This guide shows you how to check the MD5 or SHA256 checksum (or other hashing algorithms) of any file in Windows 11 or Windows 10 using only Command Prompt or Windows Terminal.
What is checksum and why do we use it?
A checksum is a unique set of numbers and letters generated for a file using a hash algorithm such as MD5 or SHA-256 (the most commonly used checksum algorithms) to verify if the file has not been modified during transmission (e.g. downloading the file).
Most software vendors display the checksum of their downloadable files (such as installers and zip files) so that users can check the integrity of the file using the checksum after download. This is to ensure that the file has not been altered in any way during transfer.
After downloading a file, you can generate the checksum of the downloaded file and see if it matches the checksum provided by the software vendor. If it matches, this means that there were no errors or alternations during the transfer and that the files were identical before and after the transfer.
See also: How to Compare Two Folders in Windows 11
How to check MD5 or SHA256 checksum of a file in Windows 11
To verify the MD5 checksum or SHA256 checksum of a file in Windows 11, follow the steps below.
- First, right-click the file you want to verify the checksum for and select “Copy as path“. You will need this path later.
- Next, open Command Prompt (search for “CMD” via Start) or Windows Terminal (right-click Start and select Windows Terminal).
- To check the MD5 checksum of a file, type the following command in the Command Prompt or Windows Terminal window.
certutil -hashfile filepath MD5
Replace filepath with the actual path to the file that you want to check the checksum for. You can highlight the filepath and press Ctrl + V to paste the path you’ve copied in step 1. For example:
certutil -hashfile "C:\Users\alvin\Desktop\testing.txt" MD5
To check the SHA256 checksum of the file, replace MD5 with SHA256. For example:
certutil -hashfile "C:\Users\alvin\Desktop\testing.txt" SHA256
- Press Enter to execute the command. The checksum of the file will then be shown.
Related: How to Password Protect a Folder in Windows 11
Verify different checksum algorithms
To check the checksum of a file using a different hashing algorithm, replace the MD5 in the command line with the checksum algorithm that you want to use. The following are the hashing functions that the certutil command-line tool supports.
What to do if the checksums do not match?
If the checksum of the file you generated on your computer do not match the one provided by the software vendor, it indicates that the file is corrupted, incomplete or has been altered.
In most circumstances, if the checksums do not match, you should not open the file because the data may have been tampered with and could pose a security risk if you run the file.
- If you suspect that the file is corrupted or incomplete, try to download the file again from the same source.
- If the checksum still does not match on your second try, you may want to contact and notify the source from which you download the file. The cause of the problem may be on their side.
- Try to download the file from a different trusted source.
- Clear your browser’s cache (if you use your browser to download the file) and history before downloading the file again. This is to ensure that the browser will request new download from the source again instead of re-downloading the corrupted file from your browser’s cache.
- Before you re-download the file, delete the old one whose checksum does not match.