How to Troubleshoot and Repair CHKDSK Errors

CHKDSK vs Scandisk

About Microsoft Hard Drive Tools

Microsoft includes various disk checking utilities with its operating systems – among them are the drive scans, Scandisk and CHKDSK, short for Checkdisk. Both disk scanning tools check for and repair file system errors and bad clusters. Hard drive errors can occur when there is a power failure or program crash during computer processes. Errors, bad sectors and physical hard drive problems can all contribute to slower performance times and a less stable computer system.

CHKDSK Round One – on FAT-16 File Systems

The Microsoft disk-checking tool was first released with the MS DOS operating system, under the name CHKDSK. In this early version, CHKDSK was a limited tool working on an operating system without a graphic user interface link. This first release of CHKDSK was a command line application.

Scandisk – on FAT-32 File Systems

Scandisk was released with the operating system versions 95, 98 and ME. Windows 95 launched the first graphic user interface based scandisk utility. CHKDSK continued to be released with these systems, but remained a command line tool. These old versions of CHKDSK were used to scan and check the FAT-16 system directory format that is no longer used. The FAT-16 directory structure used a file naming system known as 8.3, because the file name was limited to only 8 characters, followed by a 3 character file extension. FAT-16 structures are also limited to a fixed maximum number of clusters that can be stored on a partition. This means, rather than create new clusters for new files and data, the clusters get larger and larger.

The FAT-32 file structure was released with Windows 95. Extending on the FAT-16 technology, the new FAT-32 system could allow more clusters per partition for better hard drive performance, but was basically the same format.

CHKDSK Take Two – on NTFS File Systems

The latest versions of Microsoft operating systems have replaced the Scandisk graphic tool that supports the FAT-32 file systems with a new release of CHKDSK that is compatible with the NTFS system. NTFS systems are different than FAT-32 and don’t require as much intense maintenance.

The NTFS file structure – first released with the Windows NT operating system version – is a different partition system than the FAT options and includes many new features. NTFS has the ability to compress files individually for more efficient storage and offers improved support for metadata. NTFS file systems have been used on numerous Windows operating system – Windows NT, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Server 2008, Vista and Windows 7. It is possible to change your computer’s file system either when installing a new operating system or when reformatting your hard drive.

One functional improvement of the NT release of CHKDSK over its previous release is that the tool can now scan the physical surface of the hard disk drive, search for bad sectors and attempt to repair errors.

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