Missing files causing errors – How to find and replace them?


It can be frustrating when your computer suddenly starts showing errors or fails to run programs properly. Often, the culprit is missing files that the program or operating system expects to find. Missing dll, exe, sys, and other files can occur for various reasons – an incomplete installation or update, accidental deletion, drive errors, or malware activity. 

Reasons files can go missing

There are a few common reasons why essential files may have gone missing on your PC:

  • Incomplete installations or updates – If an installer fails to fully copy files, or an update doesn’t finalize correctly, it can result in missing files. This is common with large software bundles.
  • Accidental deletion – Files accidentally deleted by the user or automated disk cleanup utilities. Critical system files are removed.
  • Drive errors – Hard drive errors lead to corrupted or unreadable files. It impacts system files, shared DLLs, and program files.
  • Malware activity – Viruses, spyware, and ransomware sometimes delete or replace files as part of their malicious actions. Damage is not immediately evident.
  • Manual edits – Users sometimes delete or modify files while tweaking settings, disabling features, or hacking programs. This removes dependencies.

Ways to locate missing files

If your PC starts displaying errors or having issues due to missing files, there are some approaches you take to track them down:

  • Check error logs – Application and system logs often identify the missing file names and locations that caused a failure. Scan logs from the Event Viewer, app vendors, or diagnostic utilities.
  • Search online – You find comprehensive file databases online that list standard system file names, versions, and directory locations. Search for the file, e.g. “msvcp140.dll” to find details.
  • Check application folders – Missing app files present in the installed program folder or archived copies. Search the vendor folders under Program Files or Program Files (x86). 
  • Look in the Recycle Bin – Users often accidentally delete files that are recovered from the Recycle Bin if not emptied. Restore any likely candidates.
  • Leverage file recovery tools – Advanced file recovery software scans and rebuilds missing files from disk remnants if they were accidentally deleted.
  • Identify file dependencies – Utilities like Dependency Walker reveal file and DLL dependencies to help locate missing components.
  • Contact tech support – Application vendors and OS providers often have resources to help identify and replace missing files for their products.

Effective ways to replace missing files

Once you’ve identified the missing files, there are some simple ways to restore them:

  • Copy from an install source – Missing DLLs and program files often be copied directly from the original install media or repository.
  • Retrieve from system cache – PCs store copies of recently used files that you recover from cached folders.
  • Reinstall the app or update – Rerunning a damaged install or update often replaces missing files the process expects to see.
  • Restore from backup – File backups allow you to retrieve previous working versions if available.
  • Execute sfc /scannow – This System File Checker scan will replace corrupt or missing Windows system files.
  • Download copies – You sometimes find DLL files available for individual download if you can’t install the associated app.
  • Repair drive errors – Scan and various fixes for Windows hard drive errors to recover corrupt or unreadable files through chkdsk or similar utilities. 
  • Switch to a restore point – Reverting your PC state to an earlier restore point captures a snapshot before files go missing.
  • Perform OS repair/refresh – A Windows repair or refresh installation will replace missing system files while retaining data.

Getting missing application, system, and driver files back where they belong usually resolves error messages and restores normal functionality. But be cautious with file replacements, as incorrectly matched versions potentially cause further issues.


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