Flash drives can be an easy way to carry your work documents or movies around, until that one day when your computer can’t seem to read it. When that happens, there’s a good chance that your flash drive has become corrupt. The first thing you should do then is to recover files from a corrupted USB drive. Once you’ve recovered your files, you can try a few fixes to repair it.
What is a Corrupted USB Flash Drive?
Your USB flash drive is considered corrupted when the computer fails to complete a requested process because of either a logical or physical issue with your flash drive’s memory chip. A USB flash drive may become corrupt because of the following reasons:
- 📉 Wearing down of NAND memory
- ⚡Abrupt power loss
- 🖥️ Problems with the USB driver
- ⏏️ Removing the flash drive without ejecting it first
- 💥 Operating system crashes
When your USB flash drive is corrupt, you’ll typically encounter issues like disappearing files or errors like “file not recognized” when you try to open the files. Before you hit the panic button and worry about potentially losing hours’ worth of work, you should do two things: stop using the flash drive right away and start trying to recover files from the corrupted USB flash drive.
Before we talk about how you can retrieve files from a corrupted USB flash drive, you should verify if you’ll be able to scan the drive. To do this:
- Press Win + R, type diskmgmt.msc, and press Enter. Doing this will launch the Disk Management console.
- Check if the USB flash drive appears in the console. If you see the USB flash drive, verify if its size is listed correctly. If it is, you’ll be able to scan the USB and recover files from it.
How to Recover Data from a Corrupted Flash Drive?
It’s best not to tinker with a corrupt USB flash drive until you’ve recovered all the important files from it. Instead of scanning the USB flash drive directly, create an image of the flash drive so you don’t end up causing further damage. You can create an image and scan it with a tool like Disk Drill like so:
Download and Install Disk Drill
Download Disk Drill and install it on your PC. The free version allows you to recover files up to 500MB.
Launch Disk Drill and Use Byte-to-Byte Backup
Launch Disk Drill once you’ve installed it and switch to Data Backup from the left sidebar. Select the corrupt USB flash drive and click on the Byte-to-Byte Backup option at the top-right.
Create Backup File
Insert a name for the backup file, select file type, and a path where you want to save the file. Leave the format, from, and to fields to their default. Select OK to create the file.
Attach Disk Image
Once Disk Drill completes creating the backup file, go back to the home screen and select Attach disk image. Select the backup file and click Open.
Scan the Mounted Image
Select the mounted image from the Disk Drill home screen and click on the Search for lost data button.
Once the scan completes, you’ll see a list of recoverable files. Choose the ones you want to recover by checking the box next to the file name and clicking on the Recover button at the bottom. You’ll see a small window pop-up where you’ll need to select a location for recovering the file. Select a location other than your flash drive, and click OK.
How to Fix Corrupted USB on Windows
Once you’ve recovered the files, you can start trying to fix the corrupt USB flash drive. There are several fixes you can try based on what caused the flash drive to become corrupt as discussed below.
Connect the Corrupt Flash Drive to Another Computer or USB Slot
Sometimes, your computer won’t detect a USB flash drive because of reasons other than corruption. For instance, if your USB is formatted as a file system that isn’t compatible with your PC, it won’t detect your flash drive.
It can also be a hardware issue. If your USB port is damaged, your computer probably won’t detect the flash drive.
You can fix both issues by inserting your pen drive into another PC or a different USB slot.
Check Disk Utility (CHKDSK)
Chkdsk is a built-in command-line utility in Windows that allows you to check file system integrity and fix logical file system errors and bad sectors on a volume. It can be helpful when you’re trying to fix a corrupt USB flash drive because it doesn’t require using any third-party tool and is fairly easy to use.
Start by pressing Win + R, typing cmd, and pressing Ctrl + Shift + Enter. This will launch an elevated Command Prompt.
Execute the following command in the Command Prompt:
chkdsk F: /r /x
(Replace F: with the relevant drive letter)
Error Checking Tool on Windows
If you aren’t comfortable using a command-line utility, the Check Disk utility is also available as a tool with graphical interface.
Press Win + R, type diskmgmt.msc, and press Enter to launch the Disk Management console.
Right-click on the flash drive and select Properties.
Switch to the Tools tab and click on Check. The utility will scan your drive and try to repair the faults if it finds any.
Update the Drivers
A faulty driver can keep your computer from interacting properly with the USB flash drive. If none of the previous fixes have worked, updating your drivers might be worth a shot.
Launch the Device Manager by pressing Win + R, typing diskmgmt.msc, and pressing Enter.
Expand the Disk drives category, right-click on your USB device, and select Update driver.
You’ll see two options. You can select the first option if you want Windows to find the latest available driver and automatically install it, or the second option if you have the driver installation files on your PC.
Since Windows isn’t all that great at finding drivers, you might want to default to using the second option, provided you have the driver installation files. You can usually get the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s website.
When you select the second option, you’ll see a file explorer window. Navigate to the folder where you’ve stored the installation files and continue following the wizard’s instructions until the installation is complete.
Format the Corrupt USB Flash Drive
As a last resort, you might consider formatting your flash drive. Formatting will eliminate all logical issues on your USB flash drives, and will also wipe out any data you’ve stored on it. If you’ve already recovered your files, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Start by pressing Win + R, typing diskmgmt.msc, and pressing Enter. Doing this will launch the Disk Management console.
Right-click on the USB flash drive and select Format.
Select a file system, check the box next to Perform a quick format, and click OK.
It's possible that your USB flash drive won't show up in the File Explorer if it's become corrupt. However, you might find the USB flash drive in the Disk Management console. If you do find it in the Disk Management console, right-click on the USB flash drive, and select Format.
If you can't access the USB flash drive on your computer, formatting it is the simplest way to delete all files (including corrupted files) from your USB drive.
You can fix a corrupted flash drive by using the Check Disk utility on Windows and updating the drivers for the USB device if you're not entirely keen on formatting the flash drive.
The Check Disk utility might be able to fix logical issues and bad sectors and get your flash drive up and running without any loss of data. In cases where the driver is causing a problem, simply updating the drivers for your USB device will fix the issue of your computer not detecting the flash drive without any data loss.