How to scan and repair corrupted system files in Windows 11

Over time, every Windows 11 computer will experience system corruption and eventually failure. Regular maintenance repairs system files and prevents future problems.

Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

An inescapable truth about using computer technology is that it will eventually, and probably inexplicably, fail you in some way. Whether it is due to inexplicable glitches, untimely errors, frustrating slowdowns, or outright startup failures, IT pros or the users themselves inevitably have to troubleshoot and perform maintenance on their Windows 11 systems.

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Corrupt Windows system files are often the culprit for a significant number of frustrating computer problems. The system files control almost every aspect of your computer at the most basic level. Scanning and repairing system files in Windows 11 is a two-step process that involves two old but reliable command prompt utilities – System File Checker and Deployment Image Servicing and Management.

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How to scan and repair corrupted system files in Windows 11

System File Checker and DISM have been part of IT professionals’ toolkits for decades, but they’re still extremely useful. The following procedure also works with Windows 10.

This is a two-step process. We will use DISM to update the Windows 11 backup system files stored on our system storage device and then use System File Checker to update the system files currently used by Windows 11.

As a safety precaution, the backup system files are stored separately from the system files that Windows 11 uses on a daily basis. However, these backup system files can also be corrupted. Using DISM, we update to the latest Windows 11 system files directly from Microsoft servers.

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To start, we need to open an administrator-level command prompt. Type “command prompt” in the Windows 11 desktop search tool, right-click the “Command Prompt” app and select “Run as administrator” from the context menu.

At the command prompt as shown in Figure Atype this command and press Enter:

DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth

Figure A

Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

The retrieval process may take a few minutes depending on your internet connection and bandwidth speed. The app tracks its progress and then displays a successful completion message when it’s done.

After updating and possibly repairing our backup Windows 11 system files, we can use System File Checker to troubleshoot and perform repairs. At the command prompt, type this command and press Enter as shown in Figure B: sfc /scannow.

Figure B

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Image: Mark Kaelin/TechRepublic

Again, the verification process can take a few minutes, but the application will let you know when it’s complete.

As you can see in our example, several corrupt files were found and repaired, even on a Windows 11 PC that hadn’t crashed or showed other signs of poor performance or unreliability. Another indication of the importance of regular and routine system maintenance.

Once the process is complete, exit the Command Prompt screen. Your Windows 11 system files are now fully scanned and repaired with the latest versions.

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