Doing your system maintenance with utility programs such as Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter, located in
System Tools, go a long way in maintaining the hard drive in your computer. Disk Cleanup rids the hard drive
of unneeded or unused files and Disk Defragmenter aligns the files for faster computer performance. Both are
safe to use. Refer to my October 2006 article for more about this subject. However, there’s another tool that
also focuses on the health of your hard drive. It’s called the Check Disk utility. Computer users that used to
use Scandisk on Windows 98 and Me computers, found this tool has disappeared in Windows XP.
What Check Disk does is different from Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter. Actually I discussed this in the
October article and it was indicated as #7. The directions given were for clicking with the mouse and using
Windows graphical interface (pop-up windows). I’m going to give you the text equivalent and expand on the
previous directions. The following is a description of Check Disk: It can find and repair corrupted files and
folders and it can also check and repair defects in the magnetic properties (sectors) of the disk surface. If
things work as designed it can lift good data from a damaged sector, mark the sector as defective and place
the data in another good sector. The command “chkdsk C: /f” repairs corrupted files and folders. Command
“chkdsk C: /r” can do all the “/f” checks plus it can lift good data from damaged sectors and check the
remaining free space. Here’s how to use this utility.
Click the Start button, click Run and type “chkdsk C: /f” (no quotes) in the “Open:” field. Notice there is
a space before and after “C:” Click OK. You should see a window pop up. Type “Y” (no quotes), press the Enter
key and the window will close. Nothing will happen! That’s normal because this utility only runs when you
restart the computer. At this point click Start, click Turn Off Computer, and click Restart. During the startup
you will see a different blue screen. This is the Check Disk utility that is now running. After it completes
the computer will boot as normal. To read a summary of what it found, go to the Control Panel, click on
Performance and Maintenance, click Administrative Tools, and finally double click the Event Viewer. Click
Application and locate Winlogon. Double click it and view the results for your hard drive. There’s only one
item that is important. Look at the line that contains “Bad Sectors”. A drive in perfect condition will say
“0 KB in bad sectors”. All the rest of the information is just normal housekeeping.
Rather than do the “/f” and “/r” checks separately, you can do them both at once to save time. Just change
the expression in the Run box to “chkdsk C: /r” (no quotes). This “/r” check may take up to an hour or more
to complete as there are thousands of sectors to check.
You may be thinking how often I need to do this. I would recommend the “/f” check once a month along with your
regular maintenance, and the “/r” check once every 3 months. If you start to see a number appearing in “0 KB in
bad sectors” that means chkdsk has found something wrong and has repaired it. However if that number increases a
second or third time then your hard drive is experiencing deteriorating conditions and should be replaced.
For further assistance with your computer, come to the PC Club meeting. We meet the second Tuesday of every month,
upstairs in the Community Center at 7:00 PM. Each meeting is open to users with all experience levels!