How to Run System File Checker (SFC) Offline in Windows 10 & Earlier

The System File Checker (sfc.exe) is a useful tool that lets you scan the integrity of Windows system files and repair corrupt or missing system files. Numerous cases have been resolved by running the sfc.exe /scannow command.

However, there are situations wherein a corrupt or missing system file prevents Windows from booting normally or prevents Command Prompt and console programs like Sfc.exe from being launched. In such cases, Sfc.exe can be run offline via the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) in all versions of Windows, including Windows 10.

Run the System File Checker (Sfc.exe) Offline in Windows

Step 1: Booting into Windows Recovery Environment

Instructions for Windows 8 and 10

  1. Right-click Start, click Shut down or sign out, press and hold the Shift key and click Restart. In Windows 10, you can also open Settings (WinKey + i), click Update and Security, click Recovery, and click the Restart Now button under Advanced startup.
    If Windows doesn’t start, then boot the system using the installation media or Recovery drive to access the Recovery Environment. In the Windows setup page that appears when booting using the Windows installation media, click Next and click Repair your computer.
  2. Click Troubleshoot
  3. Click Advanced options
  4. Click Command Prompt
  5. Use the BCDEDIT command to find the drive letter for your Windows installation, as seen from Windows RE.
    More information here.
    If Windows is installed in the C:\ drive, then it’s usually D:\ when seen from Windows RE. But it’s better to check it out using BCDEDIT. The drive letter of the Windows/system volume is displayed next to “osdevice“.

    (Now, proceed to Step 2 of the tutorial…)

Instructions for Windows Vista and 7

  1. Configure the boot order in the BIOS such that the first boot device is your CD/DVD drive.
  2. Insert the Windows 7/Vista Setup DVD and restart the computer.
    Alternately, you may use the Windows 7/Vista System Repair Disc if you have one.
  3. When prompted, press a key to boot from the DVD.
  4. In the “Install Windows” screen, click Repair your computer.
  5. Select your Windows installation, and click Next.
    Make a note of the drive letter of your Windows 7 installation, as seen from Windows RE. This is the drive letter you want to reference when running Sfc.exe offline.
  6. Click Command Prompt

Step 2: Running the System File Checker Offline

To scan the integrity and repair a specific file, use this command:

sfc /scanfile=d:\windows\system32\zipfldr.dll /offbootdir=d:\ /offwindir=d:\windows

The above command scans the file zipfldr.dll and replaces it if required.

To scan the integrity of all system files and repair them, run this command:



sfc /scannow /offbootdir=d:\  /offwindir=d:\windows

Important: To specify an offline log file, use the /offlogfile argument also.

(Thanks to Scott Petrack for the offline log file tip.)

Example:

sfc /scannow /offbootdir=d:\  /offwindir=d:\windows  /offlogfile=d:\sfcoffline.txt

In this example, there weren’t any integrity violations. If there were any, they would be displayed on the screen and logged in the offline log file you specified (d:\sfcoffline.txt) above.


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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

21 thoughts on “How to Run System File Checker (SFC) Offline in Windows 10 & Earlier”

  1. @jsmith: The Windows 7 Setup DVD worked just fine to load Windows RE in Vista PC, and the SFC command worked fine.

    Reply
  2. @Jan: Not a chance for Windows XP. Windows XP Recovery Console does not have a SFC command.

    @Jsmith: Don’t do it!

    Reply
  3. I would very much like to know if there is any similar way for Win XP, as this is timely issue for me. I got my work laptop in front of me crashed yesterday…

    Reply
  4. There IS a way in Windows XP but not a SIMILAR way. I’m going to tell you about it but I won’t take responsibility if anything went wrong. Do it at your own risk.

    You must insert a Windows XP CD into your disc drive, boot from it and install a copy of Windows XP right over the existing copy.

    DO NOT tell the setup to FORMAT your hard disk. (Some people seem to think that to install Windows means to format the hard disk as well. WRONG!) Tell the setup to leave your file system intact.

    Ignore the warning that says “C:\My Documents” folder will be deleted. Windows XP does not have a “My Documents” folder at the root of drive C.

    Reply
  5. To Andi:
    Correction: The “default drive” will, in fact,be whatever the windows RE maps it as. In many cases it will be D: as the RE maps c: to the hidden boot partition. As the editer noted: “Make a note of the drive-letter of your Windows 7 installation, as seen from Windows RE”

    Reply
  6. When I enter “sfc \scannow” or any other command, it says: “There is a system repair pending which requires reboot to complete. Restart Windows and run sfc again.”
    Please help.
    Thanks in advance
    Sudhir Naik

    Reply
  7. Sudhir, and those having similar problems… my advice is to do just that… restart and try again. Chances are you exited out of one of long, boring, and often useless “starup repair”s, and it’s waiting on you to finish it before starting anything else. If it lets you go through one of those and (most likely being the case) if it comes up with nothing, it should let you choose “advanced recovery options” as a text link in the bottom. It is at this point that you should be able to select “Command Prompt” from the bottom as seen in the picture above.

    If in the case I’m not at all correct (just working from memory, here), then I guess google is your friend… unless you’re against CISPA, then perhaps duckduckgo is your friend.

    Reply
  8. What should I do if booth my boot directory and windows directory are on my c: partition?
    I tried: “sfc /scannow /offbootdir=c:\ /offwindir=c:\windows” , but nothing happens.

    Reply
  9. Sorry it didn’t work: Windows Resources Protection could not start the repair service.

    It think it might have something to do with the drive letter where the OS is installed.

    Reply
  10. And what about when the offline method from the DVD
    sfc /scannow /offbootdir=d:\ /offwindir=d:\windows
    reports Windows Resource Protection could not start the repair service.

    Reply
  11. Does this use the install disc to copy the files from if the hd has no uncorrupted versions? That is what I am wanting as opposed to a repair install when there are just one or two bad files.

    Reply
  12. after checking many sites and trying dozens of suggestions, this command saved my corrupted Windows 7 laptop: “sfc /scannow /offbootdir=d:\ /offwindir=d:\windows”
    THANK YOU!!

    Reply
  13. “Windows resource protection could not start the repair service”

    The installation media is the same which was used to install this in the first place. The drive letters have been checked. I have not misspelled anything. Chkdsk runs and all is well.

    Is it still possible to do an “in-place”/”over-the-top” repair install on Win 10 as with 7?

    If possible, please reply here but also to my email address provided?

    Reply
  14. PLEASE consider editing your tutorial to make a very important improvement: add the “/OFFLOGFILE” option to your first offline example command, and add a sentence of explanation THERE about the essential importance of doing this.

    I have some sort of corruption problem, and when I ran sfc, it told me that that I would have to run it at the next system boot. I dutifully did this, but only very fleetingly caught some sort of “fatal error” which flashed on my screen at boot time — it simply didn’t stay up long enough for me to see what happened. Of course I tried a second time, but it just was too fast.

    So then I learned about offline sfc. Doing this required me to make an Installation usb, but that’s life.

    So then, having now run sfc THREE TIMES, downloaded the 5GB iso and rufus to make an installation USB, I run sfc a fourth time…. only to get the final status “windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them. For online repairs…. For offline repairs, details are included in the log file provided by the OFFLOGFILE flag.”

    This calm long note does not really convey just how annoyed I am. I now know that my plan to run Arch Linux as my primary os and reduce my exposure to Windows was a sound one. However many hours I might waste as a result of such a change, it is likely to be fewer hours than I am wasting by sticking with Windows.

    In any case, you mention laconically that “for some reason”, there is no offline log by default. Just incredible, really. No one sane would go through the trouble of an offline sfc /scannow unless s/he had some reason to, so even if things are perfect s/he would normally like to see a log. That’s windows failing. YOU can help by making CERTAIN that your users KNOW they MUST explicitly ask for an offline log.

    If you’re wondering why I bother YOU with this suggestion, please know that your blog was simply the first one to appear on my google search about this issue. I was hoping to find whatever “gotcha” I am going to find next, after what will be “sfc /scannow….” number 5.

    At least I am quite certain that I won’t ever need this command once I restore the current system. At least not if I can help it.

    Reply

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