A system file in computers is a critical computer file without which a computer system may not operate correctly. These files may come as part of the operating system, a third-party device driver or other sources.
A computer file is just a set of data, organized in a way that programs can open and be read . If parts of the file’s data are disorganized or missing, then it becomes unreadable—in other words, corrupted or damaged.
Corruption can occur in several ways. Maybe the file was created by buggy software that wrote the file incorrectly. Sometimes a program needs to keep a file open during use, and if the program crashes, the file could get jumbled. Viruses can also damage files.
A system file is a crucial part of the system, hence the name.
System files are usually essential to an operating system or driver which is why they are protected from accidental deletion or even intentional deletion through the use of permissions.
This is usually done by flagging a file with a system attribute. Specific examples of system files may have the .sys extension, especially in Windows.
These files are also usually located in specific folders that identify it to be a system folder. For Windows, these include the System32 folder, the System Suitcase and files on the sys location on the Mac OS, and the root folder of the Linux file system called sysfs.Advertisement
Technically speaking, a Windows system file is any file with the hidden system attribute turned on. In practice, system files are those files that Windows depends upon to operate properly. These range from hardware drivers to configuration and DLL files and even the various hive files that make up the Windows Registry.
These files are often changed automatically during system updates or application installations, but generally speaking, it’s best to leave system files alone. Deleting, moving, renaming, or changing these files could cause a complete system failure. Because of this fact, often times they’re hidden and are made read-only. That said, there are a lot of hacks and tweaks out there—including a bunch we’ve featured on this site—that involve modifying system files.
How does a Windows file become corrupted?
File corruption usually happens when there is an issue during the ‘save’ process. If your computer crashes the file being saved will likely be corrupted. Another cause might be damaged sections of your hard drive or storage media that might have viruses and malware.
Where are Windows system files stored?
Windows system files are either located in Windows file system itself, or in your program files. The primary folder (C drive on most Windows systems) also uses and stores several system files, including System Recovery and system volume information.
You cannot delete a system file that Windows is actively using. These files are locked and cannot be changed.
However, it is possible to unhide the hidden system files should you require. Follow these steps to reveal all hidden files, folders and drives in a Windows system:
- Go to COMMAND PROMPT
- click on CONTROL FOLDERS
- click on VIEW
- select “SHOW HIDDEN FILES, FOLDERS AND DRIVES”
- deselect “HIDE PROTECTED OPERATING SYSTEM FILES”
- click OK
Once this process is completed, you will find that the files, folders and drives in question will all be dimmed, meaning that even though they are visible, you still can’t do anything with them – again, this is with the safety of your operating system in mind.
If you’re careful, and you know what you’re doing—or you’re following instructions from a source you trust—you can get a lot of value from these types of hacks.
Unfortunately, repairing a corrupted or damaged file is difficult. The chance of success depends on how flexible the file format is, how much data is missing or muddled, and how smart the recovery software is. Got a corrupted or damaged file? Here are a few tools you can try.
Stellar Microsoft Office Repair Toolkit is a collection of three utilities that each specialize in repairing a different file type: Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. For office workers and desk jockeys, this is the best app for dealing with broken files.
When you run the app, you can either scan your entire system for corrupted and damaged files or specify a specific file that you want to repair. Notably, Stellar File Repair Toolkit can repair corrupted files even if they are password-protected. It’s truly a one-click affair.MAKEUSEOF VIDEO
Unfortunately, it’s a business utility sold at a premium price. While you can download it free of charge, you can only scan and preview broken files. To actually unlock the repair functionality, it will cost $69.
Repair Toolbox isn’t a single app but rather a selection of 22 single-purpose utilities, with each one designed to repair a different kind of file. It’s a double-edged sword: inconvenient if you want to install all of the repair apps, convenient if you only need one or two of them.
The utilities all operate in the same basic way: you point the app to the broken file, provide a name for the resulting repaired file, and click Repair. Supported formats include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, PDF, ZIP, RAR, Illustrator, Photoshop, and many more.
Unfortunately, Repair Toolbox is not entirely free—the demo versions of each utility come with some restrictions. For example, the PDF utility demo only saves the first page of a document, while the ZIP utility demo only shows if it’s repairable and doesn’t actually save.
System File Checker
What do you do if the corruption or damage occurs to a system-level file? While this isn’t as common now as it was a decade ago, it can still happen—and if it does, your best bet is to use the utility that comes with Windows itself: System File Checker.
Fortunately, System File Checker is very easy to run. Launch an elevated Command Prompt (press Win + X, then select Command Prompt (Admin) in the menu), then type the following command:
That’s literally all you have to do. It may take anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes to run the full scan depending on your computer hardware, so sit tight and let it do its thing.
System File Checker is only one of several important command every windows user should know By repairing corrupted and missing system files, it can fix a whole host of other issues, including fxiing win 1o errors and bad system config stop codes..
Despite its name, Hetman File Repair isn’t a general file repair tool—it focuses specifically on repairing broken image files. Note that this isn’t the same thing as retrieving deleted photos or recovering photos from a corrupted device. If you have an image file that can’t be opened, that’s when you use this tool.
Hetman File Repair can repair corrupted JPEGs (without sacrificing image quality or EXIF data), TIFFs (both compressed and uncompressed varieties), as well as BMPs and PNGs (without recompressing the image data). It even has a nifty Wizard that walks you through the steps, making it easy enough for anyone to use.
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