USB flash drive data recovery: Recover data from USB flash drive

By Katrina | Posted to Data Recovery on April 10th, 2019 |

Summary: Accidentally deleted or lost an important document, picture or other files on a USB flash drive? Don't panic! This article will introduce you several tools to help you get all deleted/lost data back. Now, just download the best free USB data recovery software to recover data from USB flash drives.

USB flash drives are one of the most popular types of external storage media for their durability and easy-to-use feature. However, it's inevitable that you may accidentally erase data from a USB flash drive or unexpectedly face various corruptions on the drive. When it happens, and it will, you need a powerful flash drive recovery tool to retrieve your data. Read ahead! This comprehensive blog post covers everything you need to know about USB flash drive data recovery.

Table of contents

1. Overview of USB flash drives
2. Reasons behind USB flash drive data loss
3. Tips before USB flash drive data recovery
4. Best free USB flash drive data recovery software
5. Solutions for common problems of USB drives
6. How to prevent data loss on USB flash drives?

USB flash drive data recovery

Overview of USB flash drives

USB flash drives, also known as pen drives, thumb drives, jump drives, flash drives, or memory drives, is a small and ultra-portable data storage device. They are often used to store important files and backups, carry favorite settings or applications, launch an OS from a bootable USB. At present, USB flash drives have nearly replaced floppy drives, CD, DVD and BD disc for data storage purpose, considering how large, fast, inexpensive and durable they have become. They can support modern operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and other systems.

Unlike traditional hard disks, USB flash drives are hard to stop working as they have no moving parts to wear out. But there are still times when USB drives can become corrupted and unreadable as a result of sharing the drive with many different computer systems. Then all data stored on the drive become inaccessible.

Reasons behind USB flash drive data loss

There are so many reasons due to which data get lost or become inaccessible. Knowing these reasons would be helpful to troubleshoot and prevent certain USB drive failures. The following are some common ones:

  1. Accidentally delete files from USB flash drives. If files are deleted by using the "Delete" button on the keyboard or selecting "Delete" or "Move to Trash" from the context menu, these recently deleted files can be easily restored from the Windows Recycle Bin or the Mac Trash. But when you delete files in another way, for example, with the key shortcut "Shift + Delete" on Windows or "Command + Shift + Delete" on Mac, such files are erased at once. You won't see these deleted files in the Windows Recycle Bin or Mac Trash and you need to use a deleted file recovery software to restore them.
  2. Unplug USB flash drives forcedly when dealing with files. If you simply pull your USB flash drive while data is being written to it, for instance, while you're moving files to it or saving files to it, you are asking for trouble. You might suffer from data loss, software crashes and so on.
  3. Format USB flash drive without having a backup. Sometimes accidental format might occur due to a mere human error. Meanwhile, you may decide to perform formatting when receiving the disk not formatted error on Windows or the disk not readable on Mac. When you format a USB flash drive, the operating system will erase all data on the disk.
  4. USB flash drive is infected via virus. In most cases, virus attack can result in data loss on a USB flash drive, a memory card or other external drive. If you plug your USB flash drive into an infected system, download and install cracked software on the drive, then the USB will be infected as well. Those computer viruses are programmed to harm your computer and storage device by damaging programs, deleting files or reformatting the hard drive.
  5. Bad sectors appear in USB flash drives. It's possible for bad sectors to develop and corrupt some of your data. In general, bad sectors can are caused by software issues or physical damage.
  6. Lack of power supply in the hub port. If your power supply is not able to provide adequate power to USB flash drives, they will stop working.
  7. Faulty USB port or cable. Many a time, it happens that the port or cable of your USB flash drive is damaged. As a result, the drive doesn't get detected by the system, making it impossible for you to access your files.

Tips before USB flash drive data recovery

It's easy to understand that everyone will be anxious after losing files accidentally. But please don't take any wrong actions to try the recovery as most of the failures on recovery are caused by wrong actions.

To increase the success rate of data recovery, first of all, you'd better eject your USB drive and stop using it as soon as you have recognized the data loss issues. Keep in mind that don't save any new files or format the USB flash drive. These operations are possible to overwrite the original data and damage the file structure, making it possible to get lost data back.

Secondly, whether it is a software failure or file system corruptions, time is of an essence. Please perform data recovery as soon as possible. The best solution is to run a professional data recovery software. There are much free data recovery software which can retrieve all your deleted or lost data in different scenarios with ease.

Best free USB flash drive data recovery software

iBoysoft Data Recovery is the best free data recovery software with abilities to recover deleted photos, documents, videos, audios, archive files, emails from Windows/Mac computer or laptop. It offers ultimate file recovery solutions for all users to undelete files, recover data from formatted, corrupted, damaged, inaccessible drives quickly and safely.

It proffers an interactive interface to users so that initiating this recovery process does not require a technically skilled person. With the advanced algorithm, iBoysoft Data Recovery use completely read-only mode, which ensures 100% recovery of files within a certain time span.

Key features of iBoysoft Data Recovery

  • Work perfectly on accidental deletion, formatting, virus infection, system crash and many other scenarios.
  • Support a full range of media, such as Mac computers, Windows computers, laptops, hard disks, external hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards, digital cameras, SD cards, etc.
  • Perform comprehensive file recovery for photos, pictures, videos, audio files, documents, and other file types.
  • Support BitLocker data recovery and APFS data recovery (including APFS encryption). What is worth mentioning that its Windows version supports recovering deleted/lost files from BitLocker encrypted drives and the Mac version uniquely supports comprehensive data recovery from APFS drives.
  • Preview all lost data that your operating system supports, including documents, photos, etc.
  • Offer multiple scan options. Notable file recovery features include the Deep scan and Quick scan.

You can recover deleted or lost files from USB flash drives with the following steps:

Step 1: Free download, install and launch iBoysoft Data Recovery on your Windows or Mac computer.

Step 2: Select your USB flash drive and click "Next" to scan for data on this drive.

Recover data from USB flash drives with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 3: You will see the scanning result in the left sidebar and you can preview them one by one.

Step 4: Choose those you want to get back and click the "Recover" button to recover them.

Recover data from USB flash drives with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Note: Please remember not to save any of your recovered files in the same USB flash drive where you lost your data previously.

Solutions for common problems of USB drives

This section will list three solutions for some common problems and of USB drives on Windows and Mac.

If you are using a Windows computer:

Case 1:USB flash drive becomes RAW/corrupted

The RAW USB drive issue is very annoying and many Windows users face it from time to time. It always appears with the following symptoms:

  • When you attempt to open the USB flash drive in File Explorer, an error message would appear saying "Disk is not formatted. The disk in drive * is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?" or "You need to format the disk in drive *: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?"
  • USB flash drive not formatted error

  • * :\ is not accessible. The parameter is incorrect.
  • The parameter is incorrect on USB flash drive

  • Location is not available. *:\ is not accessible. This volume does not contain a recognized file system.
  • This volume does not contain a recognized file system

  • Please make sure that all required file system drivers are loaded and that the volume is not corrupted.
  • If you run chkdsk for the USB flash drive, you will receive the error message: "The type of the file system is RAW. Chkdsk is not available for RAW drives" or "Convert is not available for RAW drives, chkdsk reports RAW file system".
  • Chkdsk is not available for RAW drives

  • Location is not available. *:\ is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.
  • The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable

  • In properties, the USB drive shows 0 bytes of free space and used space. Meanwhile, its file system is unknown or RAW.

How to fix: under this circumstance, if the RAW drive contains important files for you, you should recover these files with the help of iBoysoft Data Recovery. After data recovery, go to Disk Management, right-click the USB drive and select format. (If the drive shows as "Unallocated", right-click the drive and choose "New Simple Volume…"). Set up the required information and click "Start". The process will finish in minutes.

The video will walk you through the entire step-by-step process:

Case 2:USB flash drive not showing files or folders

Picture this scene: when you insert a USB flash drive in your Windows computer, it is detected and shows the occupying space. But when you try to access the drive, you can't see any files or folders. Generally, USB flash drive not showing files or folders issue is caused by virus attack, accidental deletion. Apart from that, if your files or folder are hidden by the operating system, they won't show up on Windows as well.

How to fix: we've covered this in another article how to fix USB flash drive not showing files or folders.

Case 3:USB flash drive not recognized/working

Most of the time, your USB flash drive works great when you plug it in your Windows computer, but occasionally your computer might stop recognizing the drive or pop out an error like "USB device not recognized". The problem has possible causes, such as partition issues, wrong file system, dead USB port, and drive issues.

How to fix: Follow this guide to fix USB flash drive not recognized/working/showing up on Windows.

If you are using a Mac computer:

Case 1:USB flash drive not readable

The disk not readable issue occurs with every UBS device. Chances are that your USB flash drive may be usable yesterday but suddenly turns to be unreadable with a notification pop-up: "The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer". In this case, you are unable to access the data in this drive.

How to fix: check this article 7 solutions to fix "the disk you inserted was not readable by this computer" for detailed instructions.

Also, you can watch this short video for the step-by-step process:

Case 2:USB flash drive not recognizing/working/showing up on Mac

Normally, when you plug in your USB flash drive, the drive will soon show up on Desktop, Finder and Disk Utility. But sometimes, your Mac doesn't recognize the USB flash drive for some reasons. As a result, the USB drive fails to show up in Finder or Disk Utility and all data stored on the drive becomes inaccessible.

How to fix: here's an article anout how to fix USB flash drive not showing up on Mac, which walks you through this issue in detail.

Case 3:Can't see files on USB drives

Usually, when you connect a USB flash drive on Mac, the drive will automatically mount and you are able to view files on it. But in case of corruption in the USB drive, some files are not showing up on Mac.

How to fix: This post goes into the step-by-step process to fix USB flash drive files not showing up on Mac.

How to prevent data loss on USB flash drives?

Now that you know how much danger your storage devices face every day, let's have a look at how you can prevent data loss.

1. Make regular backups of your important data

Your number one thing in data loss prevention is back up. You should create a structured backup strategy and consistently back up your files. In addition, you should store them in a safe location that is separate from your network.

2. Safely eject your USB flash drive

Make sure you properly eject the USB flash drive before removing it. Because yanking out a drive while it's being written to could corrupt the data. Fortunately, Mac and Windows will always provide you a way to eject a drive.

3. Use reliable anti-virus tools and keep them updated

Virus and malware can be some of the biggest threats to your data, so you need to install software that protects you against them.

4. Shut down your computer properly

It's very important that you shut down your system properly. Simply turn the power off with the power button can cause file system damage. At first, you need to close all your programs. On Windows, click the Windows button at the bottom left-hand corner of your screen and click "Shut down". If you are using a Mac computer, click the Apple menu at the top left-hand corner of your screen and click "Shut down".

5. Routinely check error on your USB flash drive

Both Windows and Mac have the error checking tool to verify the partitions and disk drives for problems such as disk errors and bad sectors. If your computer doesn't work normally, you should run these tools at once.


This post covers everything about USB flash data recovery. It analyzes possible reasons behind USB drive data loss, introduces you a free tool to recover data from USB flash drives and offers useful solutions to fix corrupted USB drives. Hope this guide helps you a lot.

Have any question or suggestion? Please feel free to let us know. If this post works for you, please share it on social media. Thank you so much!


Katrina is a data recovery expert @iBoysoft who loves to help readers solve various data recovery problems.

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