3 Verified Solutions for "The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable"

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What does it mean when the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable?  "The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable" is a common error that always appears when you connect an external storage device to a Windows computer, including external hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card and etc. Once you see this error message, you'll be unable to access the data in your external storage devices.

Sounds terrible? No need to panic. In this post, you'll learn how to fix this error. Additionally, you'll learn the reasons behind this issue so you can avoid the situation next time. Let's dive right in!


Part 1: Top 3 Ways to Fix "The File or Directory is Corrupted and Unreadable"

"The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable" error can be caused by various reasons. But no matter what causes the error, you can try the following solutions to fix the issue.

1.1 Perform a Disk Check through CMD on Windows 10/8.1/8/7

The first thing to do when you encounter "the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable" error is to perform a disk check to see if there are any fixable issues on the disk. You will need to use the command named chkdsk for this purpose. This command scans the drive and fixes various issues like lost clusters, bad sectors, cross-linked files, directory errors, etc.

Follow these instructions:

  • 1. Launch CMD on your Windows PC via the Start Menu. Right click on it to run it as administrator.

  • 2. Type chkdsk /f x: in the Command Prompt window and press Enter to execute the command. X here is the drive letter of the corrupted partition that you want to check. Please replace it with your own drive letter.


Once you execute the above-mentioned command, Windows will scan the drive. It always contains 3 stages, and the checking time totally depends on your data size and the read speed of the drive. During the checking process, it will fix the error simultaneously. Once done, the File Explorer will refresh, and the hard drive will be accessible.


  • If you see a message like "Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process. Would you like to schedule this volume to be checked the next time the system restarts? (Y/N)", you can type "Y" and restart your computer to finish the check. Your disk won't be formatted.

  • volume is in use

  • After you execute the command line, there is a possibility that you'll see another message - Cannot open volume for direct access. It means that there is something blocking you from repairing the errors. If that's the case, you can try to restart your computer.

  • cannot open volume for direct access

  • Additionally, "Unable to determine volume version and state. CHKDSK aborted." is another common message you'll see. It means that the information inside the volume is corrupted. The fastest way to solve this issue is by reformatting the volume.

    unable to determine volume state

1.2  Scan Drive from Disk Properties

Actually, this is another way to check the errors on your hard drive. It can fix the file system errors and scan for bad sectors. Compared to the first method, this one is much easier. Let's check how it works.

  • 1. Double click to open "(My) Computer". Locate the hard drive that has the issue "The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable".

  • 2. Right-click on it, and choose "Properties".

  • 3. Click on the "Tools" tab. You'll see a "Check" button. Click on it to scan the hard drive.

  • 4. If there is any error found on the hard drive, it'll remind you and you can choose to repair the hard drive.

check hard disk

1.3 Format the Device without Losing Data

If the above 2 solutions failed, then you need to format the hard drive. Formatting the hard drive will fix the problem but it will also erase your valuable files. You can use a tool to extract the important files on your hard disk before formatting it.

Extract All Your Files from Hard Disk Before Formatting

AnyRecover is a powerful tool that can extract all your files from a hard disk before you format it. Apart from that, it can also recover data from your formatted hard disk as long as the data has not been overwritten. (In order to increase the chance of data recovery, it's recommended not to write data to your hard disk after formatting.) In a word, by using AnyRecover, all scanned data can be extracted or recovered and kept original.

Why should you use AnyRecover?

  • Fast Scanning: It adopts all-round scan and deep scan that can greatly increase the scanning speed.

  • Easy to Use: Using the software is also very easy thanks to its user-friendly interface. You can extract or recover all files with just a few clicks.

  • Broad Compatibility: Supports over 1000 file formats recovery, including photos, videos, music, documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, etc.), archive, email, etc.

  • Free to Try: You can extract or recover 3 files for free.

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Here is how to use AnyRecover:

Step 1. Firstly, launch AnyRecover on your computer and select the location where you lost data.

select a location

Step 2. After clicking on the "Start" button, the program will start an all-round scan and deep scan simultaneously on the location you selected.

start to scan

Step 3. Finally, preview the scanned files and select those files you want to recover or extract, then click on "Recover" button to get your lost data back.

preview and recover

There are 3 ways to format a hard drive to fix "the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable" issue.

Let's break each method down.

Method 1: Format from File Explorer

  • Step 1. Open (My) Computer/This PC and navigate to your damaged external hard drive.

  • Step 2. Right-click on it and then click the "Format" option.

  • Step 3. Now choose the file system and also tick the Quick Format under Format options. Next, click on the "Start" button to start formatting.


Method 2: Format from Disk Management

  • Step 1. Right-click on the Windows button. Choose "Disk Management" from the list.

  • Step 2. Locate your damaged hard disk and right-click on it. You'll see a "Format" option.

  • Step 3. Click on it and the Format dialog will appear. Customize the settings and press "OK" to begin to process.

format drive in disk management

Method 3: Format a Hard Drive using Command Prompt

This method is a little bit complicated and time-consuming. And a mistake will cause damage to your operating system or other important data. Therefore, please follow the guideline below closely.

  • Step 1. Type Command Prompt in the search bar. Navigate to it and run as administrator.

  • Step 2. Type "diskpart" and press Enter.

  • diskpart

  • Step 3. Type "list disk" and press Enter.

  • list disk

  • Step 4. A list of the available hard disks will show up. Type "select disk x" and press Enter. You should replace "x" with the real disk number that you want to format.

  • Step 5. Type "clean". Please make sure that you have typed the correct disk number in the last step before you press Enter here.

  • Step 6. Once done, you need to create a new partition so that your hard disk is accessible. So, we need to type the command "create partition primary" here.

  • Step 7. Now, format your hard disk to a new file system. The command needs to enter here is "format fs=ntfs".

  • format a hard disk with cmd

  • Step 8. Finally, type "assign" to assign a drive letter for the partition.

Part 2: Causes for "The File or Directory is Corrupted and Unreadable"

There are various reasons behind the error. Once you learn the causes of this error, you can avoid this situation next time.

Cause 1: Corrupted FAT or MFT

The NTFS file system contains a file called MFT (Master File Table). It stores the type, size, date/time of creation, date/time of modification, and any other information of a file or directory. Therefore, once MFT gets damaged, the system won't be able to access the partition with NTFS file system.

FAT is a file system developed for hard drives. The same as MFT, FAT is also used to store file information. So, the damaged FAT will also lead to "the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable" error.

Cause 2: Physical Damage

Some physical damage to the hard disk can cause bad sectors. If a disk sector is permanently damaged, all information stored on that sector will get lost. When a bad sector is detected and marked, the operating system can access the data on it.

Cause 3: Improper Operations

If you eject a hard disk or a USB flash drive from the computer when it's transferring or reading the data, you'll lose some important files containing system information. In fact, this is the main reason for the error.

Cause 4: Virus Infection

When you surf the Internet or download some programs from inofficial websites, there is a great possibility that your computer will be infected with virus. Obviously, those viruses will damage your file, your operating system, even the external devices you connected to the computer.


The physical damage to the hard disk, improper operations and virus infection will all lead to the issue of "the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable". So, it's important to protect your hard disk from physical damage and install some anti-virus programs on your computer to disinfect the disk regularly.


By Simon Marcus , to Hard Drive Recovery

Updated: May 24, 2021

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