How to Recover Data From Formatted USB Flash Drive

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Recover formatted flash drive

Formatting goes hand-in-hand with using any storage device with a limited capacity, such as a USB flash drive. In most cases, it’s much quicker and more convenient to simply erase everything in one go than it is to delete files one by one. But what if you make a mistake and accidentally format the wrong drive? Is it possible to recover files from a formatted flash drive? Yes, it is!

How Does Formatting Work on a Flash Drive?

Formatting a USB flash drive allows you to prepare it to receive and store data. You can do this using two options: quick and full format. Here’s a breakdown of the two:

  • Quick format: Quick formatting deletes the information that tells the computer where your files are stored, not the files themselves. Recovery is still possible here.
  • Full format: Doing a full format means removing the files from your storage medium completely. The process also checks your drive for bad sectors that may compromise your to-store data. Recovery isn’t possible at this point.

Most users choose to perform a quick format since it’s much faster than a full one. If you also did this, you can use data recovery software to retrieve your files, as long as they haven’t been overwritten yet. Generally, the quicker you try to recover files, the higher your chances of success are.

How to Recover Formatted Data from USB Flash Drive

If you think you can still recover data from your formatted USB flash drive, the process is actually simple. You can either check your cloud backups, try to use data recovery software, or use the Windows Command Prompt. Which method works best would vary depending on your specific case, so make sure to check.

Method 1: Recover Files with Existing Backup

Have you recently created a backup of your USB flash drive? If so, you’re in luck because you can simply grab the backup and restore everything in no time.

If you haven’t created a backup of your USB flash drive, consider this experience a lesson about the importance of data backups. Manual backups do the job in a pinch, but there are many excellent free backup software applications that can automatically protect files and folders on your USB drives without you having to lift a finger.

Method 2: Use Data Recovery Software

Disk Drill is an easy-to-use data recovery software application that you can use to quickly recover data from a flash drive after format. Thanks to its support for over 400 file formats, Disk Drill can reliably recover all data commonly stored on USB flash drives, including documents, videos, pictures, audio, file archives, and more. On top of that, free users can recover as much as 500 MB of data on Windows, on top of other free tools that can help you avoid data loss.

  1. Go to the Cleverfiles website and download the Disk Drill installer for your OS.
    Disk Drill installation
  2. Next, insert your USB flash drive into your computer, launch Disk Drill, and select it from the main window. Simply click the Search for lost data button to begin.Select flash drive and start the scan
  3. Once the scan is completed, choose which files you want to recover and click the Recover button. recover data from formatted usb
  4. After that, you will be asked to specify a suitable recovery directory, which can be any folder that’s not located on the same USB flash drive.
  5. Finally, Disk Drill will display a concise summary when the data recovery process is completed, allowing you to show results in a file browser.recovery complete

Even though Disk Drill is capable of reliably solving most data loss situations with just three simple steps, it’s useful to know about other methods that can be used to recover data from a formatted flash drive.

Method 3: Attempt Recovery Through Command Prompt

The Command Prompt in Windows may seem somewhat intimidating, but it can be indispensable when it comes to performing a formatted flash drive recovery.  If you have limited experience with it, you can simply follow these steps to scan your USB flash drive for errors and repair file attributes:

  1. Connect your USB flash drive to your computer.
  2. Open File Explorer and select This PC from the left pane.
  3. Note the drive letter assigned to your USB drive.
  4. Open the Start menu and type “cmd.”
  5. Click the Run as administrator option.Launch command prompt with admin rights
  6. Enter chkdsk F: /r and hit Enter. (Replace F: with the drive letter of your USB flash drive).Run chkdsk command
  7. Enter attrib -h -r -s /s /d F:*.* and hit Enter (again, replace F: with the drive letter of your USB flash drive).Run attrib command
  8. Close the Command Prompt.
  9. Open File Explorer and select your USB flash drive.
  10. See if you’ve been able to recover formatted pen drive data.

More CMD commands to recover flash drive ➡️

Conclusion

Unless you’re well-versed in the formatting process, you might be shocked to find your files missing when you format your USB flash drive. Fortunately, you can still use data recovery software, check your backups, or use CMD to retrieve your data if you only did a quick format. They might still be there in your storage, waiting to be overwritten.

After recovery, check your files for corruption and damage—part of their data might have been lost due to overwriting already. And if you’re planning to format your USB flash drives again, make sure to know the differences between full format and quick format before proceeding.

FAQ

If you need to recover files from a flash drive that triggers this error message when inserted to your computer, click Cancel. Even if the flash drive is already formatted and there are no visible files on it, formatting it one more time would only make it more difficult to recover files from it. Instead, wait until you’ve recovered your files before you click the Format disk option.
Recovering deleted data from a flash drive can possibly be done with the command prompt (cmd) - a command line interpreter application in Windows. Alternatively you can restore previous versions - it is a useful feature of Windows that allows you to recover your deleted files from a flash drive without software if the feature was enabled before formatting. However, these methods have lower success rates than data recovery software and require more technical knowledge.
There are a few ways - you can attempt using methods based on built-in Windows tools or you can attempt to recover using Freeware Data recovery software, however it worth nothing that they usually come with noticeable drawbacks such as relatively short list of supported filetypes or archaic User Interface. Also worth noting that sometimes professional data recovery software have trial options that allow you to recover limited amount of data, e.g. Disk Drill allows to recover 500MB of data for free.
Answer to this questions depends on what type of format was used - quick format marks data as deleted but does not wipe it in fact making it possible to recover your data.
Jeff Cochin is a data management and recovery professional, who has been with 7datarecovery for nine years and has always been an essential part of the team. Jeff also works as a technical writer at Macgasm, being a first hand in testing, trying and writing about big and small tech software.
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Strong knowledge in data recovery, computer forensic and data litigation. 12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.