What is a corrupted file and How to repair them in 2024

A corrupted file is one that is no longer operable or usable. Here are several ways to repair that corrupted file

A corrupted file is one that does not function correctly. It has been damaged, become unreadable or altered due to a system crash, virus attack, or mistaken operation or in some way. This can occur in any type of file, including documents (e.g., Word, PDF), images (e.g., JPEG, PNG), videos (e.g., MP4, AVI), audio files (e.g., MP3, WAV), and even executable files (e.g., .exe, .dll). When a system file is corrupted you may experience computer freezes, not responding or apps won’t open. Or when a particular file is corrupted such as word document you may receive error The file is corrupt and cannot be opened. Let’s take a look at how to repair corrupted files on Windows 11.

Causes of Corrupted Files

When a file is corrupted, it means that the file’s data or structure has been damaged or altered in some way, making it unreadable or unusable by the software or application that is meant to open or process it.

There are a number of reasons files can get corrupted, one common is bad sector in hard disk or improper shutdowns.

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  • Hardware Issues: Faulty hard drives, bad sectors, memory errors, or power failures during file saving operations can all lead to data corruption.
  • Software Glitches: Again Software bugs, viruses, malware, or issues with applications handling files can result in file corruption.
  • Incomplete Downloads or Transfers: Sometimes incomplete downloads or transfers over the internet or local network can corrupt files.
  • Incompatible Software: Trying to open a file with an incompatible application may alter its structure and make it unreadable.
  • Power outage: If your computer’s power supply suddenly gets interrupted and the battery runs out faster when unplugged then it can also lead to corrupted files.

How to Repair Corrupted Files

Windows 11 comes with built-in utilities such as Check Disk (CHKDSK), System File Checker (SFC) and Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) help correct whatever data issues are affecting your file(s). Also, you can use a third-party specialized tool to repair Corrupted Files on Windows 11.

Use the SFC /Scannow command

The system file checker utility is a built-in tool provided by Microsoft that scans and verifies the integrity of system files in the Windows operating system. If it finds any corrupted or missing files, it attempts to repair or replace them with the correct versions from the Windows system file cache (located in the “C:\Windows\winsxs” folder). This is the very first recommendation to repair corrupted system files on Windows 11.

  • Press Windows key + S and type cmd, Right-click on the command prompt and select run as administrator. Click Yes if UAC prompts for permission.
  • Type the command sfc /scannow and press the enter key to start scanning your Windows system files for any inconsistencies or corruption.

SFC /Scannow to repair corrupted file

  • SFC compares the files found on your system with the original versions stored in the system file cache.

If any discrepancies are detected, SFC tries to repair the corrupted files. It does this by replacing the corrupted files with the correct versions from the Windows system file cache.

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The scan may take some time to finish, depending on the size of your system and the speed of your computer. Do not interrupt the process, Once 100% complete reboot your PC to ensure that the repaired files take effect.

Run DISM Restorehealth command

This is another built-in utility helpful in repairing corrupted files, especially when the System File Checker (SFC) tool (sfc /scannow) is unable to resolve the issues on its own. DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) can repair the Windows system image, and it works in conjunction with SFC to provide a more comprehensive solution for file corruption problems.

Again open the command prompt as administrator and run the DISM command.

DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

DISM restore health command to repair corrupted file

  • This will scan the Windows system image and compare it to a known good, clean version.
  • DISM attempts to download clean copies of any corrupted or missing files from Windows Update.
  • Once the necessary files are obtained, DISM integrates them into the Windows system image, replacing any corrupted files with the correct versions.
  • Let the scanning complete 100%, once done again run sfc /scannow command then reboot your PC to ensure that the repaired files take effect.

Use the CHKDSK command

Bad sectors on a hard disk can be one of the reasons for corrupt files. Running the CHKDSK tool can help improve the overall health and performance of your storage drive and potentially resolve issues related to corrupted files.

CHKDSK is a built-in Windows utility designed to scan for and correct errors in the file system, such as bad sectors and file corruption.

Run Chkdsk from File Explorer

  • Press Windows key + I to open File Explorer,
  • Click on This PC, Right-click on the drive that has the corrupted file and click on Properties.
  • Switch to the Tools tab and click the Check button, select Scan Drive.

chkdsk on windows 11

Run Chkdsk from Command Prompt

Open the command prompt as administrator, and run the command chkdsk c: /f /r /x

Here C: is the drive where to check for errors,

  • /f: Fixes the errors that the Chkdsk tool detects. Without this switch, the tool will run in read-only mode.
  • /r: Identifies bad sectors on the disk and tries to recover the information on those sectors.
  • /x: Forces the volume to dismount before the scan if required and invalidates open file handles to the drive.

Type “Y” and press Enter to schedule the scan for the next system restart.

Run chkdsk command windows 11

Close all open applications and restart your computer. CHKDSK will run before Windows starts, and the scanning and repair process will begin. This will scan the file system and hard drive for errors, bad sectors, and other inconsistencies.

After the sectors are repaired, reboot your PC and reopen your file again to see if it’s no longer corrupted.

Perform System Restore

If the above tools fail to repair the corrupted files on your PC, you can perform system restore that revert your computer’s state to a previous point in time when it was functioning correctly. By restoring your system to a known good state, you can effectively undo recent changes that might have caused file corruption or other issues.

Note- Performing a System Restore will revert system settings, installed applications, and system files to the selected restore point.

  • Press the Windows key + R, type rstrui.exe and click ok to open the system restore wizard,
  • Select a suitable restore point that predates the appearance of file corruption issues and click next,
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to confirm your restore point selection and initiate the restoration process. Your computer will restart during this process.

windows 11 system restore

Use built-in repair tool

Also, there are several third-party tools available that can help repair corrupted files in addition to the built-in Windows utilities like SFC, DISM, and CHKDSK.

Some applications, such as the Microsoft Office suite, offer built-in repair functionalities. For instance, Microsoft Excel can attempt to repair damaged Excel sheets.

Open and repair excel sheet

Adobe Photoshop provides an “Open and Repair” option when trying to open a corrupted file, which may recover the content.

Several third-party file recovery software are available for download that can scan for and attempt to repair corrupted file. Advanced users can try using a hex editor to manually inspect and fix file structures, but this requires technical expertise.

Preventing File Corruption

Prevention is always better than repair. To minimize the risk of file corruption, consider these preventive measures:

  • Back up your important files regularly to an external drive or cloud storage.
  • Keep your software, operating system, and antivirus up to date to minimize vulnerabilities.
  • Always shut down your computer and close applications properly.
  • Download files from trusted sources to avoid corrupted downloads.

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