If a drive was a pie, partitions are the slices. They store not only your data, but also your filesystem, your operating system, and an organization system called “partition tables” – the blueprint your OS uses to figure out how to store your files. When one or more of these get corrupted, it eventually leads to disaster.

What is a Corrupted Partition & What Causes it?

A corrupted partition is a partition that can’t be read, written on, or sometimes even detected by your operating system. Unfortunately, it can be caused by a lot of things – some of which aren’t even the user’s fault. Here are some examples:

  • Corrupt Partition Table – Partition tables tell the operating system how your drive is divided into partitions, as well as other important filesystem details. When it gets corrupted, you won’t be able to access your data within that partition.
  • 💻 Bad Software – Many software engage with your filesystem, so a wrong installation or even unoptimized software by themselves can cause corrupt partitions.
  • ⚡️ Power Outages – If your power suddenly shuts off while your computer is writing data to a partition, this could cause corruption.
  • ‍💻👨 Improper Formatting – The formatting process allows you to partition your drive to decide where you want to store your files and install your operating system.
  • 🦠 Virus Attacks – Viruses often attack the filesystem, which results in corrupt partitions.
  • 🧩 Bad Sectors – Bad sectors are the most common reasons for corrupt file systems. It’s a flawed and unusable section of a drive. There are two types of bad sectors:
    • Hard Bad Sector – Hard bad sectors are caused by physical damage – such as the drive being exposed to extreme heat, getting bumped while it’s actively writing data, dust (which is why class 100 Clean Rooms exist), etc.
      Drives with physical damage cannot be DIY repaired.
    • Soft Bad Sector – Soft bad sectors are caused by software issues, shutdowns while writing data to the drive, and error correcting codes that don’t match.

Symptoms of Damaged/Corrupted Partitions

The Windows operating system should theoretically warn you before anything goes too wrong, but you often encounter issues before any warnings. Here are the telltale signs of a damaged or corrupted partition:

SymptomsDescription
Bad PerformanceSlowdowns or freezing while engaging with files
Corrupt DataFile names and other details are all messed up
Partition LossMissing volume in Windows Explorer – a result of a partition table with missing information
Non Accessible PartitionGetting an “Access Denied” popup when you try to engage with your hard drive
S.M.A.R.T. ErrorS.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting technology – it’s a built-in self-monitoring system in modern drives. I’ve personally never experienced getting a warning from the S.M.A.R.T. function, but its purpose is to warn you of potential drive failures.
Missing Drive on Windows ExplorerWith a corrupt partition, the entire drive will sometimes go missing from Windows explorer
“BSOD” (Blue Screen of Death)You’ll know your drive is on its last leg when you encounter the infamous Blue Screen of Death

Is it Possible to Recover Damaged/Corrupted Partitions Without Losing Data?

Yes, there are a few methods of corrupted partition recovery that can preserve your data. We’ve prepared short, easy-to-follow guides for each of these methods below.

Even if these are “data-safe” damaged partition recovery methods, it’s always best practice to back up your data before engaging with your drives and file system.

Method #1: Antivirus Scan

Virus attacks can sometimes be responsible for corrupted partitions. The first thing you should try (since it’s the easiest) is to conduct a Deep Scan of your drive for any viruses.

Method #2: CHKDSK Command Using Command Prompt

Method number two involves using the Command Prompt application. CHKDSK (check disk) scans your drive’s file system and automatically fixes errors. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click the Start button > type “cmd” in the search bar > right click Command Prompt > Run as administrator.
    launching command prompt via start menu
  2. Type the following command and press enter:
    chkdsk /f

    command prompt executing the "checkdisk f" function

    If you want to scan another drive other than where you installed windows, include the drive letter before the /f command:

    chkdsk D: /f

    command prompt executing the "checkdisk f" function specifically for drive B

  3. Let Windows restart when prompted.

Method #3: SFC /SCANNOW Command Using Command Prompt

SFC /SCANNOW is another command prompt entry that scans and replaces corrupted files within the filesystem with cached copies. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Click the Start button > type “cmd” in the search bar > right click Command Prompt > Run as administrator.
  2. Type the following command and press enter:
    sfc /scannow

    command prompt executing the "SFC Scannow" function

Method #4: Change Drive Letter

You can change drive letters using the command prompt, but Window’s Disk Management app makes it a lot simpler. Here’s how:

  1. Right-click the Windows Start button and click “Disk Management.”
    launching disk management via right-clicking the Windows Start button
  2. Identify the problematic drive and right-click it. Then, click “Change Drive Letter and Paths…”
    disk management window with the right-click menu for drive B
  3. On the popup that appears, click the current drive letter and click “Change…”
    disk management change drive letter and paths select drive window
  4. Select “Assign the following drive letter” and choose a letter from the dropdown menu on the right, and click “OK.”
    disk management change drive letter and paths new letter selection window

How to Recover Files From a Corrupted Partition

Fortunately, partition recovery software make it easy to recover data from corrupted and damaged partitions. There are a lot of tools on the internet that offer to do this, but they’re not created equal. Here are some of our favorites:

Option A: Disk Drill

Disk Drill is a freemium data recovery tool with a sleek user interface that makes it easy-to-use for those who don’t know anything about recovering partitions. It offers up to 500MB of data recovery for free, as well as unlimited free previews (which is extremely useful for knowing whether your files are recoverable using DIY methods).

It also has a S.M.A.R.T. monitoring feature that lets you access S.M.A.R.T. and review the status of your drives, which we’ll explore below. For a more detailed look at this popular software, you can read our full Disk Drill review.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill to a drive or partition that is not affected by corruption or data loss in order to avoid overwriting existing data.
  2. Launch Disk Drill by double-clicking its icon on your desktop.
  3. Select the drive that contains the data you want to recover, and navigate to the S.M.A.R.T. tab on the right sidebar. Click “Check all S.M.A.R.T. attributes” to review the status of your drive.
    Disk Drill select drive window with a pointer towards the S.M.A.R.T. tab and the S.M.A.R.T. attributes button
  4. Close the S.M.A.R.T. attributes window, and navigate back to the “Recovery” tab on the right sidebar of the Disk Drill Window. Expand the drive to specify the partition you want to scan, leave scan settings to “All recovery methods” and click “Search for lost data.”
    Disk drill data recovery window with pointers towards a drop down arrow, the drive, and the Search for lost data button
  5. Wait for the scanning process to complete. At this point, Disk Drill can also warn you if your drive is beginning to fail and will prompt you to backup your data. To continue with recovery, click “Review found items” at the top of the window.
    Disk drill window with a pointer towards Review found items button and an outline around the warning for bad blocks
  6. Browse the scan results and tick the boxes beside the files you want to recover. You can also preview the files you want to recover by hovering your pointer beside the file name and clicking the eye button that appears. Once you’re satisfied with your selection, click the “Recover” button at the bottom left corner of the window.
    Disk drill all files window with a pointer towards an eye button beside the file name and another one towards the preview of that file
  7. On the popup that appears, choose where you want to save your recovered files. It’s best practice to save recovered files in another storage device to avoid overwriting other recoverable files on the scanned partition.

Option B: EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

EaseUS is a well-known subscription-based data recovery tool with a suite of utilities available for download on their website. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard lets you recover up to 2GB of data for free – for a more in-depth look into this software, read our full EaseUS review.

  1. Download and install EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.
  2. Launch EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and select the drive that you want to recover to proceed with the scan.
    EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard window showing available drives to recover
  3. Once the scan is complete, you’ll be presented with a list of recoverable files. You can view “partial previews” by selecting a file and clicking the “Preview” button on the right sidebar. However, as implied, you won’t be able to see the full preview of your files until you buy a license.
    EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard preview window with a file selected and an option to recover the full file
  4. Select the files you want to recover by ticking the boxes beside the filenames, then click the “Recover” button.
    EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard recycle window showing a list of recoverable files
  5. Choose the destination for your files.

Option C: Wondershare Recoverit

Wondershare Recoverit is another subscription-based data recovery tool, this time from creative software company Wondershare. It lets you recover up to 100MB of data for free, and it has some awesome features for creative professionals who regularly work with photo and video files  – however it’s not always the first choice for general data recovery. For a deep dive into its unique features, as well as its pros and cons, read our Wondershare Recoverit review.

  1. Download and install Wondershare Recoverit.
  2. Launch the Wondershare Recoverit, then click the problematic drive to proceed with the scanning process.
    Wondershare Recoverit window showing available drives to recover
  3. Wait for the scan to finish, allowing the list of recoverable files to populate. Click “OK” when the completion popup appears.
    Wondershare Recoverit window showing completed scan and the number of files found.
  4. Tick the boxes beside the files you want to recover, then click the “Recover” button.
    Wondershare Recoverit window showing a list of recoverable files and pointers towards a checkbox beside a file and another pointer towards the Recover button
  5. Choose the destination for your files.

How to Fix & Recover Corrupted Partition If You Do Not Need To Keep The Data

It’s much easier to fix a corrupted partition or drive if you don’t need to worry about keeping your data intact. All the methods listed below use native Windows tools that don’t need any additional downloading or setup.

Method #1: Rebuild MBR

The Master Boot Record (MBR) is the very first sector of a disk and it contains the partition table, which determines how partitions and file systems are organized on the disk. It’s also responsible for loading the installed operating system. Rebuilding your MBR can sometimes help with corrupt partitions. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold the Shift button and restart your computer to enter the Advanced Setup menu.
  2. Click “Troubleshoot.”
  3. Click “Advanced Options” > Command Prompt.
  4. Type the following command and press enter:
    bootrec /fixmbr
  5. Then, type the following command and press enter:
    bootrec /fixboot
  6. Finally, exit command prompt by typing the following command and pressing enter:
    exit
  7. Return to the first window and continue to boot normally.

Method #2: Format Drive Using Disk Management

It’s much easier to recover a corrupted partition if you don’t need to worry about keeping your data intact. All the methods listed below use native Windows tools that don’t need any additional downloading or setup.

  1. Right-click the Windows Start button and click “Disk Management.”
  2. Identify the problematic volume at the bottom of the screen, right-click it, then click “Format…”
    Disk Management window with an outline highlighting the selected drive and a pointer towards the Format option
  3. Type what you want to label your volume, and choose a file system (NTFS is usually your best bet). Then, click “OK.”
    Disk Management pop out window showing an options to enter volume label and select a file system

Method #3: DiskPart Clean & Clean All

DiskPart is a Microsoft tool built into command prompt. “Clean” is one of DiskPart’s commands that marks the entire disk as deleted, which means that all existing data will be overwritten while you use the drive. A few passes of DiskPart clean will get rid of all but the most stubborn viruses that could re-corrupt your partition.

  1. Click the Start button > type “cmd” in the search bar > right click Command Prompt > Run as administrator.
  2. Type the following command and press enter:
    diskpart

    Diskpart Command Prompt window

  3. Then, type the following command and press enter:
    list disk

    Diskpart Command Prompt window showing a list of drives and their corresponding disk numbers

  4. Identify the problematic drive’s disk number, then type the following command and press enter:
    select disk “disk number”

    Diskpart Command Prompt window showing a selected disk number

  5. Finally, enter the following command and hit enter:
    clean

    Diskpart Command Prompt window showing a successful disk cleaning

    Make absolutely sure that you selected the correct disk, as your data will be totally wiped once the command is executed.
  6. Once you’re done cleaning the disk, you’ll need to format it to make it usable. Refer back to Method #2 of this section to do so.
  7. If Clean doesn’t work, you can repeat steps 1-4, then use the command “clean all” instead of “clean.”

FAQ

Conclusion

Fortunately, Windows has a lot of built-in tools that let you fix corrupted partitions and missing or RAW hard drives – and even if the worst happens, data recovery tools like Disk Drill can manage to recover lost files in most cases. However, drive death is inevitable – and Windows could do a better job of warning you beforehand. Make sure to regularly back up your files.

A quick reminder: the methods in this article work only if the corrupt partition wasn’t a result of physical damage. If your drive was physically damaged, you’ll have to send it in to a professional data recovery center. Otherwise, you risk permanent data loss and even more damage to your storage device.