A reader  from Idaho finds themselves stuck in a frustrating loop with their hard drive.  They write “On bootup, my new laptop runs “scan and fix” on the hard drive during Toshiba startup screen. It finishes 100%. After logging in, Activity Center alerts with message about finding problem with hard disk and needs to run a scan. After the scan finishes, a reboot request pops up. Ok, guess what? During the reboot, the “scan and fix” runs again and after logging in the alert says there is a problem, run a scan and another reboot. Running chkdsk [driveletter:] /f /r /x /offlinescanandfix on each partition (recovery, EFI, etc) always comes up clean – No Problems Found.   I am out of ideas on how to stop this endless loop of Scan, Fix, Reboot.  Event Manager says: A file on the volume is no longer reachable from its parent directory. Ref number is provided. Parent Dir name is Unknown. …the file needs to be reconnected is (Hex number).  chkdsk and repair-volume in PowerShell have not fixed. Any thoughts?”  Thanks for the great question!

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From your description, there are two possibilities.  Of course, I haven’t been able to watch you work with your hard drive, so I can’t say for 100%, but these seem like the two best possibilities.  I will tell you that, of the two, the second seems much more likely to me.

1)  It could be a virus.  Viruses can replicate almost any errors on your PC, including the ones that you’ve described here.  The biggest problem is that, since you can’t launch your machine, you’re going to have to either do or have some work done on your PC without booting it up.  If you are familiar with Hijack This or some similar type of software, and have access to load it onto a thumb drive, then you can use that and at least get your machine to the point where you can power it on.  If you don’t know how to use it, DON’T USE IT!  Let someone who knows how use it.  Why?  Because, among other things, Hijack This is a registry editor.  In other words, it changes the basic operational parameters of your computer.  Blindly using a program like this on your machine is a little like performing brain surgery on someone, without knowing the basic landscape of the brain, in order to cure their headaches.  In other words, you might kill the patient.

But I’ll bet you a whole nickel that it’s not a virus.

2)  It could be that your hard drive is failing.  Not only have I seen similar situations in my days of fixing computers, but I’ve experienced something like it myself.

People tend to think about how old their “computer” is, without thinking about how old the components in the machine are.  Your components fail at different rates.  The functional life span of a hard drive can be as little as five years.  Think about the fact that, when your machine is running, your hard drive, unlike a lot of the other components in your machine, is pretty much constantly running.  This wear and tear is made worse on a laptop because of how much your drive gets bumped around as you move your machine from place to place.

The chkdsk function on your machine looks for bad “sectors” on your hard drive, which could be a physical problem (in which case the program tells the machine to ignore that sector in future, basically quarantining it) or a software problem, in which case the program fixes it.  Too many bad physical sectors = unreadable hard drive.

So my ultimate suggestion is to take your machine in to your friendly neighborhood computer geek, and describe the problem to him or her exactly as you’ve described it here, especially if your hard drive is more than five years old.  They’ll have a much better idea of what the problem might be, and, if it is a bad hard drive, can replace it and retrieve whatever can be retrieved from your old drive.

I hope that this helps!

~ Randal Schaffer