Data Error on Drive C

Dear Computer Lady,

When turning on my pc today, I got “system message-write fault error- and then a “file recovery” message and a “critical error” and “data error reading C drive,and losing information if it didn’t get fixed.

Well, when I tried to open my documents, they were already lost.

Not a big deal, however, why did this happen and how do I prevent it again?

Your newsletters are so helpful.


Dear Jan,

This sounds like one of two things.

Either your hard drive is developing bad sectors, or you have been infected with some malware that is trying to trick you into believing that you need to purchase their product in order to fix your hard drive.

As I read your question, at first I was thinking that you are experiencing a hard drive failure, but as I continued to read, there were a couple of clues that make me suspect that it is really a malware problem.

The first is the warning that you might lose information if you don’t get the computer fixed. This is not a normal symptom of hard drive failure, but it might be possible that you have software installed that would give you that warning.

The second clue that this might be malware is the fact that your documents have disappeared, and yet it sounds like the computer is still working.

This is a common malware trick. It sets the file properties of your documents to “hidden” and when you go to look for them, they are no longer visible.

If this is indeed a malware infection, you just need to get rid of the malware, and return your file properties to normal, and you will not have lost any data.

Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to run some diagnostics on your computer. If you live in the area, I would be happy to take a look at it for you. Otherwise, find a good computer shop in your area and bring it to them.

The last part of your question asks how to prevent this from happening again. If it is truly a hard drive failure, there is nothing you can do to keep it from happening again. Hard drives will fail, all you can do is make sure you have your data backed up. I would recommend an automatic, online service like Carbonite or Mozy.

To prevent a malware infection from happening again, you need to be sure that you have a complete internet security program installed. I use AVG Internet Security and it has protected my computer from all kinds of infections for over 10 years now.


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Elizabeth Boston is a Web designer, Social Media Consultant and managing editor of, “Ask The Computer Lady”.
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