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What is ScanDisk?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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ScanDisk is a utility that was introduced in early versions of Microsoft™ Windows™ that allows a computer user to scan his or her computer for corrupted files or hard drive issues and attempt to fix such problems. The utility is no longer included in newer versions of Windows™, however, because it only functions with older versions that utilize File Allocation Table (FAT) file systems. In newer versions of Windows™, FAT systems were replaced with New Technology File Systems (NTFS), and so ScanDisk was replaced with a new version of the utility called CHKDSK. ScanDisk can still be run on versions of Windows™ prior to Windows XP™, and due to its popularity many computer users will still refer to it while running CHKDSK.

The files on a computer can easily become corrupted through daily use, virus infection, and loss of quality from copying or compression. Some versions of MS-DOS included a utility called CHKDSK that allowed users to check certain files for issues and repair any such problems. With the introduction of early versions of Windows™, Microsoft™ included a utility called ScanDisk that could perform similar functions with greater ease and an incorporated graphical user interface(GUI).

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ScanDisk, also known as Scan Disk, provided computer users with the ability to more easily check for computer issues and automatically repair such issues. The utility would typically run on startup following a crash or event in which the computer was not shut down properly. Computer users could also use the utility from within Windows™ through entry in a command prompt or by accessing the Properties of a hard drive on the computer. The utility could be used to not only find corrupt files, but to also check for and potentially repair physical errors on a hard drive.

Though ScanDisk provided a great deal of power for computer users, it was designed to only work properly with the FAT file systems used at that time. When NTFS was introduced with Windows XP™, the older utility was not able to function with that file system. Microsoft™ developed a new utility, which was called CHKDSK, though it was not the same as the older MS-DOS utility, that could run similar operations on newer versions of Windows™. Many computer users working with later versions of Windows™ learned to work with computers and troubleshoot problems using earlier versions that included ScanDisk. This led to a number of technical professionals and home users referring to the newer CHKDSK system as ScanDisk simply out of habit and familiarity with the older utility.

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