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How to Troubleshoot Disk Problems (part 1) - How to Prepare for Disk Failures, How to Use Chkdsk

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1/16/2014 3:21:12 AM

Disk problems can cause unpredictable behavior in Windows. First, disk problems can lead to corrupted files because important system files and drivers are stored on your hard disk,. Second, disk problems can lead to corruption in the page file or temporary files. Third, low disk space can lead to failed attempts to allocate disk space for temporary files. Any of these types of problem can cause unpredictable behavior. As a result, one step in troubleshooting hardware problems should be to check for disk problems and free up available disk space. Additionally, if you have a hard disk with non-volatile caching, you can disable that caching to determine whether the cache is causing problems.

The following sections provide information about troubleshooting disk-related problems.

1. How to Prepare for Disk Failures

You can take several steps to prepare yourself—and your computers—for troubleshooting disk problems before the problems occur. First, familiarize yourself with recovery and troubleshooting tools. Use of disk redundancy lessens the impact of hardware failures. Backups ensure minimized data loss when failures occur. Protect yourself from malicious attacks using antivirus software. Finally, perform regular maintenance on your storage devices.

You should familiarize yourself with the System Recovery Tools, and have a Windows Vista DVD available to start the tools if the hard disks are not available.

Run “Chkdsk -f –r” regularly to fix file system problems that may appear because of faulty hardware, power failures, or software errors. Schedule downtime to reboot the computer and allow Autochk to resolve problems on boot and system volumes. Regularly review the Chkdsk output and the event log to identify problems that Chkdsk cannot fix.

For desktop computers that store critical, constantly updated data, use hardware disk redundancy (known as RAID) to allow computers to continue to function if a hard disk fails. Keep replacement disks on hand.

At a minimum, back up critical files nightly. Redundancy does not eliminate the need for backups. Even redundant file systems can fail, and disk redundancy cannot protect against files that are corrupted by an application. You must restore corrupted files from an archival backup created before the corruption occurred.

Viruses are a significant source of disk and file system problems. Follow these guidelines to avoid infecting computers with viruses:

  • Install a virus-detection program. Configure the virus-detection program to automatically retrieve updated virus signatures.

  • Use Windows Update to ensure that operating system files stay up-to-date.

  • Never run untrusted scripts or applications.

While fragmentation will not cause a hard disk to fail, it will cause performance problems. To avoid performance problems, schedule the Defrag command-line tool to run regularly during off-peak hours. Store the output of the Defrag tool to a text file, and review that text file regularly to ensure that defragmentation is performing as expected. To further minimize problems caused by fragmentation, ensure that all volumes have at least 15 percent free space available.

2. How to Use Chkdsk

Chkdsk (Chkdsk.exe) is a command-line tool that checks disk volumes for problems and attempts to repair any that it finds. For example, Chkdsk can repair problems related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files, and directory errors. Disk errors are a common source of difficult-to-track problems, and Chkdsk should be one of the first tools you use when troubleshooting problems that do not appear to be the result of a recent system change. You must be logged on as an administrator or a member of the Administrators group to use Chkdsk.

Before running Chkdsk, be aware of the following:

  • Chkdsk requires exclusive access to a volume while it is running. Chkdsk might display a prompt asking if you want to check the disk the next time you restart your computer.

  • Chkdsk might take a long time to run, depending on the number of files and folders, the size of the volume, disk performance, and available system resources (such as processor and memory).

  • Chkdsk might not accurately report information in read-only mode.

Chkdsk Examples

To correct disk errors from a command line, type:

chkdsk DriveLetter: /f /r

For example, to check drive C for errors, type:

chkdsk C: /f /r

If you need to run Chkdsk on a large D volume and you want Chkdsk to complete as quickly as possible, type:

chkdsk D: /f /c /i

Chkdsk Syntax

The command-line syntax for Chkdsk is:

chkdsk [volume[[path] filename]] [/f] [/v] [/r] [/x] [/i] [/c] [/b] [/l[:size]]



Table 1 lists all Chkdsk command-line parameters.

Table 1. Chkdsk Parameters
ParameterDescription
volumeSpecifies the volume that you want Chkdsk to check. You can specify the volume by using any of the formats in the following examples:

To run Chkdsk on the C volume, specify:

c:

To run Chkdsk on a mounted volume called data that is mounted on the C volume, specify:

c:\data

To run Chkdsk on a volume, you can specify the symbolic link name for a volume, such as:

\\?\Volume{109d05a2-6914-11d7-a037-806e6f6e6963}\

You can determine a symbolic link name for a volume by using the mountvol command.
pathFAT/FAT32 only. Specifies the location of a file or set of files within the folder structure of the volume.
filenameFAT/FAT32 only. Specifies the file or set of files to check for <a ID="wPopUp" HREF="HELP=glossary.hlp TOPIC=gls_fragmentation"> fragmentation </a>. Wildcard characters (* and ?) are allowed.
/fFixes errors on the disk. The volume must be locked. If Chkdsk cannot lock the volume, Chkdsk offers to check it the next time the computer restarts.
/vOn FAT/FAT32: Displays the full path and name of every file on the disk. On NTFS: Displays additional information or cleanup messages, if any.
/rLocates <a ID="wPopUp" HREF="HELP=glossary.hlp TOPIC=glos_glo_cigj"> bad sectors </a> and recovers readable information (implies /f). If Chkdsk cannot lock the volume, it offers to check it the next time the computer starts. Because NTFS also identifies and remaps bad sectors during the course of normal operations, it is usually not necessary to use the /r parameter unless you suspect that a disk has bad sectors.
/xForces the volume to dismount first, if necessary. All opened handles to the volume are then invalid (implies /f). This parameter does not work on the boot volume. You must restart the computer to dismount the boot volume.
/iNTFS only. Performs a less detailed check of index entries, reducing the amount of time needed to run Chkdsk.
/cNTFS only. Skips the checking of cycles within the folder structure, reducing the amount of time needed to run Chkdsk.
/l:sizeNTFS only. Changes the size of the log file to the specified number of kilobytes. Displays the current size if you do not enter a new size. If the system loses power, stops responding, or is restarted unexpectedly, NTFS runs a recovery procedure when Windows Vista restarts that accesses information stored in this log file. The size of the log file depends on the size of the volume. In most conditions, you do not need to change the size of the log file. However, if the number of changes to the volume is so great that NTFS fills the log before all metadata is written to disk, then NTFS must force the metadata to disk and free the log space. When this condition occurs, you might notice that Windows Vista stops responding for five or more seconds. You can eliminate the performance impact of forcing the metadata to disk by increasing the size of the log file.
/bNTFS only. Re-evaluates bad clusters on the volume. This is typically not necessary, but it might allow you to reclaim some lost disk space on a hard disk with a large number of bad clusters. However, these clusters might experience problems in the future, decreasing reliability.
/?Displays this list of Chkdsk parameters.
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