Sometimes it’s tricky to know if there’s a problem with your laptop or not. Maybe Windows is painfully slow to load, maybe the whole system seems a little sluggish. You’re unsure if it’s just getting old, or if there’s an actual issue. Other times, it’s blindingly obvious not only that there’s a problem, but what the problem is.
Take this lovely little purple number that came in recently, which had either inexplicably decided to communicate exclusively in Wingdings (a bizarre font made entirely of characters rather than letters), or it was suffering from a serious case of corruption. The latter was the case, and we ran corrupted file recovery on it to restore the system, but before we did it was looking a little…well…
As it turned out it wasn’t a language issue, but rather that the Windows system files had become corrupted.
While this particular incident gave us a very visual demonstration of file corruption, it’s not always quite so obvious. That slow running or strangely acting system that’s making you wonder if you’ve picked up some malware may actually be a case of file corruption that’s left your computer files unable to perform as they should.
The most common causes of file corruption are sudden power surges or outages, errors caused during updates (Windows is an absolute b!tch when it comes to updates), or a complete system crash.
Fortunately for the owner of this HP we were able to restore the system to its former glory and send it home fully functional with all its files intact.
But file corruption is one of the less commonly known causes of computer troubles, so we thought we’d take a minute to tell you a little more about corrupted file recovery…
What Is Corrupted File Recovery?
When a file is damaged and no longer able to perform its function it’s corrupted. File corruption can happen to any file type, from system files to program files and any form of document. Pretty much everyone has experienced an issue with file corruption at some point. In a lot of cases the solution is simple – a good only-fashioned reboot (ya know, turn it off and on again…) will fix it.
But a lot of the time the issue is more complex.
Every single file on your computer – be is PC, laptop, Windows or Mac – has a specific structure and content. When all the information is arranged correctly, and everything is in the right place, your file will work perfectly. With a lot of files – Windows system files in particular – you don’t even know they’re there.
They just sit happily on your computer, doing their thing, never causing an issue.
But, switch that information around so it’s not in the right place, or write the wrong info on a file, and suddenly things start getting a bit squirly. Your data will be displayed and used differently, and this can cause issues.
When a file is corrupted it can appear scrambled or unreadable. It might not open at all. And – as in the curious case of the purple HP laptop – it can cause your entire system to forget how to speak English…or any language not comprised of random characters
Corrupted File Recovery is, quite simply, the process of putting the information in your files back in the right place, removing incorrect data that shouldn’t be there, and restoring correct data that has been inadvertently removed.
What Are Windows System Files?
A Windows system file is used by your computer’s operating system, and is instrumental to the very function of that system. System files contain code that essentially tells your computer how to process and respond to various commands.
If they are moved, deleted, or in any way altered, it can potentially cause widespread systems failure, or a general instability in your computer’s functionality.
Think of it this way, imagine your Enter key no longer added a carriage return but instead typed an exclamation mark. Now imagine every single key on your keyboard did something other than what it was supposed to. You’d be typing like normal but what would appear on your screen would be absolute nonsense.
How Do You Identify System Files?
You’re not likely to notice your system files unless something goes wrong with them. You don’t need to do anything with them, they just silently ensure your system runs. They usually have a .sys extension, but you might also see files with extensions of .pcf, .dll, .so, .idx, .dat, and more.
A lot of these files will be ‘read-only’ or have ‘hidden’ attributes. This is an extra layer of protection to prevent you from accidentally screwing them up.
There’s a reason this is necessary – one wrong click on one of these files can potentially have catastrophic consequences for your machine’s ability to function. You won’t generally see system files in normal searches of the system, so they’re not actually that easy to find unless you’re actively looking for them.
That’s a good thing.
Leave them alone!
Can Corrupted Files Be Recovered?
Yep, they certainly can. While it’s not always possible to fix corrupted files, they can frequently be recovered or restored. Where that isn’t possible, the system itself can be restored to its former glory and your data recovered.
How To Avoid A Corrupted File Nightmare…
File corruption usually happens while you’re trying to save something. If your computer experiences a power surge or loss of power, or if it crashes, the file that was being saved at the point of failure is likely to be corrupted. If you have damaged segments of storage media on your hard drive this can also be the cause of the issue. And of course, if your computer falls victim to malware or viruses, they can also be the culprit.
There are two main sources of system file corruption:
- Data corruption at the storage level, usually caused by a power failure during a critical write operation, or physical defects causing random bit flips.
- Data corruption within your file system as a result of bugs.
Because we know this, there are a few logical steps you can take to prevent file corruption…
Choose A Proven And Resilient File System…
Avoid anything that’s non-journaling or new. When the proverbial sh!t hits the fan your filesystem must know how to detect and recover from storage-related data corruption. Most filesystems ignore corruption in any data they are managing, instead focusing on keeping that data correctly organised.
Use A Reliable Storage System…
Always know what you’re buying. Whether you’re buying a new machine or upgrading an existing one, make sure you’re choosing reliable storage elements. For example, where SSDs are concerned avoid unknown brands and go for something proven, like Samsung, to ensure you don’t suffer data corruption in the event of power loss.
Adding redundancies like RAID 5 or 6 can also be used to improve the reliability of your individual storage elements, however, it’s better to start with a reliable base than it is to try an make the unreliable better!
Put A Backup System In Place…
Let’s face it, at some point in the life of your computer the odds are that SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG. Put an effective backup system in place to ensure that, in the event the worst happens, you can – at the very least – recover all your data!
Need Help With Corrupted Files?
Corrupted file recovery is all in a days work for our tech geeks. If you suspect your system may be suffering from corruption, or you find yourself staring at a machine that’s suddenly speaking fluent nonsense, give us a call on 01606 531631, or pop into the office with your machine and we’ll take a look – we’re just down the hill from Victoria Infirmary in Northwich.