How to Quickly Fix a USB Flash Drive That Is Not Recognized

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USB flash drive not recognix\zedUSB drives, as convenient as they are, can still cause a lot of headaches. If suffering from logical damage like corruption, it may appear that your USB drive has Unallocated Space. This is a false reading, as your data is still there, it’s just inaccessible. Therefore, you need to act swiftly in order to recover the contents of your USB. 

In this article, we’ll go over what you can do to recover data from a flash drive that’s not detected on any computer and how you can fix it.

How to Recover Data From USB Not Recognized

Even if your USB drive doesn’t show up in Windows Explorer, your computer may still be registering it. In fact, as long as it’s visible in Disk Management and showing the correct size, you will be able to recover data from a flash drive that’s not recognized. If it’s not visible in Disk Management, try to make it readable first.

To recover the data, we’ll be using the data recovery tool Disk Drill. It is designed to recover data from almost any device, including a thumb drive that’s not showing up, as well as broken flash drives. The key to successful recovery is acting quickly and refraining from using the USB until the data is recovered.

Follow the instructions below to recover data from a thumb drive that is not recognized.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill to your computer. Open it.
  2. Select your USB, then click Search for lost data.Starting the Disk Drill scan.
  3. Click Review found items once the scan is complete.Reviewing the lost USB data.
  4. Mark what files you want to recover. The Recovery chances column displays your chances of successfully recovering each file. And, you can preview a file by double-clicking it. When you’re ready, click Recover.Recovering the USB files.
  5. Choose the output location. Make sure you don’t recover the data to the same USB, as it could corrupt it.Choosing the output folder.

Once complete, you will be met with an overview screen that details the recovery process. You can then go to the folder you chose for recovery and view your files.

How to Format an Unrecognized USB

Formatting a USB involves refreshing the existing file system or adding a new one. This process will delete any data that resides on the USB. Formatting has always been a quick and effective method to fix USB flash drives if not detected, as it’s basically restoring it to factory settings. 

Once you’ve recovered your files from the USB to a safe location, perhaps you would like to format it to fix any issues that are preventing it from being read like normal. Follow these steps to format an unrecognized USB.

  1. Right-click Start and select Disk Management.Opening Disk Management.
  2. Right-click your USB volume and click Format.Choosing to format the USB.
  3. Ensure Perform a quick format is selected. Change the Volume label, File system, and Allocation unit size if necessary. Press OK.Performing a Quick Format.
  4. Click OK when prompted to confirm the action.Completing the format.

How to Make a USB Readable

If your USB isn’t visible with the correct size in Disk Management, recovery won’t be possible. But, there are a few solutions you can try to make it readable. The below methods will help you understand how to fix a USB flash drive that is not recognized.

Method #1: Isolate the Problem

Before troubleshooting, you must first identify what is causing the problem. Determining the source of the issue can save you a lot of time that would otherwise be spent troubleshooting areas that aren’t relevant.

To do this, you must test the USB in a different port to see if the port you’re using is faulty. If another port doesn’t work, then you should try connecting the USB to another device to make sure it’s not a problem with the device you’re connecting to.

If the USB works fine when connected to another USB port or device, then the problem isn’t with your USB. If the USB still isn’t being read, try the next method.

Method #2: Connect Directly to the Motherboard

The USB ports on your computer’s case, typically located at the front or top, connect to your motherboard using internal wires. These wires could have been damaged at some point, resulting in any device connected to the USB ports on your computer case becoming unreadable.

To avoid this, try connecting directly to one of your motherboard’s USB ports on the back plate of your computer if your USB thumb drive is not recognized. This way, you can ensure you’re getting a direct connection and avoiding any complications with the internal wiring of your computer case.

Method #3: Clean the USB Contact Points

Physical substances like dust and dirt can build up over time. This can lead to a physical barrier that blocks the connection between your USB and USB port. Regularly cleaning your USB and USB ports can prevent this.

If you want to remove dust, use an air duster or can of compressed air to blow the dust out. For other, more persistent obstructions, lightly wet a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol and gently clean out the USB or port. Once complete, let it dry completely before use. Be mindful of how delicate the USB connections are and only clean USB ports when the device is powered down.

Method #4: Hardware Troubleshooter

Windows comes with lots of powerful troubleshooters that are designed to target specific problems. The Hardware and Devices troubleshooter can scan your computer for issues pertaining to your USB and fix them so you can access a USB drive that is not recognized.

Use these steps to launch and run the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter.

  1. Right-click Start and select Windows PowerShell (Admin). Click Yes if prompted by UAC.Opening an elevated PowerShell window.
  2. Type msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic and press Enter.Launching the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter.
  3. Click Next. Follow the on-screen instructions based on the problems that Windows discovers.Starting the repair process in Hardware and Devices.

Method #5: Update or Reinstall the USB Drivers

Any hardware you connect to your computer requires a driver. Drivers establish and maintain communication between your devices so you can actually use them. If your USB’s drivers are corrupted or out-of-date, it may result in your USB performing erratically, or your flash drive not showing up in Windows 10 at all.

Follow these easy steps to update or reinstall your drivers to fix your USB flash drive that’s not recognized.

  1. Right-click Start and select Device Manager.Opening Device Manager.
  2. Expand the Disk drives dropdown. Right-click your USB and click Properties.Accessing the USB properties.
  3. Click the Driver tab, then click Update Driver.Updating the driver.
  4. Click Search automatically for drivers. Windows will search the internet for up-to-date drivers and download/install them. If none are found, proceed to the next step.Searching the internet for updated drivers.
  5. Click Close.Closing the search window.
  6. Click Uninstall Device.
    Uninstalling the existing driver.
  7. Click Uninstall.
    Uninstalling the USB driver.

Once the driver is uninstalled, simply remove your USB and connect it again to force the drivers to reinstall.

Method #6: Reinstall USB Controllers

A USB controller is responsible for managing all your USB-connected devices, like your keyboard, mouse, and USB flash drive. It works with your device’s driver and helps your system understand how to use the device. Without it, none of your USB devices would work, even with their own drivers.

Reinstalling your USB controller can also help re-establish communication between your system and USB. Follow these instructions to reinstall your USB controller.

  1. Right-click Start and click Device Manager.Opening Device Manager.
  2. Expand Universal Serial Bus controllers. Right-click your USB controller and click Uninstall device. When prompted, click Uninstall again.Uninstalling the USB controller.
  3. Repeat step 2 for all USB controllers you see under Universal Serial Bus controllers. When finished, restart your computer to force the drivers to install again.

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