While defragmenting a partition will speed up disk access by placing files in contiguous disk clusters, another key disk maintenance task that should be performed at least monthly is running Check Disk. On a Windows 2000 or XP system, Check Disk is accessible from the Tools tab in the properties of a drive (like C). To open the tool, press the Check Now button in the Error-checking section.
Check Disk has two main purposes – to check for file system errors, and to scan for bad disk sectors and fix them if possible. As an electromagnetic component, a hard disk is susceptible to surface errors, so it’s important for the system to be aware of them and allocate data to known good sectors. By the same token, file system errors can cause data loss or system instability, so you’ll definitely want to check for them as well. Both tasks are easily configured by selecting the appropriate check boxes in the Check Disk tool.
As a general rule, Check Disk should be run at least once per month on newer systems, and more often (perhaps once every two weeks) on older PCs. If your PC is running an older version of Windows like 98 or ME, Check Disk is not included. Luckily, these systems include an older utility known as Scandisk – while it’s not quite as pretty as Check Disk, Scandisk performs similar disk checking functions on these versions of Windows.