How to Scan a Drive for Errors in Windows

When you consider data recovery, it means something is already lost and it needs to be recovered from a storage medium. Causes for data loss can be various, like accidental deletion, a program crashing, power failure, or hardware failure.

But one of these causes can often be prevented by checking for errors on a regular basis. Computer maintenance is nobody’s favorite task, but a disk scan is simple and can help prevent data loss as a result of bad hardware.

Hard disks use magnetic material to store data, and the quality of the magnetic material on the hard disk platters can vary and deteriorate over time. So checking for bad disk sections will allow the operating system to relocate data from a bad location to a better location. If the bad location is then flagged to prevent re-use, it will never store data that can be lost.

In Windows it is easy to scan a disk for bad sectors.

Open My Computer in Windows to show the drives in the system.

In the My Computer view, right-click a drive and in the popup menu select Properties.

Disk properties in Windows

In the Disk Properties window, select the Tools tab, and then click the Check now button to open the disk check application.

In the next dialog box, select the option to Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors option to make sure the application checks the actual drive surface for bad spots.

Start a disk check in Windows

Next, click the Start button.

Now just wait for the process to complete. You can use the computer for other tasks, but if you are scanning the system disk (as in the example), the performance might be decreased as a result of the ongoing scan.

Note that the disk check can take considerable time depending on the size and speed of the hard disk.

You can also run a disk check on other drives, like SSDs or flash memory cards, but errors on (magnetic) hard drives are more common.

If you try to run a disk check on the system drive, you might get an error message like this:

Disk check error in Windows

Basically this means that that the disk check program cannot get access to the disk to check, so the disk check can be scheduled to run at the next startup. Simply click the Schedule disk check button to use that option.
Next time you reboot your computer, the disk check will take place as part of the startup process. This will happen before the Windows GUI is loaded, so do not be surprised if the boot up process takes longer in that case.

If you run a disk check like this on a regular basis, you can help prevent data loss as a result of failing storage media, so hopefully you never need to recover lost files again!