Scan and Fix dialog using iPod on Windows Vista


Q: Every time I plug my iPod into my new laptop running Windows Vista Ultimate to sync with iTunes, a Windows box pops up that says “Do you want to scan and fix 80GB ( G: )? There might be a problem with some files on this device or disc. This can happen if you remove the device or disc before all files have been written to it.”

The box gives me the options to either scan and fix the iPod or to continue without scanning. I always pick “Continue without scanning.”  Should I pick “scan and fix” instead? What will this do? Is there a way to prevent this box from always popping up whenever I plug in my iPod?

– Ron

A: This is a known problem for many users of traditional iPod models on Windows Vista. This is caused by the fact that as far as Windows is concerned, your iPod is just another removable hard drive on your computer (in fact, this is how iTunes itself actually reads and writes data to the iPod—it just accesses it as a drive letter to update files and database entries on the iPod). Note that this would not be a problem in the case of the iPod touch or iPhone, as these devices use a different synchronization protocol that does not rely on the iPod appearing as an external hard drive.

What is specifically happening here is that something on Windows Vista has flagged the file-system on the iPod as needing to be checked (this is sometimes referred to as setting the “dirty bit” in the file system). When you connect your iPod, Windows Vista sees this flag and prompts you to run a repair on the external drive just to make sure that everything is in order.

The most common cause for this flag to be set is if the iPod is disconnected from the computer without being properly ejected first. Since Windows can’t be certain that it finished writing to the device properly, it marks it as needing to be checked the next time it is connected.

Most of the time, this doesn’t mean that there actually is a problem with the iPod, merely that Windows wants to scan it just to make sure everything is okay. In this case, selecting “Scan and Fix” shouldn’t cause any problems unless there actually are underlying file system problems, in which case it would attempt to fix them. In either case, it should also reset the flag that indicates that a scan is required. That having been said, however, the “Scan and Fix” option performs more steps than may strictly be necessary if we’re just dealing with a flag being set to require a check on the iPod, since “Scan and Fix” will also scan the entire iPod for bad sectors—a much more time-consuming process.

A faster way to perform a quick file-system check and reset the flag is to go to a command prompt, and simply type in:


(where G: is the drive letter assigned to your iPod, as noted in the “Scan and Fix” dialog box).

If there actually are file-system problems, the CHKDSK command will report them and attempt to fix them as well, but it’s more likely that it will simply report that no problems have been found, but also reset the dirty bit in the process.

Note that if there are file-system problems on the iPod, selecting “Scan and Fix” might result in data becoming lost on the iPod or other corruption occurring as a result of the process. While this shouldn’t happen under normal repair circumstances, there have been reports that this has in fact caused problems. As long as you’re using automatic sync, however, and have your music in your iTunes library, this would be little more than a minor inconvenience, as you can always just restore and reload the iPod from iTunes.

Note that if you do not have a backup of your music anywhere else, then you should backup the content from your iPod prior to attempting any repairs, just to ensure that you don’t have any problems.

You should also ensure that you are running the latest support pack version of Windows Vista before proceeding with any further action, however, since early Vista releases had some known issues with regards to iPod support that were fixed in subsequent patches. If you’re using automatic update in Windows, and/or if you have Vista SP1, this should not be a concern. Many of the problems that have been reported with regard to iPod corruption and Windows Vista were caused by these earlier compatibility problems.


Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.