If your Windows PC displays the notorious Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) problem or behaves oddly, like frequently crashing, freezing, etc. then you don’t always need to reload your Operating System.
This could be because specific registry files in Windows are likely corrupted or some files may have been missed or corrupted. Windows comes with various tools preloaded to assist in repairing the operating system.
Apart from the apparent troubleshooter in the Setting app, Windows comes with tools like CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM. Each of these performs a different check and tries to address and fix any OS flaws automatically.
But which tool should you use first to repair your Windows 11 or Windows 10? The first thing to know is the fundamental difference between the three. Each tool works in its own way and it is important to know how they work.
- CHKDSK (Check Disk): CHKDSM scans your drive to find bad sectors and tries to fix errors caused in the file system.
- SFC (System File Checker): SFC checks for missing important files of your Windows operating system and restores them from the cache.
- DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management): This tool requires an internet connection. DISM directly deals with faulty Windows images and repairs them by downloading actual replacement files from Windows’ online servers.
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How to use the CHKDSK tool?
CHKDSK or Check Disk tool can be used in two ways:
- Using File Explorer.
- Using Command Prompt.
1. Use CHKDSK using File Explorer
To use CHKDSK using File Explorer follow the steps mentioned below:
1. Press the Windows + E keys on the keyboard to open Windows File Explorer.
2. Click on This PC in the left panel and then right-click on C: drive.
3. Click on Properties.
4. In the properties pop-up in the Tools tab and in the Error checking section click on Check.
5. When you click on check then an Error Checking pop-up might appear saying You don’t need to scan this drive as there is no error on the drive. You can still proceed to scan the drive by clicking on Scan drive.
6. The scan will start. It will take around a minute or two depending on the type of storage.
7. When the scan is complete it will display the Error Checking dialog box with the message Your drive was successfully scanned. You may close the pop-up or click on the Show Details if you wanna deep dive into the scanning process. It will show you the complete event log. You can save this event log if you want by clicking on Save As…
2. How to use CHKDSK using the command prompt
To use CHKDSK using the command prompt do the following:
1. Press Windows + R keys on the keyboard to open the Run dialog box.
cmd command in the run dialog box and then press Ctrl + Alt + Enter to open the Elevated command prompt or command prompt with the administrative privileges.
3. In the Command Prompt execute the following command and hit Enter.
Your C drive will be scanned.
4. If you want to fix the problems scanned by CHKDSK automatically then type the following command and hit enter.
chkdsk /f c:
5. If you further want to scan errors and bad sectors then type the following command and hit Enter.
chkdsk /r c:
Note: In all the commands mentioned under the heading How to use CHKDSK using Command Prompt c: stands for the drive letter. You can change it depending on the drive that you want to scan.
Using CHKDSK either through File Explorer or Command Prompt is the same. Both have the same amount of running time.
How to Fix “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process” Error
This happens because while running CHKDSK, it has to be the only tool accessing the drive at that moment in time. In such cases, Command Prompt will ask you to reschedule the scan after a restart. You can also close all the other programs and then Chkdsk again.
How to use the SFC tool?
SFC tool can only be used through command line applications like Windows Powershell, Command Prompt, & Windows Terminal. Here I have used the Command prompt and will explain how you can use this to run an SFC scan.
1. Open the Run dialog box by pressing Windows + R keys on the keyboard.
2. In the run dialog box type
cmd and then press Ctrl+Alt+Enter to open the Elevated command prompt or to open the command prompt with Administrative privileges.
3. In the Command Prompt type the following command and hit Enter.
4. After the scan is complete you will get the following three results to proceed accordingly.
- Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations: This means your system is running in normal condition and do not have any corrupt or missing files.
- Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them: As can be clearly understood when this result is displayed it means that SFC was able to identify errors in your system and has fixed them. Therefore, no further action is required from the user in this case.
- Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them: If SFC is showing this result, that means that SFC could diagnose the issue in your system but failed to fix them. You can try repeating an SFC scan, which may fix the problem. However, if the issue persists, then it’s time to hand over the fixing load to the DISM.
Tip: Once you complete the steps, the System File Checker (SFC) tool will save the log files as:
How to use the DISM tool?
Same as SFC, the DISM tool can only be run by using command-line applications. Here I am using Command Prompt and also recommend you to use the same. Follow the steps mentioned below to scan your computer and fix the potential errors like a Blue screen of death or frequent crashing.
1. Press Windows + R on the keyboard to open the Run dialog box. Type
cmd to open Elevated Command Prompt or Command Prompt with Elevated Administrative rights.
2. Enter the following command to check the status of your drive.
Dism /Online/ Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth
This step gives us an idea of whether the core components of your drive are corrupted or not.
3. If DISM does not detect any corruption, then we can proceed to check the health of the drive for an advanced DISM scan by typing the command given below:
Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth
This ScanHealth option does a more advanced scan to find out whether the image has any problems. The scan may take several minutes to check whether the Windows 10 and Windows 11 image needs repairing.
4. If ScanHealth returns an error, then re-run the same command. This time, DISM will try to fix the issues by connecting to Windows servers and downloading the required files to fix the problems in the Operating system. this process may take around 15-20 minutes.
5. Once done, we need to apply these fixes to the operating system permanently. For that, type the given below command and hit Enter
Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth
After the successful completion of all the above steps, you are required to restart your Windows computer.
The DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) command usually does not cause issues.
However, if the tool finds problems replacing the damaged files or the computer is not connected to the internet, you will need to provide another Operating system image (install.wim) using the Source option.
Fix Problems with DISM using install.wim image
We can use an “install.wim” file from another device, bootable install media, or a Windows 11 or Windows 10 ISO file. Follow the steps mentioned below to fix problems with DISM using install.wim image:
1. Download the ISO file from here.
2. Open the downloaded file so that it gets mounted as a DVD disc with a drive name (which could be E, F, or G).
3. Open Elevated Command Prompt by typing
cmd in the Run dialog box and pressing Ctrl + Alt + Enter.
4. Type the following command to repair the Windows 10 or Windows 11 image and press Enter:
DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth /Source :F:\Sources\install.wim
Replace “F” with the ISO mount point drive letter in File Explorer.
After this step, DISM will scan and repair the corrupted image files using the image files from install.wim source.
This restoration is the ultimate restoration and this surely will repair your files if not anything. Still, if your system continues to crash or return Blue Screen Errors at random intervals even after running CHKDSK, SFC, & DISM using iso files too, then the best solution is to install Windows again on your computer.
Can you run CHKDSK, SPC, and DISM at the same time?
If you decide to use all three tools, running all tools one by one can take up to 24 hours to get effective results. So if you decide to run them simultaneously can cause system failures by attempting to fix problems that are not necessarily present.
Running all three or any two tools simultaneously is not recommended if you need a quick fix because it may add new flaws on top of the ones that have already been addressed.
What is the Difference between CHKDSK, SFC, & DISM?
CHKDSK can be used easily using Windows File Explorer itself. But the SFC & DISM can only be used through text commands and are only meant for IT experts and server admins. However, system repair that can be accomplished with it does not require any specific understanding, making these tools appealing to all other users.
So now we will see the difference between these three tools and the order in which they should be used.
CHKDSK or Check Disk
CHKDSK aka Check Disk is the first step to start diagnosing your Windows system. It scans for errors in your computer’s file system and attempts to fix them locally. CHKDSK examines the integrity of disk partitions by looking for logical file system errors or corrupted entries in a volume’s Master File Table (MFT).
When the system shuts down suddenly, during a power outage or other incident, it is common to see incorrect entries in the file system of the operating system. These can be caused by an incorrectly set timestamp or an incorrect file size entry. Such entries can create bad sectors in the drive, causing the system to slow down or crash frequently. CHKDSK looks for such errors and tries to fix them.
However, in some cases, CHKDSK only informs the user about the problem and does nothing to fix it. This happens when CHKDSK considers the error to be severe or critical. Negligence and repeated overwriting in existing bad sectors are the reason why the hard disk gets into such a bad state that CHKDSK cannot fix.
SFC (System File Checker)
SFC is the actual system file checker that can be used to resolve issues caused by missing or damaged system files. SFC scans all the system files in Windows PCs, including protected files to see if they are corrupted or not. If SFC finds any corrupted system files in Operating System, it will replace those damaged files using a cached copy.
This tool can also tell if a file has been updated or replaced with an older version. SFC will get the right version from the Windows Store and replace the changed file. It comes in handy when your computer is infected with malware or viruses.
SFC also repairs errors in registry data. It uses the same concept of replacing modified files with cached copies. Microsoft introduced SFC first in Windows 98 to prevent problems faced by users when critical system files were modified to an extent where the Operating System becomes unstable to use.
If your computer crashes frequently, or you face the Blue Screen of Death quite often, running SFC would be a better option.
DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management)
DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) is the most powerful repair tool in Windows, and it is capable of preparing, modifying, and repairing system images. To download and replace faulty content through Windows Update, you will need an active internet connection.
DISM can be considered as a virtual disk with the operating system loaded in itself. It scans the core files of the operating system to check for misbehaving files.
DISM tool is the ultimate solution for your system crashes as it targets the operating system directly, including admin privileges. In most cases, DISM will fix all the critical issues and pave the way for SFC and CHKDSK to function normally. It is recommended to run a CHKDSK and an SFC scan after a successful DISM scan.
So these were the functions and differences of CHKDSK, SFC, & DISM. Now we will see how to use these tools to successfully repair your Windows 11 and Windows 10 PC.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do I need to restart my computer after SFC Scan?
Yes, a restart is necessary after running an SFC Scan so that the computer can start fresh with the old files and logs replace with the new files.
How often should you run SFC Scannow?
SFC/scannow is a utility in Windows that can scan for and repair issues with the file system. It does not replace regular maintenance, which includes Disk Cleanup to remove unnecessary files and defragmenting the hard drive.
SFC is usually only used when you suspect a system file has been modified. It does not hurt anything to run SFC, but it’s usually not necessary.
How long does it take to run CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM?
CHKDSK takes around minutes or seconds to run. An SFC scan consumes over 5-10 minutes to complete. DISM scans usually take longer to complete as it requires downloading files from external resources. These time durations are also subject to your computer’s drive speed (how fast your hard drive is).
So this is it! this is the end of this ultimate guide where you have learned about the scanning tool available in Windows 10 or Windows 11 which are CHKDSK, SFC, & DISM. Here we have learned how these tools can come to our rescue if our PC returns with fatal errors like a blue screen of death or freezing.
We saw here that DISM is the ultimate tool to fix all the corrupted files. This does not mean that CHKDSK and SFC are not worth using. You should always try CHKDSK and SFC first.
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