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Chkdsk checks your disk for errors at a low level. That means chkdsk needs exclusive access to the disk. We'll look at why that is and what to do.

I think I've got a problem with my hard disk, and tried to run chkdsk but I keep getting this "chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process" error. What's that mean and what do I do to fix it?

Chkdsk is an important and little understood command line utility that comes with every version of Microsoft Windows. Its purpose, as its mangled name implies, is to "check" your "disk".

In order to do its work, chkdsk needs total and exclusive access to the disk it's about to check. If it doesn't have that "chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process" results. ("Volume" in this case really means "the disk that's being checked".)

I'll look at why, what to do, and what it looks like as it happens.

Chkdsk Cannot Run

Here's the scenario we're talking about:

Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process

To have gotten this far, we'll have had to:

  • Start a Windows Command Prompt - in Windows Vista or Windows 7 doing so with administrative privileges (right click on the Start, All programs, Accessories, Command Prompt shortcut and click on "Run as Administrator")

  • Run the command CHKDSK, including the "/F" (fix) or "/R" (repair) options.

Exclusivity

"... you can't run chkdsk with a fix or repair option on the drive from which Windows was loaded. At least, not while Windows is running."

In order for chkdsk to be able to fix or repair a disk it needs to be the only program accessing the hard disk - the only program. If any other program has a file open on that disk, then it's considered to be "in use", and chkdsk can't get the exclusive access it needs.

"But I have no programs running!?" I hear you say.

Yes, you do. Windows is running. In fact, Windows has several files open including the files containing the registry, the system paging file, as well as the executable files that make up Windows itself.

Put another way, you can't run chkdsk with a fix or repair option on the drive from which Windows was loaded.

At least, not while Windows is running.

Other Disks

While getting this error on the Windows drive is the most common, it's certainly not the only case. Let's say you have a drive "D:". If you have Windows Explorer open on drive D:, or perhaps have a word processing document open that lives on that disk the same situation applies.

The solution is easier though: close those programs. Make sure nothing is accessing the contents of that drive and try again. You should be good to go.

Unless, of course, you happened to move your paging file to D:, in which case you're back in the "can't do it while Windows is running" situation as the paging file is always open while Windows is running.

Chkdsk on C:

The "magic answer", so to speak, is actually part of the very error message we see:

Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another
process. Would you like to schedule this volume to be
checked the next time the system restarts?
(Y/N)

Answer the question with a "Y" for yes, followed by Enter, and chkdsk will run the next time you reboot Windows, before Windows itself begins to run. That's the only time that chkdsk can have the exclusive access to the system disk that it needs.

This volume will be checked the next time the system restarts.

When you reboot, the reboot will proceed normally until the screen changes to include this message:

Chkecking file system on C: - The type of the file system is NTFS. A disk check has been scheduled. To skip disk checking, press any key within 10 second(s).

As the message indicates you have 10 seconds to press any key on the keyboard to skip the disk check. After 10 seconds chkdsk proceeds.

As chkdsk runs you'll see information updating on the screen:

Chkdsk progress as it runs at reboot

Finally chkdsk completes, pausing for a moment with a summary report left on your screen as seen in this composite log:

Composite log of chkdsk operation on reboot

Your specifics of course will be different, but the general idea is the same. As you can see here, chkdsk actually fixed a couple of problems that it found.

The computer should then reboot and load Windows normally.

Bottom Line

"Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process" simply means that in order to fix your hard disk chkdsk needs to be the only program accessing it. For some drives, that's as simple as closing programs which are using the drive in question. For the system drive from which Windows was loaded, it means a special step needs to be taken such that chkdsk runs when you reboot.

Article C4507 - October 28, 2010 « »

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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.

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13 Comments
Ronny
October 29, 2010 4:38 AM

I know you use a program like Snagit to capture most of your screen shots. How did you capture these since Windows is not yet running so you could not have software running? (I guessing you used a command line pipe.)

Actually what you're seeing is a separate copy of Windows 7 running in a virtual machine. I can capture the entire boot process and more that way. I happen to use Parallels Desktop.
Leo
29-Oct-2010

Yeppers
October 29, 2010 7:10 AM

Leo, as you mentioned, the Summary Report appears at the end of the very lengthy Chkdsk process for only a brief moment. If we happen to miss the Summary Report when it flashes on the screen (as I almost always do), is there any other way to access and review that Summary Report? Also, if there was a disk error that was not fixed, would Chkdsk leave an error message that stays on the screen? Thanks…

I need to write an article on this - it's a great issue, and a not-so-obvious answer. When CHKDSK runs at boot up its results are placed in the system event log, you can view them with the event viewer. Now the event log is such an incredible mess that it takes a little work to find 'em. Look for an article on this in coming weeks. (Or start->run eventvwr and go spelunking :-).
Leo
30-Oct-2010


Rudy
November 2, 2010 3:54 PM

What is the difference between "/F" (fix) or "/R" (repair) when choosing those options?

Fix fixes logical errors (confused data), and Repair looks for physical defects.
Leo
04-Nov-2010

John Servis
November 2, 2010 3:57 PM

Hello Leo, Yes, "chkdsk" is a valuable tool and i like to run it on my machines at least once a month or so, but it is time consuming as well. I like to go about doing it a little differently. I go to the "C" Drive's properties window, click on the tools tab, then check the box under error checking labeled check now, which then brings up the check disk window. the automatically fix file system errors box is already checked, be sure to check the box for Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. Then start. You then get the proverbial "Windows can't check disk while in use, do you want to check for errors the next time you start your comp. Click the schedule disk check box, Restart. I do this before i retire for the night & the next day check and see the results.
Keep up the great work Leo! I've been a faithful subscriber for years! J.

steven
November 2, 2010 4:37 PM

Is it legal to run Windows inside a virtual machine? Chkdsk is not included with every windows. it is included with xp or greater.

In Windows 9x it was called scandisk I believe. I do believe it's legal, assuming you have a legal copy of Windows, of course.
Leo
04-Nov-2010

RPR
November 3, 2010 3:28 AM

What is the disk fixing? Parity? I load JPG files from my camera's memory card and when I back up the hard drive to my external back up drive, an error occurs which stops the process. I wondering what conclusions I can draw from this. Is the hard drive failing or are corrupt files from my camera being copied to the hard drive. An if this is the case, why can I copy from the memory chip to the hard drive and then be disallowed from copying the hard drive to an external disk drive with the same copy command?

This would be a hard disk problem, though not necessarily that it's about to fail. CHKDSK or SpinRite would be my suggestions.
Leo
04-Nov-2010

Jon Bedford
November 3, 2010 12:06 PM

In XP Home, Start, Run, eventvwr, Application tab, then look for Winlogon files. These files are more readily found by clicking the Source column header, found at the top, to show the results in an alphabetical list. Clicking twice presents the list in reverse order so that Winlogon is likely right in front of you. Not all Winlogon files will be Chkdsk data, but most will be, likely. Double-clicking a file will render a small window of data where you can review the Chkdsk results. Further, UP and DOWN arrows, to the right, will navigate, as expected, and a copy button (double paper button below arrows) will copy the report to the clipboard which can be pasted into Notepad or WORD to preserve their history.

Gela
March 28, 2011 11:21 PM

Hello Sir. How come chkdsk still aint running even if Ive rebooted my pc for like 10 times? Please help. Ive read all sorts of blogs/forums on web but yours I think was the most convincing...& has the easy steps. But chkdsk still aint working :(

I'd have to know what steps you take - exactly - to start chkdsk, and if you see any evcidence that it ran at all. You might also look in the event log: How do I see the results of a chkdsk that ran on boot?
Leo
29-Mar-2011

Tony
December 27, 2011 4:40 PM

Leo, thanks for your detailed information on chkdsk, running chkdsk finally allowed me to delete a folder on my desktop that had been haunting me for some time.

I run a dual boot system Windows 7 64 bit alongside Linux Ubuntu 11.04, I believe my issue was that I copied some files from Linux into a Windows folder which had special characters in their names. I believe this is the case since I can access drives on the Windows side from Linux but not the other way around.

I had trouble running chkdsk because I would enter Windows before my Linux grub menu would time out which was always before the 10 second chkdsk bypass message (I would hit enter on the Windows operating system in the grub menu). After letting the grub menu time out, the chkdsk message appeared and I let it run with the /f command to fix, it fixed the files (actually removed them) and allowed me to delete the folder. (I should note that I have changed my grub menu to load Windows 1st and also have a 30 second delay instead of the default 10 second)

Thanks again.

Chris
July 11, 2012 7:27 PM

I am trying to reset my computer to an earlier date but I receive an error message as follows, system in use also I have tried to do command prompt as described in your blog but comes up error not alowing fix or repair disk after already saying yes to repair upon reboot what can I do. i also do not have a Windows 7 disk my computer came preloaded with windows 7 home premium 64 bit with 2 point touch please can you help me.

rohit pundeer
January 30, 2013 11:05 AM

how to fix the drive on which windows exist??????
i have errors with c drive which include windows,please help...

Martha
February 2, 2013 3:52 PM

hi, I've run into the same problem, but in my case when it boots after "windows will now check....", it says:

cannot open volume for direct access.
autochk cannot run due to an error caused by a recently installed software package.

here's the problem... I haven't installed any software for the last 6 months.

thanks

T.J.G.
April 1, 2013 2:11 PM

For any other readers coming across this who may have a similar issue to Martha when running chkdsk on Windows 7: "cannot open volume for direct access. autochk cannot run due to an error caused by a recently installed software package."

Try booting from external media (like a CD ROM drive or a USB drive) and then running chkdsk using the /X option to dismount the drive. Then nothing is running off your main hard drive, and chkdsk will be more likely to run without this error. It worked for me.

A good way to do that is to create a system repair disk, boot from the system repair disk, and then run chkdsk from the system repair disk instead of running chkdsk from your harddrive.

Here are instructions how to do that:

{Copyrighted material removed. It's all at the link below.}

http://www.ehow.com/how_7517460_create-bootable-chkdsk.html

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