Check Out a Hard Drive: How to Use Windows ScanDisk

If you ever need to test the function of your hard drive, then you should learn how to use this great free disk-checking program included with your Windows system.

I love ScanDisk. Honestly, I do. As a computer support specialist with over 18+ years of experience, I often had to use this great little utility. It’s fairly powerful, works on all versions of Windows and best of all is free since it comes bundled inside Windows.

So what is it?
ScanDisk is disk-checking and diagnostic tool that you can use to test your hard drive. It can also be used repair problems on magnetic media; hard disk and floppy disks.

Why use ScanDisk?
It’s a very easy to use program and even the most non-technical person can learn how to use it. It can quickly fix most common disk errors. And I did mention it’s installed as a part of Windows so it is always available. If you can boot into Windows, then you can use the program.

How to use it in Windows 98/98SE/Me:
1) Close all programs.
2) Click on the “Start” button.
3) Go to “Programs”
4) Scroll to “Accessories”
5) Click on “System Tools”
6) Select “ScanDisk”
7) Now locate and select the drive you want to check (C:\).
8) Check the “Standard” radio button.
9) Check the “Automatically Fix Errors”
10) Click “OK” to run.

How to use it in Windows 2000/XP/Vista
1) Close all programs before you begin.
2) Click on the “Start” button then “My Computer”.
3) Right click on drive you wish to scan and then click on “Properties”.
4) Now you click on the “Tools” tab at top of pop-up window.
5) Click on “Check Now” in the “Error Checking” section.
6) Check the “Automatically Fix Errors”
7) Click “OK” to run.

Testing Options in Windows 98/98SE/Me:
Standard: This option basically only checks files and folders for Windows system errors. This is good for routine maintenance checks.

Thorough: This option is not used often due to time constraints. Don’t check “Thorough” unless you can let the machine run uninterrupted for several hours (2+ on larger drives) or overnight. I’m not kidding. Thorough is used for when you are having severe hard drive issues only. When you have to check your drive for possible physical damage, check “Thorough” and then select, click “System and Data Areas”

Testing Options in Windows 2000/XP/Vista:
The “Standard” function in the older version is now the default. Just with click “Automatically Fix Errors”

To use a thorough scan to check for both system and physical errors, you should also check “Scan For and Attempt Recovery of Bad Sectors.”

To run scandisk in Windows 2000/XP/Vista you have to have programs closed down, or you will keep getting a error message, “Disk check could not be performed because exclusive access to the drive…” If this keeps happening then if possible restart your computer and press “F8” after PC the logo but before Windows starts. This will let you into Windows “Safe Mode”. You can run ScanDisk now but be warned it will take twice as long but will give you the same results.

ScanDisk Test Results:
After processing you should get a pop-up window with the results of your test. The important to look for is “Bytes in bad sectors”. This shows the number of bytes that have been marked bad or basically unusable for storage. It’s normal to have a small number of bytes in bad sectors (less than 100,000).

But if it is more than this or increases in number over time, then this is sign for keeping your file backups up to date and saving for that bigger, better hard drive.

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