Technology Training

Corrupted Windows Files

Corrupted Windows Files: What they are and How to Fix Them

If your Windows system is running slow or acting strangely, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing it. It could be that you have picked up some malware or a virus, or it could be that some of your systems files are corrupted and so are unable to perform as they should.

There are dozens of reasons why your Windows files or system files might become corrupted, but among the most common are:

  • Sudden power outage
  • Power surge
  • Complete system crash
  • Mismatched versions
  • Updating errors
  • Viruses/Malware infection

Fortunately, if you find yourself on the receiving end of any of these issues, there are steps you can take to fix them yourself using the System File Checker or the DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) tools that are already pre-installed on your Windows operating system.

What does it mean if a file is corrupted?

A corrupted file is one that is damaged, and does not perform properly. This can apply to any type of file, from program files to system files and all types of documents. Just about everybody has probably had an issue with a corrupted file at some point in time. In many cases it can be resolved with a simple re-boot of your system, but sometimes the issues are more complex.

Every file on your computer has a particular structure and content. When this information is in the right place and arranged properly, the file will work as normal. However, if the wrong information is written into a file, or if the right information is written in the wrong place, it will affect the way the data is used and displayed. A corrupted file may not open at all, or it may appear scrambled and unreadable. This does not always indicate that the core program is corrupted, however – such as might be the case, for example, when a Microsoft Word file will not open, but all other files of the same type remain unaffected.

Application programs and operating systems may also develop corrupted files, which would then affect the use of items that depend on these programs to open or operate them.

How does a Windows file become corrupted?

File corruption usually occurs when there is a problem during the ‘save’ process. If your computer crashes, if there is a power surge or if you lose power, the file being saved will likely be corrupted. Damaged segments of your hard drive or damaged storage

media may also be a potential culprit, as can be viruses and malware. Corrupted Windows files can cause many strange issues with your computer. Such as programs not opening or performing as they should. Printers and other peripherals not working correctly. Sometimes the only fix is to completely re-install Windows.

What to do if you encounter a corrupted file

If you have a file that you cannot open or suspect is corrupted for any reason, there are a few easy things you can do before you dive into anything too complex. First, try to open the file on another device or computer. If the file opens fine on another device, it is possible that the first computer has some corrupted system files you will need to address.

If the file still won’t open on the second device or computer, consider deploying a file recovery program like RecuvaDMDE or the open source app PhotoRec. Most of these programs have a free version available that delivers pretty good results, locating the corrupted files, then recovering and repairing them if they can. Depending on your specific file recovery needs, there are plenty more applications to choose from, both paid and free. Start with the free version to see how deep your issues really are, and go from there. You will find that even files that you have written off completely, such as those that have been accidentally erased from a hard drive, removable drive or other storage device might be recoverable. It’s certainly worth a try.

What are Windows System Files?

A Windows system file is seen by the operating system as being instrumental to the function of the system itself. They contain code that tells the computer how to respond and process commands. Moving them, deleting them or altering them in any way has the potential to cause widespread system failure or general instability.

Most system files use a .sys extension, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Other system files could include extensions like .dll, .pcf, .idx, .so, .dat, and others.

As an added layer of protection against deletion or unwitting alteration, these files might have ‘hidden’ attributes, or they may be ‘read-only’. This is to prevent accidents from happening, as one click in the wrong direction can have catastrophic effects. These files will not be displayed in normal system searches, purely as a precautionary measure – just one more reminder that you shouldn’t be messing around with these files in the first place!

Where are Windows system files stored?

Windows system files are stored in various places on your Windows operating system. Some are located in the Windows file system itself, and some will be in your program files. The primary folder (C drive on most Windows systems) also uses and stores several system files, including System Recovery and system volume information.

It is important to note that you cannot delete a system file that Windows is actively using. These files are locked and cannot be changed in any way. You might also find that there are duplicates of some systems files; these consist of previous versions and backups.

Using SFC

If your Windows system is running extremely slow, is buggy or blue-screening, if your apps are crashing and nothing seems to be working as it should, the SFC might be able to fix it. Running the SFC should be step one in your troubleshooting process. Even if it doesn’t work, you will be able to confirm immediately whether or not it is your system files that are causing the problems.

Running the SFC command

Note: You can only run the SFC command from an administrator command prompt window. When you choose Command Prompt from the Start menu, you will see the option to run as an admin. For earlier versions of Windows, right-click Command Prompt and it will give you the admin option.

Type this into the command prompt window and hit enter:

sfc /scannow

On completion it will show whether on not if found any corrupted files and if so if it repaired them. In my experience the repair usually doesn’t work and you will probably have to re-install Windows

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