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What is a Corrupted File?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Corrupted files are computer files that suddenly become inoperable or unusable. There are several reasons why a file may become corrupted, including due to defects or bugs. In some cases, it is possible to recover and fix the file, but at other times, it may be necessary to delete the file and replace it with an earlier saved version.

A corrupted file may occur due to a defect or bug in the software used to create and manipulate the file in question. Often, this is a temporary problem that will occur once, then disappear forever. At other times, the bug may be the result of an infiltration by a virus or other foreign software that disrupts the function of the program. When the user attempts to open the file, the system may lock up or provide a message identifying a problem with the file.

When this happens, the first line of defense is to make use of system tools to attempt to fix the problem. If the corruption occurred due to a temporary glitch in the operating system, this will often fix the problem and the file will be accessible once again. Also, it may be possible to run a virus detection program and isolate the origin of the issue and correct it. Once the corrections are made, the software performs as it should, and the problem file will open and close as usual.

When the corrupted file cannot be repaired, it may be necessary to use some method of data recovery. In extreme cases, backup files may be use to effect a total database recovery to get around the problem. This is one reason why making regular backups is important. In the event that a file becomes corrupted and cannot be fixed, uninstalling it and reinstalling a saved copy will allow the user to proceed with a minimum of loss in data and time.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon296806 — On Oct 12, 2012

How do I repair a corrupted powerpoint? I was working on it and it has 25 slides and I have no back up versions. It suddenly wouldn't open again and I need to recover it! How can I do this?

By anon283867 — On Aug 07, 2012

Could anyone help me? If one file gets corrupted, is there a danger of all files getting corrupted? It's my mobile phone.

By Oceana — On Apr 13, 2012

I don't know a whole lot about computers, so if mine tells me that I have a corrupted file, I won't even attempt to recover it. I have had too many problems with viruses in the past to even risk it.

I use my computer for downloading photos from my camera and getting on the internet, and that is all I know how to do. I'm not about to go fiddling with corrupted files and infecting my computer with something that will eat all my precious photos.

The last time that happened, I had to spend hundreds of dollars to have a computer repair man fix it for me. He was able to retrieve most of my files, but it took me months to catch up financially after that.

By OeKc05 — On Apr 13, 2012

I am a graphic designer, and many times, customers have to email me their logos or photos to go in their ads. Sometimes, my computer refuses to open these attachments. It tells me that the file is corrupted.

This is frustrating, because I am usually on a tight schedule, and having to contact the customer and have them send another file can be time consuming. The ones that I have the most problems with are corrupted jpeg files.

There have been times when one program will tell me that the jpeg is corrupted, but another program will let me open it. Sometimes, my photo editing program will refuse to open it, but I can import the jpeg into my layout program by drawing a picture box. When this works, I export the file as an EPS, and then, the photo editing program will open it.

By orangey03 — On Apr 12, 2012

@shell4life – Yes, that does seem strange. Did you try to recover the corrupted file at all, or did you just give up?

Many times, when I tell my computer to recover a corrupted file, it can do it without issues. Sometimes, it will tell me what the problem with the file actually was, and then I can determine if there is any real danger or not.

I know that in the past when my computer has frozen and I have had to shut it down by unplugging it, it usually has to do some data recovery. It knows that something unnatural has happened, and it wants to be sure that everything is safe to open.

By shell4life — On Apr 11, 2012

Last week, I was typing text into a document during a bad thunderstorm. The power went off for just a minute, but when it came back on, the computer did not want to let me open the file I had been working on.

I got the message that the file was corrupt. I knew that the power outage must have had something to do with this, because the file itself only had a couple of sentences in it.

I ended up just starting a totally new file. I was doing some creative writing, so it wasn't anything that I couldn't remember and do over. I just think it is strange that a power outage could cause the computer to think a file is suddenly corrupt.

By mdt — On May 31, 2008

You can try one of the software programs designed to attempt to repair the file. Check around online for one that allows you to specify the type of error you are receiving and returns and answer as to whether or not the software can fix that type of error before you buy anything.

Another possible solution is to copy the error into your browser and conduct a search. You may find there are some suggestions for repair posted on a message board or a computer help site somewhere.

By quang — On May 31, 2008

What should I do when a message from defragmenter says cannot prescan because there is corruption of C:\\software distribution download 5cc724b3995f72ef3222dddf08658056\DOWNLOAD. Thankyou

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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