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Checking the file system means that Windows is not shutting down correctly. I look at the proper ways to shut down a computer and how to avoid this error.

When I open my computer during the last weeks, I find the message saying it is checking the file system. I do not know why. Please tell me the reason and how I treat it.

In this excerpt from Answercast #9, I explain what "Checking the file system" means and look at ways to prevent it from happening on your computer.

Checking file system

What "checking the file system" means is that when Windows was shut down, something happened to the hard disk that left it in an incompletely finished state. It's often referred to as being "dirty." In other words, it wasn't cleaned before Windows was shut down.

After that happens, when Windows boots, it looks at the hard disk and it says, "Oh, this disk wasn't closed properly. Let me clean it up before I start Windows to make sure to avoid any errors that could be cleaned."

There are certain things that can't be cleaned up once Windows is running. So, by running the tool (the tool that runs is ChkDsk), by running ChkDsk before Windows starts, it's able to clean up and potentially repair the system on the hard disk before Windows runs.

Shut down correctly

Now, the single most common cause for this happening, especially if it happens on a regular basis, is not shutting down the computer properly.

What do I mean by that? I mean that you should always (and only) shut down your computer by using the Start menu and the Shut Down option.

Sometimes, a Power button on a laptop will initiate that. That's fine, but if you're not sure, use the Start menu and the Shut Down option.

What I often see people doing is holding down the Power button until the computer shuts off. That is the wrong way to do it and in fact, you are risking damaging files on your computer's hard drive.

Improper shutdowns cause problems:

  • You could actually lose data. You won't damage the hard drive, but you could lose data on your hard drive by shutting the system down improperly.

So make sure that you are shutting down properly by using the Start menu and Shut Down option. Let Windows clean itself up as it shuts down and that should in most cases, resolve the issue.

Back to - Answercast #9

Article C5212 - April 15, 2012 « »

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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.

Not what you needed?

4 Comments
Douglas A. Brace
April 15, 2012 3:25 PM

It might also be that your computer has detected that you have an external USB hard drive or USB flash drive plugged in.

Phillip
April 17, 2012 9:45 AM

It may also indicate a hard drive that's failing. It happened to me and I ignored it as the drive always finished the scan with no errors. Then one day it simply could not be accessed. Warranty replacement would have been a good idea while I had the chance.

Carol Putman
April 17, 2012 5:49 PM

There have been times when the only way to turn this computer off was to push to the Power Button. I didn't want to do it, but I also didn't want to leave it running all night.

John L brown
April 23, 2012 9:41 PM

Recently I downloaded a program called Belvedere. It's an automated file management system. I haven't set any requisite 'rules' for it's operation. Now, occasionally when I restart my computer it will initiate a file check, but only the first three categories. This check completes way faster so I haven't tried, or felt compelled to address it. I even thought this might be useful. Still it could be an 'unfriendly' pulling digital strings, and disrupting certain functions, without wanting or needing to do so. I run at least one or more 'respected' maleware programs daily, others periodically. If it happen again, or not, I'll uninstall Belvedere and see if I can note any changes. Thank you.

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