Computer files:

Are they "corrupt" or "corrupted"? I feel they could be both.

What is the standard?

  • Both forms are commonly used: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 9:13
  • @Josh61 I feel it depends on what has happened to the file. That is, I suspect the meanings are different. Any insight? Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 9:15
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    A possible difference I can think of is that a corrupted file may refer to an existing file which is altered at some point, while a corrupt file contains alterations from the start.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 9:47
  • 1
    Probably "corrupted" is more idiomatic (in the computer biz). "Corrupt" has a slight connotation of "doing evil", and 99% of the time the file is an innocent bystander.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:05
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    To reformulate the slight difference mentionned by @PaulRowe, "Corrupted" is synonym of altered. It indicates a transition from a good status to a bad status and is appropriate for computer files. "Corrupt", more statically, qualifies the person or the thing, indicating its bad status.
    – Graffito
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 22:49

5 Answers 5


When it is said that "the files are corrupt", it isn't clear whether the files were corrupt from the time they were created, due to problems with data entry, ETC., or that the files became corrupt after a problem.

Saying that "the files are now corrupted" implies that there was a clean state for the files in the past, and that they need to be returned to the clean state for the software to work properly.


Either usage is fine. Just as you can have a politician that is corrupted and a politician that is corrupt, so you can have a file that is corrupted and a file that is corrupt. Both terms have established usage; it's a personal preference which you use.

  • 1
    This has been said before in comments. An answer is usually expected to be corroborated by supporting evidences. Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:56
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    @PaulRowe I disagree. "Corrupt" and "corrupted" have different meanings, and these words sound different when applied to politicians. A "corrupt senator" feels different than "corrupted senator". The second feels like something has been done to his moral character, while the first describes him as doing immoral things. See what I mean? The second feels passive. Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 17:15
  • I think I see the slight difference in meaning, though I would suggest that corrupted implies that it was not corrupt before.
    – Paul Rowe
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 22:48

I think files are generally corrupted. You could probably say corrupt, and everyone will get what you mean, but I'm pretty sure corrupted is correct.


Files are corrupted, sometimes by people who are corrupt.

I don't think inanimate objects can be corrupt, but they can be corrupted.

*cor·rupt (kə-rŭpt′) adj.

  1. Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved.

  2. Venal or dishonest: a corrupt mayor.

  3. Containing errors or alterations, especially ones that prevent proper understanding or use: a corrupt translation; a corrupt computer file.

  4. Archaic Tainted; putrid.

v. cor·rupt·ed, cor·rupt·ing, cor·rupts v.tr.

  1. To ruin morally; pervert: "The argument that modern life consists of a menu of horrors by which we are corrupted ... is a founding idea of the critique of modernity" (Susan Sontag).

  2. To destroy or subvert the honesty or integrity of, as by offering bribes: "Our politics has been corrupted by money and suffused with meanness" (Peter Edelman).

  3. a. To cause to become rotten; spoil: "There was a strange smell in the room, high and slightly sweet, like perfume corrupted in the bottle" (Bella Bathurst).

b. Archaic To render impure; contaminate.


a. To alter from original or proper form: "Strangers named them the Chippewa, which was corrupted to Ojibway" (Paul Theroux).

b. Computers To damage (data) in a file or on a disk.*


corrupted adjective

  1. depraved, abandoned, perverted, warped, degenerate, debased, demoralized, profligate, dishonoured, defiled, debauched, reprobate the corrupted, brutal Duvalier regime

  2. contaminated, soiled, dirtied, infected, spoiled, stained, decayed, rotten, polluted, tainted, tarnished, sullied, defiled, adulterated, vitiated, putrefied The body's T cells kill cells corrupted by viruses.

  3. distorted, altered The computer files had been corrupted during the upgrade.**


In common dictionary definitions, to be corrupt is a moral failure and/or involves actively doing something. Files are not the doers, but are done to.

Corrupted can mean a moral failure also, but it is also a condition after something was done or happened to what became corrupted. I think that is more applicable to objects and creations that are not self-directed.

I may not be technically correct regarding a definite rule (and I see that both are used for computer files), but I do think that when making a writing decision like this, the differentiation ensures a sentence that will be correct and won't be confusing or distracting for readers.


Are the files corrupt, meaning are they in that state now, present tense. Corrupted suggests the past tense. To finalise if you want to know the state of the files now I think "Are they corrupt" is probably more grammatically correct.Thats my opinion.

Bill Sparrow

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