Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions to Data Corruption

working on desktop

Digital corruption happens when the data in a file is jumbled. This occurs when the file’s 1s and 0s are tampered with, causing its integrity to be compromised.

For instance, if you view a corrupted text document, you could see strange ASCII words. If the file is severely damaged, the computer cannot access it at all. Instead, it shows an error message stating that the file could not be read.

Data corruption develops on the hard disk when a system cannot finish writing data to a file or when parts of the file become inaccessible. Generally, damaged files are a common source of data loss, especially if you don’t have access to data recovery services.

Data Corruption on a Hard Drive

Mechanical component failures, software problems, and even electrical events can cause data corruption on hard drives.

Because larger files take up more space on a hard drive’s platters, serious data corruption occurs more often with larger files than smaller files. Corruption can damage several records or folders simultaneously if a hard disk has tracking difficulties or read or write head problems. 

Poor operating conditions typically produce physical hard disk difficulties that lead to corruption, although all hard drives often fail due to stress and wear over time.

Symptoms of Data Loss and File Corruption

The issues of sudden system shutdowns, blue screen of death (BSOD), and software crashes are frequently preceded by file corruption errors. It hinders the hard disk from successfully performing a specified procedure, resulting in localized file damage.

The following are some of the most well-known causes of data corruption on hard drives:

  • Software errors
  • Virus infection
  • Ineffective antivirus software 
  • Read or write head tracking issues
  • Sudden power failures during file processes

When files are corrupted, their parent applications frequently fail to open them. Two of the most typical error messages are “(filename) is not recognized” and “file format is not recognized.” Documents and folders might sometimes vanish completely, and your computer’s operating system may refer to bad sectors when refusing to perform specific commands.

Because some physical hard disk problems might result in file corruption, you may hear clicking sounds, feel excessive vibration, or experience other physical symptoms. If you see signs of a mechanical or electronic breakdown, turn off any hard disk at once.

Avoid writing data to any hard disk that has a history of file corruption. Running applications and generating files may reduce the likelihood of a successful external hard drive data recovery, depending on the cause of the damage. 

Ways to Recover Data from Corrupted Files

Because damaged sectors on a hard drive’s platters can cause file corruption, many computer users utilize applications like Scandisk to fix the problem. The programs try to find faulty sectors on hard drives, allowing them to run more effectively the next time around. 

While disk utilities may sometimes cure minor problems, they can also cause your media harm. In fact, running a utility may destroy the magnetic material that saves your files or if the read or write heads of a hard disk come into contact with the platters.


While some systems offer specific utilities for dealing with corruption, no utility can eliminate mechanical or electronic media concerns. For best results, make sure to keep your hard drive powered off until you consult with a data recovery provider to avoid hard drive damage.

Finchum’s Computer Services consists of highly-skilled data recovery professionals in Greenwood, IN. We’re committed to preserving and analyzing evidence and preventing data destruction. Do you have questions? Contact us today so we can help you with your problems!  


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