Using System File Checker — Reprise

By | September 29, 2011
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This tip is for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 (32bit and 64bit).

System File Checker, or SFC, is one of the best features of Windows, and also one of the least used. And that’s too bad. Many computer problems can be solved by running it, and yet very few people ever use it. To be honest, we forget about it too. It just so happens that this week we had a problem with one of our computers, and we happened to remember SFC and used it to repair some system files that had been replaced when we were trying an experiment. Yes, we do things like that sometimes…

Anyway, the System File Checker utility (SFC), has been available since Windows 98. 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.

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 DOS-like window and to enter commands and use switches. But before you decide to skip this tip right here – with the talk of DOS boxes and commands and switches – don’t skip this tip. At least 50% of you could benefit from this tip. 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 we could have 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 don’t have a Windows installation CD, the restore disk that came with your computer will work.

Plan on at least 45 minutes to run System File Checker. It may not take it that long, but plan on at least 45 minutes just in case. Whether or not SFC tells you to, you should reboot after you’ve run System File Checker 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:\windows\system32\kernel32.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.

5 thoughts on “Using System File Checker — Reprise

  1. Linda

    Hi TC and EB
    I did not get an original Windows Cd of my Windows Operating system program but they did give me 3 Cd’s of the operating system at Future Shop when they installed it, my question is which of the 3 Cd’s should I put in when doing the SFC /SCANNOW to correct corrupt files, as I know there is one but do not know which one, this problem seemed to occur after Microsoft installed Internet Explorer 9 Hope you can help

  2. John Castaldi

    I have tried S.F.C. several times in response to columns I’ve read. It doesn’t work!!!
    When it come time to read and replace files from the installation disc, it can’t read the disc or find the files it needs. I upgraded to Service Packs two and three by using Windows upgrade. I do not have discs for those upgrades. Can this be the reason S.F.C. doesn’t work for me??? I know that Windows will not permit you to use older files than those already installed.

    1. infoave Post author

      It could be a bad disk or it could be that you can’t files older files to replace newer ones. But mostly Windows system files can be replaced from the Windows DVD.

  3. E. L. Greene

    I’d like to do this, but Windows came on my system so I don’t have an installation disc and didn’t receive a restore disc. I made recovery discs, but there are three of them, so I don’t guess I can use those. Any way to get the restore discs?

  4. Matthew Swisher

    My laptop did not come with any recovery disks or restore disks, but it does have RECOVERY (D:) drive. Isn’t that the same thing, and will running SFC work using that?

    Thanks for all you do for others! I’ve been with you guys nearly from the start of Cloud Eight, what, 13 or 14 years ago? I try to support you in any way I can. I have hundreds of contacts, and there’s not a one of them who doesn’t know about your good deeds.

    Love your new fall stationary!


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