SFC – One of the least used but best features of Windows

By | May 19, 2011
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System File Checker, or SFC, is one of the best features of Windows; it is also one of the least used. And that’s too bad. Many computer problems can be easily solved by running it, yet very few people use it. To be honest, we often forget about it too. It just so happens that this week we had a problem with one of our computers, used SFC to repair some system files that had been altered during one of our infamous experiments. Yes, we do things like that sometimes…

The System File Checker is used to scan for missing, altered or corrupted system files and to extract the original (correct) file and replace or repair damaged files. You will find SFC on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7

Probably one of the reasons why SFC isn’t more widely used is because it’s not a simple point-and-click program. It requires users to run it from a DOS-like window and enter commands and use command-line switches. But before you decide to skip this tip  – with all this talk of DOS boxes and commands and switches – don’t skip this tip. Most of you could benefit from this tip, and with just a little patience, all of you could learn to run it. So, hunker down, and we’ll make it as simple as possible.

There are only slight differences in these instructions for different versions of Windows. In Windows XP you can run this without opening the Command window with administrator rights, while Vista and Windows 7 users will need to open the Command window as an administrator. While you may be the only person who ever uses your computer, on Vista and Windows 7, you’re not, by default, an Administrator. Somewhere in Microsoft’s big brain, they’ve decided Windows is safer if users aren’t administrators by default. This must have occurred to them after Windows XP came out. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Before you start to run System File Checker, make sure you have your Windows installation disk inserted in your CD/DVD drive. If you want to repair or replace missing, altered or damaged files, that’s where Windows is going to get them. If you’re one of those who doesn’t  have a Windows installation CD, the restore (or “recovery”) disk that came with your computer should work for you.

Plan on at least 45 minutes to run System File Checker. It may not take it that long but sometimes it can even take longer. Whether or not SFC tells you to, you should reboot after you’ve run System File Checker, especially if it has repaired or replaced any files.

OK. To run System File Checker (hereinafter known as SFC because I’m tired of typing System File Checker) do this:

Windows XP users – Press the Windows Key + the “R” key. In the Run command line type CMD and press enter.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 users: Click Start, All Programs, System Tools, Accessories, and right-click on “Command Prompt” and select “Run as administrator”. This is important. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to do any of the following.

OK. Now that you’re all sitting there with a big black box on your screen (we hope), you need to type in some commands. DOS stuff is not very forgiving, so you have to type these commands exactly – and spaces are important too.

To run SFC so that it scans and replaces/repairs altered, missing, or damaged Windows System Files, type the following at the cursor:


(Note: there is a space between SFC and the backslash, see it? Good. Don’t forget that space!)

Here are some other commands and switches you can use with SFC:


The SFC /VERIFYONLY command scans the integrity of all protected system files but doesn’t repair or replace any damaged, missing, or altered files.


The SFC /SCANFILE command allows you to check the integrity of a single file. For instance:

SFC /SCANFILE=c:windowssystem32kernel32.dll

There are other SFC commands and switches you can use, but for us and most of you, the only command you’ll need to use is:


So there you go. Try System File Checker to check the integrity of your Windows system files. It works well and can fix some of those common, nagging Windows errors.

6 thoughts on “SFC – One of the least used but best features of Windows

  1. kiwibarb

    It seems I paid all that money for Reimage, when I could have used SFC. I have no complaints about the service or the results with Reimage, but it was rather expensive.

    1. infoave Post author

      SFC and Reimage are completely different things. If SFC did what Reimage does no one would need Reimage.SFC does nothing but replace missing or corrupted Windows system files. Reimage does that as well as repairing the registry, removing invalid entries, removing harmful or malicious files and a lot more. SFC can only replace files which are missing or corrupted. It’s something to use when your computer is having minor problems.

  2. Kaye

    OK wise ones I’ve tried to run SFC but the WIN CD I have doesn’t have SP3 on is there a work around for this?


  3. Michael Tindall

    As a comparative novice at computing, could you please advise me about my worry, as follows.
    I am up to date with all the updates to my Windows XP Home. When SFC is repairing or replacing missing, altered or damaged files using the installation CD, does it remove a file, including any updates which may be installed in the file, and replace with the original version, minus up dates?

  4. Irene

    Right on kiwibarb. I also paid for Reimage which is great but could have used SFC instead. Irene


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