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Chkdsk will run on boot if the system has detected problems with your hard disk. If it fails the problem may be serious and can result in instability.

I have an HP computer which is running Windows XP, and to my knowledge has been kept fully up to date. However recently its done a lot of strange things. The first thing I noticed is when I switch my computer on, it comes up with a blue screen saying it has to run a check for consistency (I can not remember the exact wording of the message unfortunately). It runs through three steps to do this, however, before it is complete it experiences an error. It attempts to fix it, however there it freezes, and I'm forced to restart.

If I choose to skip this check (which I have to, if I'm to actually log in) I experience a lot of other problems, which I suspect are in some way related. The computer runs incredibly slowly, and can only run two or three programs at once before it crashes entirely, and I am forced to restart. This can happen several times a day. I am unable to upload certain files to the internet or send them in e-mails (for instance, I have been unable to upload certain video files). I also am having problems with programs such as Jasc Paint Shop Pro. It appeared to be unaffected until more recently, when I opened it up to discover all the toolbars missing and all keyboard shortcuts removed. I was able to put them back in place easily enough, however when I closed the program and opened it again later, the keyboard shortcuts had once again disappeared (interestingly enough, the toolbars hadn't moved this time). Last but not least, whenever I attempt to play the online game "Guild Wars", it doesn't allow me to log in, saying that it was unable to "connect to the login server."

All these problems (with the possible exception of the disappearing keyboard shortcuts) started occurring the same time. I have ran numerous antivirus scans, which have revealed nothing. Frankly, I'm at a complete loss, and would be most grateful if you could tell me what is causing this, and how do I fix it?

That's a long litany of problems. I left it intact just to show how many different things might well result from a single problem.

And, yes, I have a suspicion as to what might be going on.

One clue: before you do anything else, I recommend you backup all your data.

I'll bet that the blue screen you see checking something starts like this:

Checking file system on C:
The type of the file system is NTFS.

A disk check has been scheduled.
Windows will now check the disk.

In other words, it sounds like your system is attempting to run CHKDSK, the disk checking utility.

"Before I'd try to repair the hard drive, my first step would be to copy off all the data I wanted to save."

And apparently it's failing.

Based on that, the other random set of symptoms you're experiencing, as well as their sudden simultaneous onset, I'm guessing that your hard drive is either dying, or it has some serious issues.

Here's what I would do in your shoes:

Backup your data. Before I'd try to repair the hard drive, my first step would be to copy off all the data I wanted to save. Now, if it's crashing as much as you say it is, this could be difficult. But it's important enough to give it a good try. I'd copy the data to another computer on my local network, or if I couldn't do that I would try to burn what I cared about to CD or DVD backup material. In my case, since I already run regular backups, I might actually get away with doing nothing if all my data has already been preserved elsewhere that way.

The point here is that subsequent steps could result in losing some data. It's worth trying to save it first.

Run CHKDSK from the recovery console. More specifically I'd boot into the recovery console, which should be an option if booting from your Windows CD or perhaps from the manufacturer's recovery CDs. From there I'd run CHKDSK /R. "/R" instructs CHKDSK to attempt to locate any problems on the hard disk surface and repair or recover them. If this completes (and it may not, since it's very similar to the CHKDSK you're seeing on boot), I'd then check to see if the problems had been resolved.

If it did not complete or if it did not resolve the problems, then I believe I'm left with two options:

A: Reformat or replace the drive which I'll talk about in a second.

B: Purchase and run SpinRite.

SpinRite is a hard disk recovery tool that locates and repairs bad sectors on hard drives, while doing everything possible to recover the data on that drive. SpinRite is the kind of tool that you might let run for hours, or even days, as it attempts to repair and recover. But the success stories are pretty amazing - systems in much worse shape than yours have been brought back to life.

If SpinRite works, which it frequently does, and my data is recovered, I then back it up immediately. SpinRite may very well be able to recover your data, but something caused your drive to fail in the first place. If that's a hardware issue, then that's not something that any software based tool is going to repair. So take the failure as a warning, and begin backing up your recovered data right away.

(As an aside: I've no affiliation with SpinRite, and I make nothing if you purchase it. I recommend it because as I write this, I honestly believe it's $89 well spent for these types of problems.)

If SpinRite's not an option, then my next step would be to Reformat the drive. Yes, that means losing everything on the drive. That's why I stressed backing up first. A full (not quick) format will write to every sector on the hard drive, and by re-initializing the hard disk surface as it does so can often repair errors on the disk. The error's gone, but then so's the data.

Formatting doesn't always work. In cases like this here's where I throw in the towel and buy a new drive. Naturally, similar to reformatting the drive, all the data on the original drive is lost.

In either the formatting or replacing scenario, you're obviously then faced with reinstalling Windows and all your applications from scratch, and then restoring any data that you backed up. That's one of the reasons I really like the SpinRite option: when it works, your data is retained.

Article C3080 - July 9, 2007 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

July 9, 2007 11:01 PM

regarding the comment about replacing the hard drive and losing all your data, in the past i have installed the operating system on the new hard drive and then plugged in the "old" hard drive onto the secondary ribbon plug (setting jumper on HDD to slave) and resarted computer, then its just a simple matter of copy and paste onto the new drive. this obviously will not work for programs, but i managed to get documents, favourites, address book etc onto new drive... i did it this way as i did not have a writer at the time (maybe showing my age but cd writers were quite expensive then!) and old hard drive failed.

George Arauz
July 13, 2007 11:57 AM

Same thing happened to me. Only thing I could do was take it to Comp USA for a fix. It cost me, and i never found out what it was. But it works fine now

Bob Seeley
July 13, 2007 8:59 PM

Here again, the most important thing to recommend is a good backup regimen. Once a hard drive is in serious trouble, SpinRite is an option, but certainly no guaratee. I bought a second hard drive specifically to hold my data backups (updated on a regular basis via SyncBack) and an image of my system partition (created and occasionally re-created via BootItNG). I know you've covered this subject elsewhere, but it always bears repeating.
Best regards always,

Brandy Russell
July 14, 2007 12:20 AM

I had a 250gig hard drive on hand which I had
purchased for my desktop. Unable to use it, I got
the idea to buy one of those metal cases that
plugs into the back of a computer and put the
drive in there. It would work on my newer laptop.
When the hard drive on my desktop failed I thought
I'd lost everything. Then I got the idea to hook
the bad hard drive up with my laptop and there were
ALL of my files. I was able to transfer them over to the
250meg hard drive.

Terry Hollett
July 14, 2007 4:45 AM

I had a similar problem recently. Chkdsk didn't fail but it would run every time I restarted my computer.

I have 2 hard drives and chkdsk would run on drive D:. I thought it was on its way out. But I noticed that it seemed to be trying to fix one file everytime it ran. I decided to fix the problem myself by deleting that file. It solved my problem.

I would recommend paying attention to the files being fixed. If you notice the same file(s) being fixed maybe that is where the problem lies.

Julio C Solar
December 3, 2007 5:46 PM

What about Partition Magic? Can I use it to repair a section of a hard drive that Windows always want to check at boot time?

Johnny T
November 21, 2008 12:58 AM

I have found that re-seating expansion cards
can be a very good first step.
Things seemingly unrelated can cause big problems
in the most unlikely ways.

April 16, 2009 5:05 AM

I just bought a 1tb drive for $100. I backed up all of my family's data on it. Back-up often and you will save in aggravation and recovery software. You may find that all your most important data fits on a usb stick or DVD.

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