How to Check Your Hard Drives in Windows 8

Windows 8 enables you to scan your PC’s hard drives often (both internal and external) for potential problems. There are two common misconceptions concerning hard drives: Hard drives don't malfunction and errors are immediately noticeable.

  • Hard drives don’t malfunction. Oh, yes, they do. Even if you’ve never had a hard drive crash, you’ve likely heard about them. Even so, today’s hard drives are generally so reliable and so long lasting that folks often forget.

    Hard drive errors can be physical (the drive’s hardware malfunctions) or logical (the error is in the format or the data stored on the drive). If your PC is caught by a power failure and file corruption occurs, you’re the victim of a logical file error.

    This misconception has grown even stronger with the growing popularity of SSDs (short for solid-state drive). An SSD has no moving parts — in essence, it uses much the same technology as a USB flash drive — so many PC owners figure that they don’t need to back up the data on their SSD because it will last “practically forever.”

    Unfortunately, an SSD still has an operational life, and when that drive fails, it still takes your data with it — just like its older magnetic hard-drive brethren.

  • Errors are immediately noticeable. Most logical errors don’t cause your PC to crash, and they might not affect files that you’re currently using, so they often go unnoticed. (They share this trait with computer viruses, which use stealth to hide themselves.) Over time, logical errors can cause real damage to your files and documents, so catching them quickly is vital.

Windows 8 automatically scans each hard drive on your system on a regular basis, but you can manually scan a drive at any time — for example, immediately after a power failure or an AUI (Accidental Unplugging Incident). Microsoft makes this task easy in Windows 8 by providing an error-checking feature that you can reach from a hard drive’s Properties panel. (For you crotchety Windows old-timers, think ScanDisk.)

Follow these steps to scan a hard drive for errors:

  1. Click the Desktop tile on your Start screen, and click the File Explorer icon in the taskbar.

  2. Click the Computer entry in the sidebar at the left of the Computer window.

  3. Right-click the hard drive you want to scan, choose Properties from the pop-up menu that appears, and then click the Tools tab to display the buttons you see.

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  4. Click the Check button to display the Error Checking dialog box.

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  5. Click Scan Drive.

    In Windows 8, you can continue to work on other tasks while your hard drive is scanned — this process can take some time, depending on the capacity of the drive and the number of files and folders it contains. Use this feature once every six months to a year on each drive in your system.

    After the scan has completed, Windows 8 informs you of the results and prompts you for confirmation if a reboot is necessary to fix any problems. (Windows 8 automatically completes the repairs during the boot process.)

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