Windows was unable to repair the drive: How can I fix that?

Tashreef Shareef
by Tashreef Shareef
Windows & Software Expert
Tashreef Shareef is a software developer turned tech writer. He discovered his interest in technology after reading a tech magazine accidentally. Now he writes about everything tech from Windows to iOS and streaming services... Read more
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  • The Windows was unable to repair the drive error can suddenly occur with either external or internal drives.
  • You should try to boot your system in Safe Mode to be able to start tweaking the problems.
  • A built-in tool will help you determine if your drives are malfunctioning.
  • If the drive really has an issue, you can send it for repairs, retrieve the data and replace it.
What to do if Windows was unable to repair the drive

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Windows 10 OS comes with a built-in System File Checker and Disk Checker utility. If the OS detects a corruption or malfunctioning of the drive, it will ask you to run the CHKSDK utility to fix the drive.

The tool has a pretty good record of repairing minor corruption and missing problems with the hard drive.

However, at times the built-in diagnostic tools may fail to repair the drive and show Windows was unable to repair the drive error.

The full error reads the following:

Error check – Example hard-drive

There was a problem repairing this drive. Windows was able to repair the drive. Close this dialogue box, and then try to repair the drive again.

This is error can occur with your external as well as internal drive out of the blue.

A quick solution to this error is to restart your PC without the hard drive or USB drive and connect it after the PC restarts. If the internal hard drive has this error, see if a quick restart can fix it.

If a quick restart doesn’t fix the Windows cannot repair the drive error, follow the solutions in this article that will help you fix the problem on your Windows device.

How do I fix Windows was unable to repair the drive errors?

1. Boot into Safe Mode

1.1 If you can log in to Windows

  1. Press Windows Key + R, type msconfig, and hit Enter.
    Safe Mode - Safe Boot Windows 10
  2. Open Boot tab, select Boot Options and check the Safe boot option.
  3. Click OK, then restart the PC.

1.2 If you can see the lock screen

  1. Click on Power button, press hold the Shift key, and click Restart.
  2. From the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot, and then Advanced Options.
  3. Next, click on Startup Settings and select Restart.

After your PC restarts, you should see a list of option. Press 4 or F4 on your keyboard to start the PC in Safe Mode.

1.3 If you can’t log in to Windows

  1. Click on Advanced Options.
  2. This will open Choose an Option screen.
    advanced options - startup settings.
  3. Click on Troubleshoot, select Advanced Options, then go to Startup Settings and select Restart.
  4. Windows will restart and show a lot of options. Press 4 or whichever key denoted for Safe Mode.

Windows will show a Recovery menu if it fails to boot normally three times over. You can manually interrupt the boot process by pressing the Power button when Window starts to boot.

During next restart, Windows will show Preparing Automatic Repair screen and then asks you to select a user account. Windows will try to diagnose the issue and present you with an Automatic Repair screen.

Note that some of these fixes require you to be able to login to Windows. If you are unable to log in or if the boot process fails, you can try to boot Windows into Safe Mode.

Safe Mode is a diagnostic mode in Windows OS that helps you to clean boot the PC with absolute minimal services running to boot the computer successfully.

This way, if software or driver is conflicting with the booting process, you can log in without the error for diagnostic purposes.

Now that you know how to boot into Safe Mode let’s dive in and look at the solutions to fix Windows was unable to repair the drive error.

2. Run Check Disk tool from Command Prompt

  1. Type cmd in Windows search and click on Run as administrator to start Command Prompt with complete privileges.
  2. Now type the following command and hit Enter. Make sure that you enter the right drive letter first and then enter the command: Chkdsk /f /r

The first solution is to run the check disk tool again but manually from the Command Prompt.

In the above command /r locates bad sectors and recovers data where possible and /f force the drive to dismount before beginning the scanning process.

Wait for the check disk process to complete. Windows will automatically scan and fix the drive for any error and corruption issues.

3. Run a diagnostic tool

Assuming that the disk error is occurring due to your external hard drive, you can use any diagnostic tools to pinpoint the problem and fix the bad sectors.

Some hard drive makers like WD offer their own diagnostic tools. If not, you can always use third-party software like the one recommended below to run and test the drive for errors.

While this software may not fix the error, you can always prevent the hard drive from serious damage due to continued use under bad conditions.

Get DiskDrill

4. Run sfc /scannow

  1. Open Command Prompt as Admin.
  2. In the Command Prompt, type the following command and hit Enter: Sfc /scannow
  3. Exit Command Prompt.
  4. Restart your PC and check for any improvements.

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If the Windows was unable to repair the drive error appears to have affected your main local drive, you run the built-in System File Checker tool to find and fix corrupt or missing system files.

To run System File Checker, you need to access the command prompt. Read our Safe Mode-related instructions mentioned earlier in this post to boot into Safe Mode in case Window is not booting normally.

5. Run Startup Repair

5.1 Run the Startup Repair from the Advanced options menu

  1. From the Choose an Option screen, click on Troubleshoot and select Advanced Options.
  2. Select Startup Repair under Advanced Options.

Windows has another built-in recovery tool that you can use to scan and repair issues that may be preventing Windows 10 from loading correctly.

You can access the Startup Repair tool from the Choose an option menu. You can read more about accessing the Choose an option menu in the Safe Mode section of this article above.

5.2 Use an installation disk or a bootable media

  1. Insert the installation media into the PC and start the computer. You will see a Windows installation screen.
  2. Click on Repair your computer option at the bottom left.
  3. From the next screen, select Troubleshoot and choose Startup Repair.

The Startup Repair tool won’t fix hardware or serious system problems. But it can fix any minor issues that may prevent the normal Windows boot process.

If booting up takes too long, you can use this expert article to fix the problem right away.

6. Check the hard drive for hardware failure

It also might be the case that you can’t boot into Windows even with a bootable USB flash drive and that means you probably have a bad hard drive.

Whether it is an internal SDD/HDD or external HDD, the only way to make sure of the hardware failure is to remove the drive from the computer and connect it to another working computer.

If the other computer does not recognize the drive, you mostly have a faulty drive and you will need to repair or replace it.

Connect a spare drive, if you have one, to your non-working computer and try to boot from it. If the PC recognizes the hard drive, it could be a hard drive failure.

In this case, you do not have many options. You can try to send the hard drive back and claim the warranty and recover the data from the hard drive taking professional help.

7. Clean Install Windows

Assuming you don’t have a hardware failure, you can try to perform a clean install of Windows as a last resort.

This is a solution that many don’t like, but at times this is the last option to get your computer working again.

In case you can log in to Windows, you need to create a data backup of your important files and folders. 

If you are unable to boot into Windows, but your hard drive is not dead, you can still recover the data from the hard drive using Linux Mint OS via USB drive.

Alternatively, you can also use any third-party software recovery program that will allow you to do the same.

You can find a detailed guide on how to backup data if Windows won’t boot up with a simple Google search.

Once the data backup is created, you can clean Install Windows by creating installation media. Follow our guide on how to create a bootable USB flash drive for Windows for more details.

The Windows cannot repair the drive while it’s in use errors can be fixed with CHKDSK or the System File Checker tool most of the time. On an external hard drive or USB drive, you can format the disk if feasible.

However, if the problem is with the primary local drive, the error can create serious issues. Follow all the solutions suggested in this article that may help you fix the error on your Windows PC.

You might also be interested in consulting our list including the best PC repair and optimization software to get your system in perfect shape again.

Do let us know if any of the solutions did the trick for you or if you have a new solution that deserves to be on the list here in the comments.

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