Updated: 11/16/2019 by Computer Hope

When files are not written correctly, saved improperly, or modified by another file, they can become corrupt. When a file gets corrupt, it cannot be opened without errors and may not be recoverable without the file being replaced by a backup.

How do I know if a file is corrupt?

Garbage characters

When a file is corrupt it cannot be opened, generates an error when opened, or the information contained in the file looks like garbage.

What should I do if I have a corrupted file?

If you believe you have a corrupted file, delete it and restore a previous copy of the file from a backup. If you do not have a backup of the file that is now corrupt, the file and its data is considered lost. There are some services (mentioned in link below) that specialize in restoring lost and corrupt data, but these services can be pricey.

If you have downloaded the file that is corrupt, try downloading the file again. Sometimes while a file is downloaded it can become corrupt or may have not downloaded properly.

If the file is repeatedly corrupted by the same program, make sure you have the latest updates for that program installed. If the problem persists, uninstall the program, reinstall, and then re-apply any updates.

What causes a file to become corrupt?

There are several reasons a file may become corrupt. Below are some reasons a file may become corrupt.

  • Computer turned off improperly.
  • Program freezes or closes improperly.
  • Error with how a program saves the file.
  • File is converted from one format to another improperly.
  • Bad hardware, e.g., bad or failing hard drive.

Backup, Software terms