How to Fix the “File or Directory is Corrupted and Unreadable” Error on a Windows 10 Computer

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The dreaded “File or Directory is Corrupted and Unreadable” error can stop you from accessing your important files, but you can fix it. Here's how.

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

Now, the only way to get your files is to solve this error. While this might sound a bit intimidating, especially if it's the first time you encounter this error, there's no need to worry. We’ll take a look at what causes this error and how to fix it.

What Causes the “File or Directory is Corrupted and Unreadable” Error?

There are multiple reasons for this error but if you can identify the cause, the troubleshooting process should be shorter. Here are a few possible reasons for the “ File or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error:

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

1. Restart Your Computer

If you’ve got into the habit of putting your computer into Sleep mode instead of shutting it down, you might run into different issues and slowdowns. So there’s a chance the “File or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error is just a temporary glitch that should go away once you’ve restarted your computer.

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


2. Disable Your Antivirus

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

3. Change the Location of the File

In case you are getting the error when you try 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 on the internal drive and try to access it from there.


4. Scan the Drive

Scanning the drive from Properties is an efficient way to look for any drive errors. Depending on what errors Windows detects, you can choose the right tool to fix it. To scan the drive, right-click it and select Properties. Then, in the Tools tab, click Check to start the scan.


5. Set a New Drive Letter

While this is an odd trick, it might help you solve the "file or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error on your Windows computer. Follow these steps to change the drive letter:

  1. Press Win + R to launch a Run dialog.
  2. Type diskmgmt.msc and click OK.
  3. In the Disk Management window, right-click the external drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
  4. Select the drive letter and click 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.

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


6. Run the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool

There’s a chance you can’t access certain files or folders because of memory-related issues. To fix it, you should use the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool. The easiest way to launch the tool is to input Windows Memory Diagnostic in the Start menu search bar and select the Best match. Then, select Restart now and check for problems.


Note: Before starting the scan, save all your work and close any running apps.


7. Check Your Computer for Malware

If you’ve noticed other problems on your computer, not only the inability to access external hard drives, you may have a virus infestation. You can use your third-party antivirus or a Windows built-in tool to fix it:

  1. Open Settings and go to Update & Security.
  2. From the left pane, click Windows Security.
  3. Select Virus & threat protection.
  4. Click the Scan option and select Full scan.
  5. Once the scan is complete, restart your computer and try to access the external hard drive.
 check malware

8. Run a Command Line

If you are still getting the “The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable” error when you try to open an external hard drive, there’s a chance the drive has a bad sector. In this case, you should run the chkdsk command.

In the Start menu search bar, search for command prompt and select Run as administrator. Then, type chkdsk x: /f /r and press Enter. Remember to replace with your drive letter.


Windows will now scan the drive and look for any bad sectors, directory errors, lost clusters, and recover data if necessary. How long the scan takes depends on the drive’s read speed and data size.

If you run the command and Command Prompt displays the “Cannot open volume for direct access” message, restart your computer and try again. Also, you could get the “Unable to determine volume version and state. CHKDSK aborted.” error. In this case, the drive’s data is corrupted.

9. Format the External Hard Drive

If you still can’t access your files, there’s one more solution you can try. Formatting the drive. While it will fix the problem, it will also delete the data you’ve stored on the drive. Before formatting it, you should recover the data.

To format your drive, right-click it and select Format. In the Format window, select the file system and check the Quick format option. Then, click Start to launch the process.