for storage.
- Right-click Start and click Windows PowerShell (Admin). If prompted to allow access by UAC, click Yes.
- Type chkdsk E: /r. Replace E: with the drive letter of your corrupted hard drive. Press Enter.
This command can take some time to complete if your hard drive is large in size.
: Repair Using SFC & DISM
This method will include the use of two Windows functions: System File Check and DISM. System File Check is used to check for system file corruption and replaces corrupted system files with working versions. DISM also does this and verifies the integrity of the file system to ensure no corruption remains.
- Right-click Start and select Windows PowerShell (Admin).
- Type sfc /scannow and press Enter.
- Type dism.exe /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth and press Enter.
: Repair Using Victoria911
Victoria911 is a powerful hard drive tool that can be used to monitor S.M.A.R.T. data and detect bad sectors. If any bad sectors are detected, you can also choose to remap them so Windows doesn’t save new data to that location.
- Download Victoria911 and extract the files. Open it.
- Click Test & Repair.
- Make sure the scan is set to Read and Ignore. Press Scan.
- Upon completion, you can choose to remap bad sectors by clicking Remap and performing another scan.
: Format the Drive
Formatting your hard drive is a solution used to fix all types of problems, including corruption. It involves wiping your hard drive, essentially back to factory settings. It comes in two forms: Quick Format and Full Format.
A Quick Format is faster and works by quickly deleting all of the data on the disk. Although the data is deleted and cannot be accessed by the operating system, it can often be recovered using data recovery tools as the data still remains on the disk until it’s overwritten.
A Full Format takes longer, but it’s more efficient. The data is wiped and is basically unrecoverable. The Full Format also checks your data for bad sectors, which contributes greatly to the time it takes for the format to complete.
- Right-click Start and click Disk Management.
- Right-click the corrupted partition and click Format.
- Check Perform a quick format. Click OK.
If you want to perform a Full Format, uncheck Perform a quick format in the final step. Note, however, that this likely renders your data unrecoverable after completion.
How to Protect Your Hard Drive From Corruption
Of course, the most effective way of fixing a corrupted hard drive is actively avoiding corruption in the first place. Do so by picking up these simple habits.
- 💻 Monitor your S.M.A.R.T. data – Every drive has S.M.A.R.T. data that monitors its health. Disk Drill includes a feature that actively monitors this data and indicates when problems arise so you can stamp them out early on.
- ✅ Remove devices safely – Before removing a hard drive (if it’s externally attached), be sure to safely eject it from the device it’s connected to before removal. This ensures all necessary write processes have been halted.
- 🤖 Use an antivirus – Viruses can corrupt your data. Having an antivirus is an easy way to avoid this. Paid solutions exist, but free solutions, like Malwarebytes, are often more than enough when paired with the built-in Windows Security.
Establishing positive habits when it comes to handling your data and storage devices goes a long way and can often save you hours, potentially days of troubleshooting and recovery.
The methods outlined above can be used to recover your data and effectively fix a corrupted hard drive. Once the hard drive is free of corruption, you should evaluate what caused the damage, back up your data, and consider a replacement drive.