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The Automatic Disk Check and What it Means

Most of us have seen this happen. We start up our desktop or laptop PC as normal, and suddenly a screen appears. It says that your hard drive needs to be checked for consistency, and launches a scan of the hard drive.

What does this mean? Is the hard drive damaged? Should you be worried?

The Automatic Disk Check and What it Means
This automatic scan can happen often when you start up your PC.

The short answer is “No.” This automatic disc check occurs when your PC isn’t shut down properly. For example, you have a power outage, your computer froze up and you had to shut it down, or your battery was removed.

Usually, this disk check won’t uncover a problem. However, certain types of PC crashes can cause disk errors, so when you see this pop up, it’s a good idea to let it run its course, even if that takes awhile. If you interrupt it, Windows will just ask you again the next time you reboot.

This disk check can also occur when you remove a USB hard drive before Windows has a chance to finish its current activity with it.

Both of these disk checks happen because Windows marks your drive as “dirty”. This sounds worse than it is. It just means that Windows needs to complete a scan before marking the drive “clean” again.

If you notice that Windows is scanning your drive automatically every time you reboot, no matter what you do, there’s a way to disable these automatic scans.

Disable Automatic Disk Check

In Windows XP through Windows 7:

  1. Click Start
  2. Right click on Command Prompt and click Run as Administrator
  3. Type chkntfs /x c: and press Enter

In Windows 8 and 8.1:

  1. Press Windows Key + X
  2. Click Command Prompt (Admin) (Windows PowerShell (Admin) in Windows 8.1)
  3. Type chkntfx /x c: and press Enter

Windows will no longer perform these automatic scans. It’s a good idea to check your drive for errors on a regular basis yourself.

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