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How to check your drive for errors in Windows 10

Updated July 20, 2020

Keeping the drive in your Windows 10 computer error-free is essential to its performance. If you are experiencing issues opening files or applications, it may be time to check your drive for errors. Here is how to check your drive for errors in Windows 10.

How to check your drive for errors in Windows 10

There are two ways of checking drives for errors in Windows 10, standard and advanced. The standard approach is the easiest to use, but the advanced method has more options.

Standard drive error checking in Windows 10

Standard drive error checking in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the File Explorer icon (manilla folder) on the Taskbar.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + E at the same time.
    • Use the Power User menu by right-clicking on the Start Windows logo button and selecting File Explorer.
  2. In the left-side column left-click on This PC.
  3. In the right-side column right-click on the drive you want to check and select Properties.
  4. Left-click on the Tools tab.
  5. Under Error checking left-click on Check.
  6. Left-click on Scan drive.

Advanced drive error checking in Windows 10

Advanced drive error checking in Windows 10

  1. Open a Command Prompt with Administrative privileges (click here for instructions)
  2. Use the following command-line syntax(s) and parameter(s) to run CHKDSK:

CHKDSK [volume[[path]filename]]] [/F] [/V] [/R] [/X] [/I] [/C] [/L[:size]] [/B] [/scan] [/spotfix]

volume Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon), mount point, or volume name.
filename FAT/FAT32 only: Specifies the files to check for fragmentation.
/F Fixes errors on the disk.
/V On FAT/FAT32: Displays the full path and name of every file on the disk. On NTFS: Displays cleanup messages, if any.
/R Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information (implies /F, when /scan not specified).
/L:size NTFS only: Changes the log file size to the specified number of kilobytes. If a size is not specified, it displays the current size.
/X Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary. All opened handles to the volume would then be invalid (implies /F).
/I NTFS only: Performs a less vigorous check of index entries.
/C NTFS only: Skips checking of cycles within the folder structure.
/B NTFS only: Re-evaluates bad clusters on the volume (implies /R).
/scan NTFS only: Runs an online scan on the volume.
/forceofflinefix NTFS only: (Must be used with "/scan") Bypass all online repair; all defects found are queued for offline repair (i.e. "chkdsk /spotfix").
/perf NTFS only: (Must be used with "/scan") Uses more system resources to complete a scan as fast as possible. This may have a negative performance impact on other tasks running on the system.
/spotfix NTFS only: Runs spot-fixing on the volume.
/sdcleanup NTFS only: Garbage collects unneeded security descriptor data (implies /F).
/offlinescanandfix Runs an offline scan and fix on the volume.
/freeorphanedchains FAT/FAT32/exFAT only: Frees any orphaned cluster chains instead of recovering their contents.
/markclean FAT/FAT32/exFAT only: Marks the volume clean if no corruption was detected, even if /F was not specified.

The /I or /C switch reduces the amount of time required to run Chkdsk by skipping certain volume checks.

How to speed up the boot time of your computer

Updated August 31, 2020

Does it seem like your computer takes forever to boot up? Waiting for your Windows-based computer to boot can be quite frustrating. But there are a few things you can do. Here is how to speed up the boot time of your computer.

How to speed up the boot time of your computer

Check the drive for errors

If your computer has a Hard Disk Drive (HDD), this is the first thing you want to do. HDD's are notorious for not writing data back to the exact place where the data was read. Little known fact, but Microsoft didn't invent the Disk Operating System (DOS). It bought Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) in the early '80s and renamed it MS-DOS. If you have a Solid State Drive (SSD), you can bypass this step, as SSD's don't have moving parts.

Check for hardware issues first with the software provided by the manufacturer of your HDD. The Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) has all of the significant drive manufacturer's diagnostics software built-in, so this is always the right place to start.

Diagnose computer hardware issues with the Ultimate Boot CD

Then check for software issues with Windows built-in CHKDSK.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows Vista / Windows 7

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 10

Uninstall any unwanted programs

This one is a no-brainer. Allot of adware/junkware will load itself up at boot, causing an increase in boot time. It also takes away resources that could be used by programs you want to run. The first thing to do is to go to the Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features. Then go through the list of programs to see which ones can be uninstalled. Remember that you can change the way the programs are listed just by clicking on the column name. I like to know when a program was installed because you can find many unwanted clutter installations that way.

Remove unwanted items from startup

MSCONFIG inside of Windows 8
MSCONFIG inside of Windows 8

You can temporarily disable programs and services that start up with Windows using MSCONFIG. MSCONFIG is a diagnostic tool built into Windows that allows you to troubleshoot boot issues. You can enable and disable various boot settings, including programs and services that startup with Windows. Just open an Administrator Command Prompt and type MSCONFIG.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows Vista and Windows 7

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

Once you have your system fine-tuned with MSCONFIG, you could leave your system running in diagnostic mode by having MSCONFIG not displayed at startup. That's one of the first things I check for on systems I work on. It just too easy to let it go. But if you want to permanently remove the items you have disabled in MSCONFIG, here's how to do it.

The Everything tab inside of Autoruns
The Everything tab inside of Autoruns

  1. Download and extract the latest version of Autoruns from Microsoft.
  2. Open MSCONFIG and make a note of each item you have disabled.
  3. On the General tab of MSCONFIG, select Normal startup, then left-click Apply and OK. When prompted, close MSCONFIG and do not restart the computer. Yes, this will enable all of the items you have disabled, but we will delete them next.
  4. Open the folder where you saved Autoruns.exe, right-click on it and select Run as Administrator.
  5. Once it is done scanning, you need to find the items you had disabled with MSCONFIG. Check the Services and the Logon tabs first. Remember that you can check the logon items for each user with the User pull-down menu. Once you find your things, you can 1) disable it with the checkbox on the left or 2) you can right-click on it and select Delete.

Clean up the drive

It's time to clean up some of the clutter that seems to pile up. Using Windows built-in Disk Cleanup tool (cleanmgr.exe) will quickly clean out all sorts of crap, like user temp files and temporary Internet files. If you want to go a little further with cleaning your drive, download a copy of CCleaner.

Free up more disk space with Windows Vista / Windows 7 Disk Cleanup

Clean up your hard drive in Windows 8 with Disk Cleanup

Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

Clean up and optimize your computer for free with CCleaner

Defragment your HDD

This is another step that only pertains to HDD's since SSD's don't get fragmented. If your HDD is fragmented, it takes it longer to find and load files. Optimizing the HDD structure will always give you a little more speed. You can use Windows built-in Optimize and Defragment drive tool or another disk utility like Defraggler from Piriform.

Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows Vista

Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows 7

Defragment and Optimize your hard drive in Windows 8

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 10

Perform advanced disk defragmentation with Defraggler from Piriform

If you want to go the extra mile with optimizing your HDD, remove the swap file before you defrag and restore it after you're done. And when you restore it, go ahead and use the following calculations.

The minimum pagefile size is one and a half (1.5) x the amount of memory. The maximum pagefile size is three (3) x the minimum pagefile size. Let's say you have 2 Gb (2,048 Mb) of memory. The minimum pagefile size would be 1.5 x 2,048 = 3,072 Mb and the maximum pagefile size would be 3 x 3,072 = 9,216 Mb.

How to keep your hard drive healthy

When it comes to computer repair, hard drive failures are among the top issues I deal with. A failed hard drive can be disastrous. But with some regular maintenance, you can keep your hard drive spinning like a top. Here's how to keep your hard drive healthy.

How to keep your hard drive healthy

Hard drive failures fall into two (2) classes: Predictable and Unpredictable. Predictable failures arise from mechanical wear and the eventual degrading of the storage surface. Unpredictable failures come from parts becoming defective or sudden mechanical failures. Around 60% of hard drive failures are from gradual wear and tear from daily use. With regular maintenance, you may be able to find, fix, and repair problems before they become catastrophic.

CHKDSK (check disk)

CHKDSK running on Windows 10 Tech Preview boot
CHKDSK running on Windows 10 Tech Preview boot

Every operating system has a built-in utility for checking the health of your hard drive. In the early years of Windows (when it ran on top of DOS), there was ScanDisk. When Microsoft came out with Windows NT and NTFS, the disk checking utility changed to CHKDSK and is still in use today. The functionally has been expanded, but the commands have changed very little. CHKDSK verifies the integrity of the file system and fixes logical file system errors. It can also check for bad sectors and mark them as bad, but it cannot repair them. Cost: Free

Run CHKDSK in Windows XP

Run CHKDSK in Windows Vista / Windows 7

Run CHKDSK in Windows 8.1

Run CHKDSK in Windows 10

Manufacturer's software

UBCD HHD diagnostics list A thru P
UBCD HDD diagnostics list A thru P

Almost all hard drive manufacturers have utilities to check their drives for errors. Their software can check the SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) status and test the hard drive's physical condition. Best of all, their software can re-map bad sectors to spare sectors. You can find most diagnostics software on the manufactures' website or use the version included in the Ultimate Boot CD (recommended). Cost: Free.

Ultimate Boot CD

SpinRite

Intro screen from GRC SpinRite
Intro screen from GRC SpinRite

SpinRite from Gibson Research Corporation is a magnetic storage data recovery, repair, and maintenance utility. The way it works is quite ingenious. It reads the data from each sector, inverts it, and then writes it back to the drive. It then reads the same sector, inverts the data, and then writes it back to the drive in the original format. If it can read, invert and write to a bad sector, it can clear the bad sector flag and make it usable again. SpinRite also has a feature called DynaStat that can reassemble missing data from bad sectors. Cost: $89.

SpinRite

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

Updated September 28, 2020

Are you running out of free space on your computer's hard drive? You've uninstalled unused programs and cleaned it up, but still cannot free up any more room? Doing computer repair, I've seen this often and have personally run out of space more times than I care to remember. Here's how to upgrade the hard drive in your computer.

Changing out a hard drive may sound scary, but it's not. If your existing drive is healthy and you have a good backup of the data on it, you should be good to go. The procedure is the same for desktop computers and laptops, with slight differences due to the form factor (physical size).

Two different sizes of hard drives side-by-side
Two different sizes of hard drives side-by-side

There are two types of drives, SSD (Solid State Drive) and HDD (Hard Disk Drive), two different types of hard drive interfaces, SATA (7 pin connection cable) and PATA (40 pin ribbon connection cable), and two different form factors (physical size) of drives; 2.5" and 3.5" (the dimension relates to the width of the drive). HHD's come in 3.5" and 2.5" sizes; SSD's come in only the 2.5" form factor. Laptops use the 2.5" form factor, and desktop computers can use either size. If you're planning on using an SSD or 2.5" HDD in a desktop computer, you'll have to use 2.5" to 3.5" adapter brackets. Also, if you're installing an SSD into a laptop, check the physical dimensions first. Some SSD's are higher (thicker) than standard 2.5" HDD's and may not fit into a laptop.

View of hard drive properties inside of Disk Management
View of hard drive properties inside of Disk Management

The next thing to do is find out what you have for an existing drive. Open Computer Management, expand the Storage section, and select Disk Management. Find the disk you want to upgrade, right-click on the disk name (Disk 0, Disk 1, etc.) and select Properties. On the General tab, you will find the model number of that drive. Do a Google search for it and find out the specifications (form factor, data capacity, and interface). Now it's just a matter of getting a new drive that matches the form factor and interface. Remember that your new drive's data capacity has to be equal to or larger than your existing drive.

If your existing drive is an HDD, the first thing to do is to check the current drive for errors. Running a Checkdisk will find any errors that might prevent the successful cloning of the drive.

Running Checkdisk in Windows 7 / Windows Vista

Running Checkdisk in Windows 8

Running Checkdisk in Windows 10

If errors are found on the existing drive, you may not be able to use the new drive's manufacturer's software. In this case, you will have to use third-party software like R-Drive that can ignore read errors.

Two ways to clone a hard drive

Drive-to-drive cloning

Drive-to-drive is the easiest to do, and a few drive manufacturers (Western Digital, Seagate, etc.) have free utilities to do this. There are also a few free disk cloning utilities out there. Check out the UBCD; it has a few. All you have to do is turn off your computer and install the new drive into your computer. If your system is a desktop computer, consult the manufacturer's documentation on how to do this. If it's a laptop, you will have to attach it using either a USB adapter or inside of an external case.

A laptop hard drive connected to a USB adapter
A laptop hard drive connected to a USB adapter

If you plan on reusing your existing laptop drive, an external case might be the way to go. That way, when you're done, you can put your current drive into it, reformat it and use it as an external drive for storage.

Once you have the new drive in place, start your computer up, install the manufacturer's software and start the disk clone. If you're installing a larger drive, always remember to check and make sure that the new free space is going to partition you want to expand. Once done, just power off the computer and change the drives out. If your system is a laptop, consult the manufacturer's documentation on how to change out the hard drive. If you installed an HDD, the first thing you want to do is a Checkdisk. When you clone a drive, you copy everything, including the MFT (Master File Table). SSD's will automatically adjust them, HDD's don't. Run a Checkdisk to fix them.

Drive-to-image / image-to-drive cloning

Drive-to-image / image-to-drive are a bit harder to do, but it has an advantage, a full disk backup. This process does require third-party software like R-Drive and an external drive or network drive. Most disk cloning tools allow you to create a boot disk; that way, you can boot your system up on it to clone the drive. Once you have made a boot disk, you're ready to go.

The process is the same as drive-to-drive, but instead of cloning to the new drive, you create a file containing an image of the existing hard drive on a removable hard drive or network folder. I prefer the portable (2.5") external hard drive, as they don't require any additional source of power (AC adapter). Boot your computer up on the disk you created. Once it is booted up, attach an external hard drive or configure the network settings and select your drive image location.

After you create the drive image, you can shut down your computer and change out the drives. Consult the manufacturer's documentation on how to change out the hard drive. Then you boot your computer back up on the disk you created, reconnect your external drive or network drive, and restore the drive from the image file. If you're installing a larger drive, always remember to check and make sure that the new free space is going to partition you want to expand. Once done, just shut the system down, remove the boot disk and start it back up. If you installed an HDD, the first thing you want to do is a Checkdisk. When you clone a drive, you copy everything, including the Master File Table. SSD's will automatically adjust them, HDD's don't. Run a checkdisk to fix them.

For more information on upgrading computer drives. click on the following links.

How to clone the drive in your Windows computer

How to upgrade your computers hard disk drive to a solid state drive

Five things you should do first when you get a new computer

So you just got a new computer, and you are ready to go. You're going to install programs and transfer files to it. But before you go personalizing it, there are a few things you should do first. Here are five things you should do first when you get a new computer.

Five things you should do first when you get a new computer

Register your new computer

Here's one that almost everyone post-pones until a later time, including myself. The problem with that is we never get around to it; we just keep putting it off. But if something ever goes wrong with your new computer, you will be glad you did. This is one of those 'do it right now' items. Then you can forget all about it and hope you never need it.

Make the recovery media

If your computer came with recovery disks, you're lucky. Most don't. If your computer did not come with recovery media, you will have to make it yourself. Most computer manufacturers load disk images (files) of these disks on the hard drive to save money and require the owner to create the media. You'll only have to do this once, and in most cases, you will need 2 - 5 blank DVD's.

Each computer manufacturer uses a different name for this program, so look for something like 'Recovery Media Creator'. To find the program used to make the recovery media, just go to Start > All Programs and look for a folder that has Maintenance and/or Recovery in the name. Or it could be in a folder with the manufacturer's name.

If for some reason, the media creation fails, you can always contact the manufacturer for assistance. Having registered your product will help simplify the process. I've seen manufacturers send out recovery media when the owner could not make it. But the key here is to do this now, not in a couple of years when you need the recovery media. Manufacturers are more likely to help while the computer is under warranty. Once you have your recovery disks, please put them in a safe place.

Verify used and free space with Checkdisk

Computers can come with two (2) types of drives, Solid State Drive (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Like Dell and HP, most computer vendors will pre-load hard drives with the operating system and Master File Table (MFT). SSD's will automatically adjust the MFT where HDD's do not. You have to do this manually on an HDD by running Checkdisk. Checkdisk will verify where the files and free space are on the drive and update the MFT. Here's how to do it.

Windows 10 Checkdisk

Windows 8 Checkdisk

Windows 7 / Windows Vista Checkdisk

Windows XP Checkdisk

Get the latest Windows updates

You might think that your new computer is up to date, being brand new. But the fact is you don't know when the manufacturer made the operating system image used on your hard drive. Windows 8 had updates available before it even went on sale. Run Windows Update to check for updates; odds are there are some available. You may have to run Windows Update more than once to get all of the updates. But doing it right now will get your new computer entirely up to date before you start installing your programs.

Activate or install anti-virus software

Almost all computer manufacturers will pre-install some anti-virus software. It's usually only a 30 to 60-day trial subscription and will run out before you know it. If you plan on keeping it, buy a full subscription now and be done with it. If you want to use some other anti-virus software, now is the time to switch. Remember to uninstall the anti-virus software that came with your new computer before installing any other. Having two or more anti-virus programs running on the same computer will significantly decrease the performance.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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