On Windows 7 or 10, a common problem that may occur while connecting an external hard drive is the “Windows detected a hard disk problem” and you wonder, is it a virus? Firstly, don’t panic! This is 90% chance not caused by a virus, and can be fixed with certain Windows tools. For a related article on using Windows to conquer Windows problems, see Ethernet Doesn’t Have a Valid IP Connection on Windows – that I also wrote, right here on Error Codes Pro!
This article is mainly to help you deal with this problem and the steps you need to take to fix this problem. If at any point while connecting the hard disk, you encounter this problem, you should know that your hard drive is probably failing or corrupted. This would be a good time to get out another hard drive and backup all your important documents, videos, photos or anything you might have on the hard drive to make sure you don’t lose all of your valuable data. It does make it sound like a serious issue, but there are ways in which you can resolve this issue and prevent the error notification from popping up again!
Root Cause: Should I Be Afraid that Something Can Harm My Computer? Worse: Is This a Virus?
To explain this in a simpler way, let’s look at the below example for instance:
Say you started your laptop, just like you do every day. Note, that if it is an external hard drive, it is connected to the computer at this point. You receive an error message that pops up saying ‘Windows has detected a hard drive error…’. Say you are using a one TB external hard drive and currently has around five hundred MB worth of pictures, music, and documents on it. Gradually, your computer will start slowing down and-and eventually freeze, all this, while the error message is still popping up.
This is one of the most frequent ways in which the error can occur, and can happen to anyone of us no matter how careful we are with our hardware. For another article on hardware giving Windows users woes, see my solution to Windows Was Unable to Complete the DVD Format – right here on Error Codes Pro! In Windows 7 and 10, if you encounter this problem, a box will open up saying ‘Windows Detected a hard disk problem’ and below that, a message telling you to backup your files immediately to prevent future loss of information. In this instance, you can choose to ‘Start the backup process’ which is probably the best course of action you can take towards fixing the problem, as shown in the options of the dialogue box below.
If instead, you choose to select the ‘Ask me again later’ option, which isn’t advised, you may be spammed with error reports every five minutes or so. In most instances, the error serves as a kind of warning, telling you that your hard disk is probably going to fail soon. It is essential that you do not ignore this issue, and troubleshoot to find out the reason for this failure.
I Have Always Been So Careful, So Why is This Happening to My Computer?
There are a number of possible reasons as to why this error message pops up. Most commonly, this error is caused by a failure in the hard drive, besides this, it can also be caused by various errors which may include a registry error, excessive startup entries, excessive amounts of program installations, fragmented files or even – yes, you guessed it – malware or a virus. For another article I wrote on how software can affect Hard Drive performance, see Fixing Tiworker.exe’s High Disk Usage in Windows.
1. Mechanical errors taking place in the hard disk
It is extremely likely that your hard drive has encountered a problem because of let’s say, a bad or corrupted file on the disk or mechanical problems. The hard disk is the main storage point for your computer and a failing hard drive will not only cause you a big inconvenience but also may result in a loss of the stored data. The system message we’re seeing serves as a handy reminder to users to help them safeguard their data. To read more about memory on different devices and how it may be corrupt, you can see this other (slightly unrelated) article here on Error Codes Pro.
2. Virus attacks
A possible virus attack on your hard drive does sound scary but also has an easy workaround to prevent. If you have a good anti-virus software up and running at all times, it is likely that the virus won’t infect your computer. But this is all keeping in mind that you are running a good anti-virus that is always up to date with the most recent virus definitions. Besides this, make sure that your Windows is updated to the newest version.
The reason for this is that Windows generally tend to include numerous security measures in its updates and this can prevent future virus attacks on your computer. An updated Windows version will also contain the information regarding the newest viruses out there, which can help in detecting virus threats on your computer. However, even if you are extra careful with all these security measures, it doesn’t ensure that your computer will be error free, just virus free. In the event where the virus has already begun it’s attacked on your computer, all before the anti-virus was put to work, it may not be able to repair the damage already caused. For other errors on Windows systems that may be virus-related, see this related article right here on Error Codes Pro.
3. Damaged system files
Pretty often, the programs or files that we download may end up as an unfinished or an incomplete installation, or you may end up having deleted certain necessary files by mistake which are essential for your computer to run smoothly and without errors. This can eventually result in the corruption of various essential files or an inability to find the missing data, which may result in the hard disk not working properly (as far as Windows can tell – which Windows support struggles in helping with sometimes).
4. Human error
We have all been there. Made some impromptu decision to change something in the system directory and later have to deal with the repercussions of the system not working properly. Not to mention to constant error messages reminding you of your mistakes. Don’t worry, there’s no need to let the system get you down. It happens to the best of us. At this point, it is just best to refer to our steps below and fix your computer just as easily as it was to mess it up. The tech community has been alive for years with determining how best to deal with human error – and the net result is usually to limit their access to vital systems.
Gotchya. But How Do I Ultimately Fix This Error?
Since there are a number of reasons for the hard disk failing, there is no one sure shot method to go about fixing this problem. It’s hard to discern the reason for the error by just simply staring at the error message. It isn’t completely necessary for the hard disk to be failing (though it is the most likely cause of this message). The message could also pop up due to system or partition errors. Therefore, below are several solutions that can be implemented aiming at tackling the problem. If you are unsure of what is causing the problem, it would be best to just try out the solutions one by one till one of them eventually work and fix the error.
“Hard disks have disappointed me more than most technologies.” – Steve Wozniak
Solution #1: Use the file checker option
Windows has a beautiful tool that can help you fix errors easily, which surprisingly enough isn’t known to most users. Since you probably don’t know if the system file is damaged or vital, the System File Checker will do that for you! Follow the steps below and you should be on your way to fixing the error:
- Click the start button
- Enter cmd into the search box at the bottom of the start menu.
- A Command Prompt application should appear. Right click it and select ‘Run as Administrator’
- Type SFC /scannow in the command prompt and press the Enter Key. The Command Prompt should look something like this:
This is a quick method that lets you know if there is a system violation in any of your files. This prompt scans all the files on the computer and replaces corrupted system files with a backup copy. Be sure to leave the window open until the entire process is complete.
Solution #2: ChkDsk is the way to go
Remember to not panic when you see this error. You have found this article, so you are pretty much already on your way to solving it. If you already tried the first method and the error message is still popping up, why not try the second solution:
- Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 of the previous solution.
- The next step is to check all your disks. This is done via the command prompt terminal. To do this, when you have cmd open, type ‘chkdsk C: /f‘
- Replace the ‘C:’ with ‘D:’, ‘E:‘ etc depending on the number of partitions you have and their respective labels.
Eg: chkdsk C: /f
chkdsk D: /f
chkdsk E: /f and so on.
(Pro Tip: that you can open multiple instances of command prompt and run the commands for each drive simultaneously so as to save time.)
The cmd dialogue box should look something like this:
‘chkdsk’ is mainly used to check and report the errors that may persist in the NTFS and FAT files. In that case, the issue should be fixed after using this solution. The only risk while running this command is the fear of losing data. Since numerous modifications take place on the file allocation table, it is advisable to backup your data before performing this function. Pro Tip: the above screenshot will look MUCH different if ChkDsk finds errors!
If the above solutions don’t work, fear not! There’s a final, drastic solution (that may involve data loss 🙁 ). You can RMA (return merchandise authorization) your disk, should it still be under warranty!
Pro Tips Galore:
- There’s a very high chance that there is a problem with the hardware of your hard drive Even though RMAing a disk is probably the last thing you want to do, it probably is your best shot considering that most hard disks need special machines and tools to be able to get the disk back and running. It is advised to get in touch with your brand’s service center or look up their online customer support and contact them, especially if your hard drive is still under the warranty period.
- Should that fail (ie. you’re not under warranty), buy a new disk, put Windows on it, and start fresh. I know this doesn’t sound like the best solution – but it may be your ultimate one.
Want to read more about errors I’ve proposed how to fix – hopefully in the same light-hearted tone that puts your emotional disaster of facing a problem out of the situation (for the moment…)? Try clicking my name as the author for an exhaustive list of my published works, or searching in the top-right for possible error codes we’ve fixed by other authors!
Ryan is a computer enthusiast who has a knack for fixing difficult and technical software problems. Whether you’re having issues with Windows, Safari, Chrome or even an HP printer, Ryan helps out by figuring out easy solutions to common error codes.