Corrupted files: A nightmare everyone wants to wake up from

by Atinuke Naomi
4 mins read

Corrupted files have everyone dreading the thought of it. Many people’s worst nightmare is waking up to see hours, days, weeks, or even months of hard work almost going down the drain. “Almost” because sometimes it is recoverable, and other times it is not.

You are probably here because your important file got corrupted or you are seeking more knowledge about it to prepare yourself. Either way, this article is your way to go.

What is this file being referred to?

The file being referred to is a set of data, that is organized in a way for programs to open and read it. Every file on your device is a piece of electronic data, with a certain structure.

This structure is dependent on the type of file it is (which could be in Word, Excel, or PDF format, and other times, it could be a system file, image, or video file.)

When the right information is in the right part of the file, the file functions as it should. But with the appearance of wrong information in a file, or the right information present in the wrong place, the data can become scrambled, leaving you with a corrupted file. If there are parts of the file’s data that are not arranged sequentially or are missing, then it won’t be readable. This is what leads us to corrupted files.

What are corrupted files?

An example of corrupted files

Corrupted files are files that have been damaged in a way, thereby leading to their inability to be opened or used properly. Files that are corrupted do not perform as they should.

What are the prompts that describe corrupted files?

If any of these prompts pop up on your computer or phone when you try to open a file, it shows that the file is corrupted.

  • The file is corrupt and cannot be opened.
  • The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.
  • There was an error opening this document. The file is damaged.

What are the causes of file corruption?

The most common type of file corruption happens when there is an issue during the ‘save’ process. If your computer crashes or is interrupted while the file is saved, the file will likely be corrupted. The interruption in this case could be a sudden power outage or power surge.

Other causes of file corruption include:

  • Damaged sections of your hard drive
  • Storage media that might have viruses and malware:
  • Complete system crash
  • Mismatched versions
  • Updating errors

How do we treat corrupted files?

To treat corrupted files, there are different methods to do that, depending on how serious the corruption is.

  • Try opening them with a different program
  • By using file recovery software.
  • By restoring the file from a backup.
How do we prevent our files from getting corrupted?

Prevention they say is better than cure. If you have not had any of your files corrupted, you are lucky. Below are a few of the ways you can prevent it.


1. Make a habit of making and keeping backup copies of your important files. Always keep two or three updated copies on your computer or keep a copy on a separate storage device such as a USB flash drive. You can also back up files to a cloud system. It is easier when you set up your device to automatically sync data to a remote application.

Applications like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple’s iCloud, and Dropbox can help in storing your files remotely. Since you have to have an account before storing them, you can easily access them from multiple devices and restore them if anything goes wrong with your primary copy. Most such services allow you to store a limited amount of data for free and pay more for extra storage.

2. When relocating files, try to use copy and paste instead of cut and paste. This help to still retain files even if there is an issue while pasting.


3. For computers, keep your software CDs and operating system recovery discs close in case you need to use them to fix a corrupted file.



4. Run anti-virus scans regularly to keep malware at bay and make sure to install up-to-date anti-virus software.


5. Properly shut down your computer to avoid power outages (for computer files).

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