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USB Data Recovery: How to Recover Data from USB Flash Drive?

Updated on December 23, 2021

iBoysoft author Anna

Written by

Anna Yuan

Summary: Accidentally deleted or lost files on a USB flash drive? This article includes the 4 best USB data recovery solutions. The easiest way to restore files is using USB data recovery software, such as the iBoysoft Data Recovery app.

USB data recovery

USB flash drives are one of the most popular types of external storage devices for their durability and easy-to-use feature. However, it's inevitable that you may accidentally format data from a USB flash drive or unexpectedly face various corruptions on the drive.

When it happens, you need a powerful USB flash drive recovery tool to retrieve your data. This comprehensive post offers the 4 best USB data recovery solutions and guides on how to avoid USB drive data loss. Just keep reading.

Overview of USB flash drives

USB flash drives, also known as pen drives, thumb drives, jump drives, flash drives, or memory drives, are small and ultra-portable data storage devices. 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 drives have nearly replaced floppy drives, CDs, DVDs, and BD discs for data storage purposes considering how large, fast, inexpensive, and durable they have become. They can support modern operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and other systems.

USB flash drive

Unlike traditional hard disks, USB flash drives are not easy 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 will become inaccessible. Here is a real example:

Hi, I was previously getting a message telling me the drive hadn't been formatted but I think it may have been failing as it's got all my photos on and has been in regular use. I have tried the check disk command but it tells me the drive is RAW(?) which appears to be a problem. I have downloaded Recuva but when I specify the E: drive for file recovery (where my USB stick is!) it says "Unable to determine file system type". Any ideas about what to do next, please?

--from forums.tomsguide.com

Do you think it's an annoying thing? Actually, USB data loss problems happen now and then due to its frequent use. If you are one of those who are suffering from data loss issues on a USB device, don't panic! The good news is that even when your USB flash drive is corrupted, you still have a chance to recover data from USB flash drives.

USB data recovery preparation - What to do when you've lost USB data

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 safely eject your USB drive and unplug it from your computer USB port gently. Stop using it as soon as you have recognized the data loss issues.

Then, 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. Whether it is a software failure or file system corruption, time is of the essence. Please perform USB data recovery as soon as possible.

How to recover deleted or lost files from USB flash drives

Normally, there are 4 USB data recovery solutions. You can choose one of them to restore deleted files on a USB drive:

USB flash drive data recovery

Solution 1: Retrieve files with USB flash drive recovery software

If you want to seek the most straightforward way to recover files on a USB flash drive, it is recommended to use a professional USB recovery tool. There are many popular data recovery tools for USB drives that can recover lost files in different scenarios with ease, such as iBoysoft Data Recovery software, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, Disk Drill, and Stellar Data Recovery.

Here, we use the USB data recovery app from iBoysoft because it's easy to use and 100% safe. iBoysoft Data Recovery is able to restore accidentally deleted files from flash drives like Word documents, photos, videos, audios, archive files as well as recover email files from Windows/Mac computers or laptops.

Key features of iBoysoft Data Recovery

  • Support for hundreds of file formats and types, including DOC, DOCX, JPG, PSD, RAW, MKV, and more.
  • Except for USB drives data recovery, it also supports hard drive data recovery and data recovery for memory cards, digital cameras, SD cards, etc.
  • Recover lost data from formatted, corrupted, inaccessible, and RAW USB flash drives.
  • Support BitLocker data recovery, like recover deleted/lost files from BitLocker encrypted drives, recover lost data from deleted BitLocker partitions, etc.
  • Supported OS: Windows 11/10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2019/2016/2012/2008/2003

How to recover files from USB flash drives with iBoysoft Data Recovery

No matter what data loss situation you meet on a USB flash drive, you're advised to run iBoysoft Data Recovery software. Here is a step-by-step tutorial to recover lost or deleted files from flash drives:

Step 1: Simply connect the flash drive you want to recover to any free USB port on your computer. To enjoy the best data recovery speed possible, always choose the fastest USB port available.

Step 2: To start with, free download iBoysoft Data Recovery and follow the wizard to install it on your Windows computer.

Then launch the software, you will see the home window as below. As you can see, the interface is so simple.

iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 3: Select the USB flash drive where you have deleted or lost files and click "Next" to start scanning any recoverable files. Then a progress bar will pop out, showing you the current operation, the elapsed time, and the remaining time.

iBoysoft Data Recovery scanning lost files on USB drive

Step 4: After the software finishes scanning, you will see the directory path to each file in the left sidebar. You can choose one of these folders and all files contained in this folder will be displayed on the right pane.

Note: If lost files are not found in quick scan mode, please click "Back". On the home window and check the "Deep scan" option and try again.

Step 5: This software enables you to preview recoverable files by double-clicking them. Choose those you want to get back and click the "Recover" button to recover them.

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

Preview files on USB drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Solution 2: Restore your lost data using CMD

Another method you can try is to use the command prompt. This applies to those advanced Windows users who know how to use the CMD command very well.

1. Connect the USB flash drive to your computer.

2. Press Windows + R to launch Windows Explorer, and type in CMD in the search box to open a command prompt.

3. In the CMD window, type in the below command and click the Enter key. Remember to replace E: with the drive letter of your USB flash drive.

chkdsk E: /f

4. Then, type in the following command and hit Enter key. Here E: also means the drive letter of your USB device.

ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D “drive letter”:*.*
recover lost data from USB flash drives with CMD

When the recovery process is complete, all recovered files will be in a newly created folder. The files may be in the CHK format and need to be renamed to be used by your applications.

chkdsk repairs hard drives

How to Use CHKDSK to Fix Hard Drive or Solve CHKDSK Error?

This post offers how to use chkdsk to check and repair hard drives and USB drives. It also tells how to troubleshoot errors when running chkdsk. Read more >>

Solution 3: Recover USB data from Previous Versions

Windows has a useful feature called Previous Versions, which includes all recent versions of a kind of system backup for files. If you activated it before you lost your data, you can now use it to recover all lost files on your flash drive without any third-party software.

Follow those steps to retrieve USB data:

1. Plug the USB drive into any free USB port on your computer.

2. Open This PC, and right-click on the USB flash drive from the removable disk list, select Properties.

USB drive on Windows

3. Go to the Previous Versions tab, select the most recent previous version and click "Restore".

recover lost data from USB flash drives with Windows Previous Versions

Of course, to take advantage of this method you need to have a backup that contains the lost files. Even if you take regular backups, newly created or modified files may not have been backed up before being accidentally deleted.

Solution 4: Use a local USB data recovery service

All the above-mentioned methods apply to recover lost files from flash drives due to accidental deletion or files system errors. In another word, if the USB flash drives lose data because of physical damage, you can't use the aforementioned solutions to restore files.

Recovering data from a physically damaged USB flash drive is not so easy since it often requires special equipment and expert technical skills. Instead of attempting to get your data back by yourself and potentially making the situation much worse than it already is, consider sending your USB flash drive to a local data recovery service to repair and recover.

Some common problems of USB drives

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

Case 1:Format USB drives by mistake

You only need to do a few clicks to format a USB flash drive. But if you format a USB drive without backup, you will be fed up with all data loss on a whole partition or drive. However, the accidental format often occurs due to a mere human error.

And sometimes, you may decide to perform formatting when receiving some errors. When you format a USB flash drive, the operating system will erase all data on the disk. In this situation, you can rely on iBoysoft Data Recovery.

How to fix: As for formatted USB recovery, you need to recover lost data from formatted USB flash drives.

Case 2:Delete data from USB flash drives by accident

If files are deleted by using the "Delete" button on the keyboard or selecting "Delete" from the context menu, these recently deleted files can be easily restored from the Windows Recycle Bin.

But when you delete files in another way, for example, by pressing the key shortcut "Shift + Delete" on Windows, such files are deleted at once. You won't see these deleted files in the Windows Recycle Bin or other places on the computer.

How to fix: In fact, deleted data can be easily recovered by using iBoysoft Data Recovery, such as recovering deleted photos. Just follow the steps above to restore deleted files from USB flash drives.

Case 3:USB flash drive becomes RAW/corrupted/inaccessible

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 4:USB flash drive not showing files or folders

Picture this scene: when you insert a USB flash drive into 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 drives 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.

Case 5: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, USB port not working, and drive issues.

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

Case 6:Can't eject a USB drive

Sometimes, when you click the "Safely remove the hardware" at the right-bottom corner, Windows fails to stop the device and shows you the following error message:

  • This device is currently in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device and then try again.
  • Windows can't stop your device because it is in use. Close any program or windows that might be using the device, and then try again later.
  • The device cannot be stopped right now. Try stopping the device again later.
  • Windows is unable to stop the device. Don't remove this device while it is still in use. Close any programs using this device and then remove them.

Warning: Under this circumstance, 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.

How to fix: Please check whether there is any data copying/transferring in progress or a program in Windows is using any files from the USB drive. If there is, end the progress or close the program.

After this operation, if the USB flash drive still can't be removed, you'll need to open Task Manager by right-clicking the Taskbar and clicking on "Task Manager". Under the "Process" tab, locate the application(s) that are using your USB flash drive.

Right-click on the selected application and choose "End task". More importantly, run iBoysoft Data Recovery to get lost data back if necessary.

How to prevent data loss on USB flash drives?

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

1. Make regular backups of your important data

To avoid USB drive data loss, you should create a structured backup strategy and consistently back up your files on a USB drive to an internal or external storage device. In addition, you should store them in a safe location that is separate from your network.

backup USB flash drive data

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 with a way to eject a drive.

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

Viruses 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 turning 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 what you want to know about USB flash data recovery. It analyzes possible reasons behind USB drive data loss, provides you a free tool to recover lost data from USB flash drives, and offers useful solutions to fix corrupted USB drives. Hope this guide helps you a lot.

Have any questions or suggestions? Please feel free to let us know. If this post works for you, please share it on social media.

FAQs about USB data recovery

1. Can I recover files from a broken flash drive?

The answer depends on the extent of the damage. In order to recover files from a broken flash drive, you need to be able to connect them to your computer. Once it's attached, data recovery software may be able to recognize the drive as a raw disk and successfully restore your files.

2. Why is my flash drive not working?

Your flash drive might not be working correctly for a few different reasons. It could be physically damaged by heat or moisture. The file system could have become corrupted by a virus. You might be using a faulty USB port. Your system may have an outdated driver that is causing the problem.

3. Where do deleted USB files go?

Files deleted from your USB drive do not take up temporary residence in your Recycle or Trash Bin. They are essentially permanently deleted from a logical perspective. However, until they are overwritten, they can be recovered.