How to Fix the “File or Directory Is Corrupted and Unreadable” Error on Windows 10
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You connect to your Windows 10 computer an external hard drive containing some important files. But instead of accessing them, you get the “file or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error.
Now, the only way to get your files is to solve this error. While this might sound a bit intimidating, especially if it’s the first time you encounter this error, there’s no need to worry. We’ll take a look at what causes this error and how to fix it.
What Causes the “File or Directory is Corrupted and Unreadable” Error?
There are multiple reasons for this error but if you can identify the cause, the troubleshooting process should be shorter. Here are a few possible reasons for the “file or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error:
- Physical damage. If the storage device is permanently damaged, you can’t access the stored information. Also, check the integrity of the hardware connection. Look for any damaged USB ports or cables.
- Incorrect Operations. Most of the time, nothing bad happens when you just unplug a USB flash stick from your computer without ejecting it first. But if there’s a reading of transferring process still going while you unplug the USB, you’ll lose system information files, causing the issue at hand.
- Damaged MFT or FAT. The MFT (Master File Table) contains the file or directory type, size, creation, or modification time, amongst other info. So you will not be able to access your file if the MFT gets damaged or corrupted. The FAT (File Allocation Table) is a system similar to the MFT, and it was designed for hard drives. If the FAT malfunctions, it could also lead to the same error.
- Virus or malware infection. It’s no secret that you could infect your computer with viruses or malware when downloading something from unofficial sources. This could lead to the corruption of your connected external devices and stop you from accessing your files.
1. Restart Your Computer
If you’ve got into the habit of putting your computer into Sleep mode instead of shutting it down, you might run into different issues and slowdowns. So there’s a chance the “file or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error is just a temporary glitch that should go away once you’ve restarted your computer.
If you still get the same error after the restart, move on to the next solution.
2. Disable Your Antivirus
If your antivirus detects a possible threat on the external drive, it could stop you from accessing it. If you are sure there are no threats on the drive, you can temporarily disable the antivirus while using the external drive.
3. Change the Location of the File
In case you are getting the error when you try to open a specific folder or file, try changing its location. So if you want to open a file or folder from an external drive, copy it on the internal drive and try to access it from there.
4. Scan the Drive
Scanning the drive from Properties is an efficient way to look for any drive errors. Depending on what errors Windows detects, you can choose the right tool to fix them. To scan the drive, right-click it and select Properties. Then, in the Tools tab, click Check to start the scan.
5. Set a New Drive Letter
While this is an odd trick, it might help you solve the “file or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error on your Windows computer. Follow these steps to change the drive letter:
- Press Win + R to launch a Run dialog.
- Type diskmgmt.msc and click OK.
- In the Disk Management window, right-click the external drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
- Select the drive letter and click the Change button.
- In the Change Drive Letter or Path window, check the Assign the following drive letter and choose a new letter from the drop-down menu.
- Confirm the action.
Your external drive now has a new letter, and you should be able to open it. If you are using a script to automatically move files from one folder to another, you’ll need to modify that as well.
There’s a chance you can’t access certain files or folders because of memory-related issues. To fix it, you should use the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool. The easiest way to launch the tool is to input Windows Memory Diagnostic in the Start menu search bar and select the Best match. Then, select Restart now and check for problems.
Note: Before starting the scan, save all your work and close any running apps.
7. Check Your Computer for Malware
If you’ve noticed other problems on your computer, not only the inability to access external hard drives, you may have a virus infestation. You can use your third-party antivirus or a Windows built-in tool to fix it:
- Open Settings and go to Update & Security.
- From the left pane, click Windows Security.
- Select Virus & threat protection.
- Click Scan options and select Full scan.
- Once the scan is complete, restart your computer and try to access the external hard drive.
8. Run a Command Line Check Disk (CHKDSK) Scan
If you are still getting the “file or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error when you try to open an external hard drive, there’s a chance the drive has a bad sector. In this case, you should run the CHKDSK command.
In the Start menu search bar, search for command prompt and select Run as administrator. Then, type chkdsk x: /f /r and press Enter. Remember to replace x with your drive letter.
Windows will now scan the drive and look for any bad sectors, directory errors, lost clusters, and recover data if necessary. How long the scan takes depends on the drive’s read speed and data size.
If you run the command and Command Prompt displays the “Cannot open volume for direct access” message, restart your computer and try again. Also, you could get the “Unable to determine volume version and state. CHKDSK aborted.” error. In this case, the drive’s data is corrupted.
If the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool didn’t help you fix the issue, there’s another built-in feature that you could use to solve the corrupted and unreadable file error. To do so, press Windows key + I to launch Settings and go to Update & security > Recovery > Restart now.
Then, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options. Then, click on the Startup Repair option.
Windows will now search for and repair all possible errors and restart after that. Once it completes the process, try to access your files again.
10. Format the External Hard Drive
If you still can’t access your files, there’s one more solution you can try. Formatting the drive. While it will fix the problem, it will also delete the data you’ve stored on the drive. Before formatting it, you should recover the data from the external hard drive.
To format your drive, right-click it and select Format. In the Format window, select the file system and check the Quick format option. Then, click Start to launch the process.
Access Your Files With No More Errors on Windows
Running into errors is always frustrating, especially when they stop you from accessing your files. But with a bit of patience, you can solve almost any error on your computer. This could serve as a reminder to always back up important files and folders.
While fixing the issue, you might lose the data stored on your computer or external storage devices. However, you can still get back your data if you use a safe and efficient data recovery tool.