Hard Drive Checkups

Every time you shut down the computer, Windows tidies up, ensuring all files are saved properly on the drive. When all is well, Windows turns off the machine (or, on older computers, displays a message on your screen telling you it’s OK to shut off your computer manually). The time that elapses between your Turn Off Computer command and the actual power-down moment is the “tidying up” period.

But sometimes, thanks to a system crash, power outage, or toddler playing with your surge suppressor, your computer gets turned off without warning—and without the usual shutdown checks. In the days before Windows XP, restarting the PC after such a dirty shutdown would automatically run a program called ScanDisk, a utility designed to detect and, when possible, repair drive damage that may have occurred as a result of an improper shutdown.

ScanDisk doesn’t exist in Windows XP, but its functions have been reincarnated. You get to this feature by right-clicking the icon of the hard drive you want to check (in the My Computer window). From the shortcut menu, choose Properties; click the Tools tab, and click Check Now (Figure 16-6, top).


Geeks fondly refer to the feature described here as chkdsk (apparently named by someone with no vowels on his keyboard). You can also get to it by choosing StartRun, typing chkdsk, and pressing Enter. But the method described here is much better-looking.

As shown in the middle of Figure 16-6, a box appears, offering two options:

  • Automatically ...

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