How to Calculate/Verify File Hashes the Quick Easy Way in Windows

A couple of years back I set my sight on finding the prefect distro for my netbook. As you would imagine, that kind of undertaking requires a lot of downloading and the item in transit here is no featherweight. Typically it's an image file (*.iso, *.img) weighing several megabytes and therefore, often prone to corruption during download. As such you don't want putting it to any use before you can verify its integrity as it will only waste your time. I realized this quite soon after having problems testing some ISO's and that's when I realized I had to find a quick easy way of testing the integrity of these image files. My search landed me on a little nifty program that did exactly that.

The program is the free and open source HashCheck Shell Extension that is compatible with Windows XP and later. HashCheck weighs a paltry 85kb and works straight from the shell. After you install it, the program will add a Tab called Checksums in the Properties Dialog of all files which you launch by right-clicking on a file then going to Properties.

HashCheck Checksum Tab

Every time you switch to Checksums tab the program will automatically calculate 4 types of checksums that include: CRC-32, MD4, MD5 and SHA-1. MD5 is typically what's used by most across the web. To verify you only need to paste the correct checksum (it doesn't matter which type) in the text box and then hit the find button. If it finds a match, it will highlight it for you meaning the file will have passed the integrity test.

HashCheck in Properties Window
HashCheck in Properties Window

If you're the publisher or the one sharing a file you can also easily create a checksum file using the same program. That option is automatically installed in the context menu. To create a checksum file, just right-click on the file, select Create Checksum File and in the Save dialog window select the checksum format you want and then Save.

checksum
Creating Checksum File from the Context Menu

After that, you only need to package the file together with the checksum file or provide it separately. If the recipient has this program installed they only have to double click the checksum and the program will do the rest - calculating and verifying. If they don't have the program, the checksum file is basically in plain text and as such can be opened by any text editor. From there they can get the checksum which they can proceed to use with their program of choice. If you don't require this feature, you can easily remove this item from the context menu by turning it off in the Settings found in the Properties.

Tip: To see a demo of how it works you can watch this video.

In certain cases you may want to compare two files to confirm if they're exactly the same or are different. For that you may use HashTab from Implbits. The software works in the same exact way only that it adds an option to compare two files against each other as well as offering more checksums formats. It doesn't really matter which you should use, just pick what works for you best. Both are freeware but HashTab can only be used for personal use, students and for non-profit. For commercial purposes just stick to HashCheck.

HashTab in Properties Window
HashTab in Properties Window

Get the Programs here:

HashCheck - Homepage
HashTab - Homepage


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