Windows CHKDSK at boot cancelled by phantom keypress

When you run the Windows checkdisk (chkdsk) utility, it may report the disk being in use and recommend that you schedule chkdsk to run the next time the computer restarts, like the following screenshot shows:


Windows can’t check the disk while it’s in use. Do you want to check for hard disk errors the next  time you start your computer?

However, doing that ran me into a very curious issue on Michele’s laptop: I would restart the computer, and get a message telling me to press any key within a few seconds to abort the scan if I so desired. Sorry, but I don’t have the exact message in front of me at the moment. Curiously it would abort itself after a second or two, stating that I pressed a key (which I did not). I’m fairly certain this is caused by this issue here: kernel atkbd.c: Unknown key released messages on Linux.

In order to make the chkdsk run without aborting due to that phantom keystroke, you have to set the delay to zero. To do this, boot back up into Windows, open an administrative-level command prompt, and run the following:

chkntfs /t:0

That will set the delay to zero seconds, effectively making it unable to be interrupted. Schedule the disk check again and reboot. It should run without issue.

Questions, comment, or any issues with the above are welcome in the comments section. Thank you!


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  1. #1 by Debbie on September 26, 2011 - 6:42 am

    Mike I had this happen with the new SSD and had to do the command as above; whats strange is I have had this happen half a dozen times since the new PC build with the SSD drive having the OS on it. I have added a 1 T HDD for storage and have yet had time to transfer all the data from a int. 750G HDD and 500G ext HDD to it. Once I remove the two other drives I am wondering if this CHKDSK will stop popping up every other cold boot.
    How ever glad you posted this for others.

    • #2 by Mike on September 26, 2011 - 7:59 am

      Thank you for the kudos Debbie, and thank you for your comment.

      As far as I am able to tell it is related to something at the hardware level, but it’s not the hard drive. (I’ve gone through at least 4 drives on this machine.) While troubleshooting the “unknown key released” issue from the other post I ran across a forum post that have a theory. They suspected that the phantom keypresses originate from some combination of the systemboard, AC adapter, and battery on portables. Their rationale was that these phantom keypresses are the OEM systemboard relaying power-related events (AC adapter unplugged, battery health, battery charging status, etc) to the OS for display to the user.

      If that is the case, then Windows chkdsk hasn’t been updated to ignore these keycodes. From reading your comment above it sounds like you might be experiencing this on a desktop. If so, that blows this theory away.

      Please feel free to share whatever else you might find out or experience about this. Thank you again!

  2. #3 by Linda on September 26, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    Oh! I finally have a fix, that was very irritating. No more reboots now!

  3. #4 by Fabrizio on May 18, 2012 - 9:29 am

    Thank You so much! after putting a new SSD drive in my Win7 notebook and setting it all up, it became impossible for me to have a chkdsk done: it aborted itself immediatly, just as a key was pressed, while it wasn’t!
    Issuing the command you suggested, “chkntfs /t:0”, chkdsk started immediately and completed itself without problems! Again, Thank You!! :)

    • #5 by Mike Beach on June 15, 2012 - 10:39 am

      You’re welcome!

  4. #6 by Rob on August 30, 2012 - 11:33 am

    Thank you so much for this. I’m fixing a clients computer and this was driving me nuts!

  5. #7 by Pat on February 8, 2013 - 1:34 am

    You just saved my windows partition. Thank you.

  6. #8 by Rob on March 28, 2014 - 4:27 pm

    I appreciate your post on the phantom key press. Had me scratching my head for a while.
    slipstreamed xp pro sp3 on desktop clone, asus board, I5-hd3000 version, onboard vid, sound, nic, adaptec scsi 2110s hdw raid pci-x, some mirror sets. comp running last year or so on only virgin sp3 cd install and no ms updates at all. drivers about a year old also. never a problem with chkdsk until……..
    About 3 weeks ago I decided I would try one and only one ms update session (took all day), since ms is dumping xp in april anyway. A little over 300 updates, and dozens of reboots later, chkdsk would just pass itself by as though I pressed a key. Ran the standard sfc, and such, to no avail. By the way, still, no drivers have been updated since the original build.

    Found other post that suggested it was a possible wireless mouse issue. So, I pulled the wireless mouse and hard wired keyboard during the reboot and what do you know, chkdsk ran through like it should???? Plugged those back in during the next reboot after chkdsk, set your (chkntfs /t:0) command and ran chkdsk again with KB and mouse still attached. Worked like a charm without the timer.
    I am now inclined to believe that one of those 300 plus windows urgent updates is a potential troublemaker on certain setups. I have two other identicle boxes I assembled and neither gave me the same issue. All three were updated on the same day, (that was fun!). The only difference between all three is which version wireless logitec mouse each has.
    Have not devoted the time to swapping mouse/KB around to find out if it follows a certain device.

    Thanks again!

    • #9 by Mike Beach on April 4, 2014 - 5:48 pm

      That’s interesting. I’m inclined to agree with you that it might have been related to an update. I don’t know how productive it would be to keep looking through XP, though, as it’s end-of-life. If you have issues with a newer OS, though, feel free to share.