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  • What is drive scan

There are many different kinds of hard drive scanners on the market today. From basic virus scanners to highly advanced, AI-driven malware scanners and even drive integrity scanners, the plethora of options can be confusing to a novice user. When attempting to troubleshoot and diagnose potential drive errors, like data corruption, early computer users often defaulted to Microsoft ScanDisk. In modern times, however, ScanDisk has been replaced with CHKDSK.

What is ScanDisk?
Originally introduced in 1993 with the release of MS-DOS 6.2, Microsoft ScanDisk was, at least initially, the successor to CHKDSK. Since CHKDSK had already been around since 1980, ScanDisk was developed as a more simplified, optimized, and user-friendly means of scanning and repairing a drive. Starting with Windows 95, ScanDisk had a graphical user interface (GUI) to make the program even more accessible to novice and experts alike.

Unfortunately, ScanDisk isn't compatible with modern drives that are formatted as NTFS. As a result, most modern users rely on an updated version of CHKDSK for their basic drive scanning and repairing needs. In other, Unix-like systems, ScanDisk is comparable to the fsck command.

What is CHKDSK?
Released in 1980, CHKDSK has remained in use for over 40 years. While it's seen several iterations throughout the years, including modern updates for the latest Windows operating system, the purpose of CHKDSK has always remained the same – to scan your drive for errors. This process detects fragmented files on the hard drive, ultimately renaming the corrupted files and moving them into a different directory. This includes files that have been fragmented or corrupted as a result of:

  • Sudden power outages while writing data
  • Filenames that are longer than the operating system's limit
  • File with invalid characters in the filename

When used in a Windows NT environment, CHKDSK mimics the functionality of Microsoft ScanDisk by performing a disk surface scan. This process is meant to detect bad sectors on the hard drive. However, CHKDSK doesn't actually repair any errors by default. Since some repairs can be rather time-consuming on older or larger drives, CHKDSK lets the user decide how to go about implementing these repairs.

The release of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista mitigated many of the potential issues that could be discovered through the use of CHKDSK with the implementation of an OS self-healing process. Since this is enabled by default, and because it uses CHKDSK to scan for errors in the first place, many of the issues that could be diagnosed through CHKDSK were never encountered by users.

In modern computing CHKDSK is typically used from the Microsoft Windows Command Prompt, which mimics the traditional DOS prompt of early computing environments. Other programs capable of running CHKDSK include Windows PowerShell, Recovery Console, and Windows Explorer.

Using CHKDSK in a Modern Windows Environment
While CHKDSK won't help you with viruses or malware, it's still an incredibly useful tool for troubleshooting corrupt or failing hard drives. Modern versions include all the functionality of Microsoft ScanDisk, making it possible to detect bad sectors, and it's original purpose of identifying corrupted files is still useful in modern computing, too.

You may read more about chkdsk on Microsoft Learn: chkdsk.

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I`m an IT professional who has worked from home for over a decade. Early on in my career, I configured an HP ProLiant Server (Raid 1+0) as a workstation that I would remote into from my laptop. As technology evolved, I began to use it only for email and as a config file repository.

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