USB flash drives are ideal storage devices when we need to back up files and transfer data across different platforms. Even though a flash drive weighs less than 30 grams, retrieving data from a USB drive is just as difficult as doing so from a hard drive.
This article will focus on how to recover data from USB flash drives so you can follow the DIY steps to get back your work documents, pictures, videos, and so on with no hassle. Furthermore, this article will also teach you how to cope with typical flash drive problems.
Part 1. Three Methods to Recover Data from USB Flash Drive – Sorted by Difficulty Level
1.1 Use Professional flash drive data recovery software [Easy]
The data recovery tool is a universal solution for recovering deleted or lost files from flash devices and pen drives. The advantage is that you can scan your device to see if the software can find recoverable files. To choose the tool that best meets your need, take into account the following factors.
- Before doing actual recovery, you can use the File Preview feature to verify that the file detected by the software is exactly the one you are looking for.
- A capable USB flash drive data recovery tool will run a deep scan on the flash drives and make every effort to retrieve all types of files.
- When searching for information on your storage device, it shouldn’t damage, alter, or replace your original files.
- The user guide is easy to understand, and timely customer service is available.
We did a comparison and tested iBoysoft Data Recovery to see how it could recover the files. It can also be used to rescue the data when your SD card, camera card, hard drive, or SSD gets reformatted or becomes unreadable. Please connect your USB drive to the computer, and then follow the step-by-step guide below to recover lost or deleted data from a USB drive.
Step 1: Download iBoysoft Data Recovery for Windows from the official website, install the program, and you will see three data recovery modules. Select the first “Data Recovery” module.
Step 2: iBoysoft Data Recovery will display all the local disks and all external devices connected to your computer. Click on your USB flash drive, and then hit the “Next>” button to begin the data scanning process. (Optionally, you can tick the box next to deep scan to find more recoverable files.)
Step 3: The software will display the scan results for you to decide which files you need to get back. Double-click on each file to preview the document content, if you find the desired files, click the “Recover” button to save them to a new location.
1.2 Use Command Prompt to Recover Files from Flash Drive [Average Difficulty Level]
Advanced users can perform flash drive recovery using the Windows command prompt (also called CMD for short). However, you should pay attention to the command line spacing to ensure that each step is successful.
- Press Windows + R together on your keyboard, then type CMDin the dialogue box to launch Windows’ command prompt.
- Type chkdsk “correct drive letter of your USB drive”: /f and then hit the Enter key. (If you need to know the drive letter of this external USB flash drive, you check “This PC” beforehand.)
- Last, execute this command line to recover the deleted files from your USB flash drive: ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D “:*.*. (As shown in the example image above, you should type ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D E:*.* if this flash drive is disk E.)
If everything goes well, your computer will create a new folder on your USB drive when the data recovery is done. In that new folder, you will find the files that you previously lost. Sometimes, certain files are affixed with the
.chk extension, you need to rename each file with the correct file suffix, otherwise, you can neither open nor use it. The drawback of this method is that you cannot preview the file content before data recovery.
1.3. Restore Lost Files to the Previous Version [Difficult Method]
The “Previous Versions” feature on Windows computer can give you a helping hand when you need to recover data that has been corrupted or manually deleted. If you enabled Previous Versions on your USB flash devices before the data loss occurred, it is possible to restore the previous version of your important files. You can try to restore the lost files by following the steps.
- Insert your flash drive into a USB port on a Windows computer -> open This PC or This Computer, then right-click on the connected USB drive, and then select “Properties”.
- Select the “Previous Versions” tab, choose the correct version (in most cases, the most recent previous version is the correct one), then click Open to verify that that file is exactly what you need, last, click “Restore”.
Part 2. Troubleshoot Common USB Flash Drive Issues
2.1 When a USB Flash Drive Cannot be Detected or Won’t Appear
Your computer sometimes won’t show up or recognize the USB drive if there are some problems with the drive, or when the external device has incorrect drive letters or disk errors, etc. You can try putting this faulty USB flash drive into another USB port or computer, updating the USB driver, enabling the flash drive in BIOS setup, or using third-party disk repair tools.
2.2 When the USB Flash Drive Reports Error of “Disk is Not Formatted”
When your USB flash drive shows an error message saying “disk is not formatted” and asks you if you want to format it now, think twice because performing a format directly will result in overwriting or damaging the files in the device. And the operation cannot be undone. You can choose one method in this article to get back the lost documents.
2.3. When You Cannot Access Data because the File System of the USB Flash Drive Becomes RAW
There are occasions when you will see an error message like “unrecognized file system” as soon as you plug a flash drive into a computer. This means the flash drive has turned RAW and you can no longer use the files on the USB drive. The issue will happen due to many reasons. For example, the sudden power outage, carelessly unplugging the USB drive while the computer is still formatting it, virus infection, too many bad sectors, system crash, etc.
Changing the RAW file system will make this storage media device usable again. But be mindful that all of the original data will get lost if you reformat the RAW flash drive to a new file system. A better solution is to use professional data recovery tools to get back your files first, then format this USB flash drive. If you commonly use this USB drive on Windows, you can format it to FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS. If you usually connect this USB drive to Mac computers, please format it to APFS, exFAT, or HFS+.
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