How to Fix “The File or Directory is Corrupt and Unreadable” Error on Windows 10 Computer

Let’s say you connect an external hard drive containing important files to your Windows 10 computer. But instead of accessing it, you get the error “the file or directory is corrupt and unreadable”.

Now the only way to get your files back is to resolve this error. Although it might seem a little intimidating, especially if this is your first time encountering this error, there is no need to worry. We will see what causes this error and how to fix it.

What causes the error “The file or directory is corrupt and unreadable”?

There are several reasons for this error, but if you can identify the cause, the troubleshooting process should be quicker. Here are some possible reasons for the “The file or directory is corrupt and unreadable” error:

  • Physical damage. If the storage device is permanently damaged, you cannot access the stored information. Also check the integrity of the hardware connection. Check for damaged USB ports or cables.
  • MFT or FAT damaged. The MFT (Master File Table) contains the type of file or directory, its size, the time of creation or modification, among other information. So you will not be able to access your file if the MFT is damaged or corrupted. FAT (File Allocation Table) is a system similar to MFT, and it was designed for hard drives. If the FAT is malfunctioning, it could also lead to the same error.
  • Virus or malware infection. It’s no secret that you might infect your computer with viruses or malware when you download something from unofficial sources. This could lead to corruption of your connected external devices and prevent you from accessing your files.

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Related: External drive not showing or detected? How to fix it

1. Restart your computer

If you are in the habit of putting your computer into sleep mode instead of shutting it down, you may encounter various problems and slowdowns. So it’s possible that “The file or directory is corrupt and unreadable” error is just a temporary issue that should go away once you restart your computer.

If you still get the same error after restarting, move on to the next solution.

2. Disable your antivirus

If your antivirus detects a possible threat on the external drive, it could prevent you from accessing it. If you are sure that there are no threats on the drive, you can temporarily disable the antivirus while using the external drive.

Related: How to disable Windows Defender

3. Change file location

If you get the error when trying to open a specific folder or file, try changing its location. So, if you want to open a file or folder from an external drive, copy it to the internal drive and try to access it from there.

4. Analyze the drive

Scan drive from Properties is an effective way to find drive errors. Based on the errors detected by Windows, you can choose the right tool to fix it. To scan the drive, right-click on it and select Properties. Then, in the Tools tab, click To verify to start the analysis.

5. Set a new drive letter

Although it’s a weird trick, it can help you to fix “the file or directory is corrupt and unreadable” error on your Windows computer. Follow these steps to change the drive letter:

  1. hurry Win + R launch a To run dialogue.
  2. Type devmgmt.msc and click Okay.
  3. In the Disk Management window, right-click on the external drive and select Change drive letter and paths.
  4. Select the drive letter and click on the Change button.
  5. In the Change drive letter or path window, check the Assign the following drive letter and choose a new letter from the drop-down menu.
  6. Confirm the action.


Changing drive letter in Windows 10.

Your external drive now has a new drive letter and you should be able to open it. If you’re using a script to open files from the drive, you’ll need to modify that as well.

You may not be able to access some files or folders due to memory issues. To fix this problem, you need to use the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool. The easiest way to launch the tool is to type Windows Memory Diagnostic in the Start menu search bar and select the Best match. Then select Reboot now and check for issues.


Running the Memory Diagnostic Tool in Windows 10.

To note: Before starting the scan, save all your work and close all running applications.

7. Check your computer for malware

If you have noticed other problems on your computer besides the inability to access external hard drives, you may have a virus infestation. You can use your third-party antivirus or a tool built into Windows to fix it:

  1. Open Settings and go to Update and security.
  2. In the left pane, click Windows Security.
  3. To select Protection against viruses and threats.
  4. Click it Scan option and select Full Scan.
  5. After the scan is complete, restart your computer and try to access the external hard drive.

Scanning for Malware in Windows 10.

8. Run a command line

If you still get “The file or directory is corrupt and unreadable” error when you try to open an external hard drive, the drive might have a bad sector. In this case, you need to run the chkdsk command.

In the Start menu search bar, search for command prompt and select Execute as administrator. Then type chkdskx: /f /r and press Enter. Don’t forget to replace X with your drive letter.


Running the chkdsk line in Windows 10.

Windows will now scan the drive and look for bad sectors, directory errors, lost clusters and recover data if necessary. The scanning time depends on the reading speed of the drive and the size of the data.


If you run the command and the command prompt displays the message “Cannot open volume for direct access”, restart your computer and try again. Also, you may get the message “Unable to determine volume version and status. CHKDSK aborted. Error. In this case, the drive data is corrupted.

9. Format external hard drive

If you still cannot access your files, there is another solution you can try. Disk formatting. While this will fix the problem, it will also delete any data you have stored on the drive. Before formatting it, you need to recover the data.

To format your drive, right click on it and select Format. In the Format window, select the file system and check the Quick format option. Then click To start up to start the process.

Related: How to Fix Slow External Hard Drive in Windows 10

Access your files without error

Running into errors is always frustrating, especially when they prevent you from accessing your files. But with a little patience, you can resolve almost any error on your computer. It could serve as a reminder to always back up important files and folders. You can use a cloud storage service to do this as there are many options available.


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