How to Recover Data from Corrupted USB Flash Drives [6 Ways]

In today’s digital world, we rely on storage devices, such as flash drives, more than ever. Whether for personal memories or professional documents, these devices can be our life-savers, but when accidents happen—like a flash drive corruption or damage—the loss can be devastating. 

To keep the tragedy away, we need to first figure out why sometimes our USBs get corrupted and how to identify that. Then, master some skills to retrieve your valued files, and take measures to prevent future corruption. That’s absolutely not something exclusive to computer geeks. Following this comprehensive guide, you can have your flash drives under control and well protected!

Why Your USB Flash Drive Gets Corrupted

To retrieve or protect data in your USB flash drives, the first step is to ascertain the root causes of the corruption. In this section, we will look at several internal and external factors that jeopardize your data’s safety.

Internal FactorsBad BlocksA USB flash drive consists of numerous small blocks that have a limited lifespan. Over time, these small sections of memory are no longer able to store data correctly and safely, and will probably result in corruption.It’s usually best to use data recovery software to rescue as much data from a flash drive with bad blocks before it becomes completely inaccessible.
NAND Memory WearUSBs utilize NAND memory to store data. It has a finite number of write/erase cycles and begins to wear down if the limit is exceeded. The degradation, or aging, of USB memory cells will lead to data corruption.Use wear leveling algorithms that distribute the write and erase operations evenly across the memory cells, preventing certain cells from being overused and leading to premature wear.
Software BugsWhen bugs occur in applications, computer OS, or your USB flash driver, they prevent data from being saved correctly or might even damage the whole system, as well as your drive. This ultimately results in corruption.Files that disappeared from a flash drive due to a software error can sometimes be recovered using the ATTRIB command.
External FactorsImproper RemovalIf you yank out the USB flash drive instead of safely ejecting it, the read/write operations may get interrupted, potentially causing file corruption or USB damage.One basic and effective way to prevent USB corruption is to remove it properly every time you finish using it. Make sure that you use the “safely remove hardware” option before removing it.
Sudden Power LossCorruption may occur when there’s a sudden power outage or when your USB randomly shut down in the middle of data storage or file transfer.Making backups of your valued data on a regular basis must be the best way to protect them as this can pull you through the worst scenario. You can choose high-quality secondary source, such as an external hard drive or Clouds, to do this.
Physical DamagePhysical harm, including bending, dropping, striking, exposure to water or salty air, and high temperature, may result in USB corruption and data inaccessibility.Keep your USB in a safe place with an appropriate temperature. Or you can restort to professional data recovery service near you.

It’s also advisable to regularly scan the flash drive, keep software updated and use dedicated USBs, protecting your USB to minimize the risks of data loss.

How to Recover Files from a Logically Corrupted USB

Although USB corruption is suffering, data recovery is still possible. This section will introduce to you several methods to quickly and safely get your files back.

Check Physical Damage

First and foremost, you should determine whether your USB is physically harmed. You can plug it into the computer to see whether the light comes on and the computer gives out a sound. If the USB can still connect to the computer, you can go on with the following methods. If not, jump to third session on how to fix a physically damaged usb. Try to clean off the USB’s end with a cotton swab and continue to test the connection. If it still cannot work, seek professional repair services.

Retrieve Data from Backups

If you are used to creating data backups regularly, you are in luck because you can directly restore your valued data in no time. If not, learn the lesson and remember to do it in the future.

Assign a Drive Letter

Sometimes, you are not able to access your USB because it has not been given a drive letter. To resolve this, you can assign a drive letter to it or change the current one.

Step 1: Right-click on “Start” and choose Disk Management.


Step 2: Right-click on the disk number of your USB and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.


Step 3: Click on the drive letter that has already been assigned and choose Change.


Step 4: Select a new drive letter from the drop-down menu.


After completing all the steps, you can try accessing the USB via Windows Explorer.

Reinstall or Update the USB

In some cases, you can reinstall or update your USB to fix the corruption.

Step 1: Right-click “Start” and choose Device Manager.

Device Manager

Step 2: Expand the drop-down for Disk drives, right-click on your USB, and select Uninstall device.

Uninstall device

Step 3: Eject your USB and then plug it back in. Then it can be redownloaded and reinstalled automatically.

Run the Command Prompt (CMD)

You can utilize the Command Prompt to check your USB for problematic sectors and retrieve the hidden files.

Step 1: Connect your USB flash drive to your computer.

Step 2: Open File Explorer and select This PC from the left pane.

Step 3: Press Win + R to open the Run dialog box. Type CMD and then press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to run Command Prompt as an administrator.


Step 4: Enter “chkdsk F: /r” and hit Enter. (Replace F: with the drive letter of your USB flash drive).

“chkdsk F: /r”

Step 5: Enter “attrib -h -r -s /s /d F:\*.*” and hit Enter (again, replace F: with the drive letter of your USB flash drive).

“attrib -h -r -s /s /d F:\*.*”

Step 6: Close the Command Prompt.

Step 7: Open File Explorer and select your USB flash drive. See if you are able to recover formatted pen drive data.

Resort to Data Recovery Software

Another effective solution to recover data from corrupted USB flash drive is to leverage professional, easy-to-use data recovery software. There are a myriad of tools in the market on your call, each promising you quick and safe data retrieval. However, ONERECOVERY stands out from the rest due to its ease of use and high sucessful recovery rate.

It can handle numerous causes of USB corruption, including improper removal, virus attacks, system errors, problematic sectors, and power issues. It supports all common USB types and boasts a success rate of 95% of recovery. Follow steps below to recover your photo, video, documents or email from corrupted USB:

Step 1: Download and install ONERECOVERY.

Step 2: Launch the program and select your USB flash drive in the storage medium option.

select usb to scan

Step 3: Wait for the program to scan and analyze your USB.

Step 4: Preview the results and click on “Recover” to restore all your data.

preview and recover data

How to Recover Data from a Physically Damaged USB

Physical damage to a USB can result in connectivity issues or complete failure to connect to devices. It can be challenging to retrieve files or data from a physically damaged USB, but there a few potential solutions to explore.

Adjusting the USB

This method may take some trial and error depending on the extent of the damage.

  • Plug the USB into your computer and wiggle it slightly in different directions.
  • Listen for the recognition sound that indicates a new device is connected.
  • Once you hear the sound, hold the USB in that position and transfer the contents to another storage device.

Checking for Debris Obstruction

  • Check the USB ports and connectors for any foreign objects that may prevent proper connection.
  • Use a cotton swab to gently remove debris from the ports and USB connectors.
  • Blow air into the ports and connectors to remove loose debris such as dust or dirt.
  • Try connecting USB again. If the USB is connected, there is a physical obstruction causing the problem.

Seek Help from Professional Recovery Services

If the previously mentioned solutions prove ineffective, it is advisable to seek professional recovery services. Professional data recovery services employ specialized tools to retrieve data from USBs that can no longer connect to devices. They may charge quite a lot of money for data recovery, but it’s better to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars than lose important files forever.

[Bonus Tips] How to Identify & Fix Common USB Flash Drive Issues

There will be certain signs if a USB flash drive gets corrupted. You should pay attention to its malfunctions and be prepared anytime to back up your important files. Check common signs of USB corruption and potential solutions below.

Signs of Corrupted USBPotential Solutions
Unrecognizable File FormatsYou find files saved in unusual or unrecognizable formats in the USB, and cannot open them with associated applications.Use data recovery software to rescue files and reformat the USB drive
Inaccessible Files or FoldersYou are unable to open some files or folders although they are visible.
Frequent Error MessagesError messages keep popping up, like “The disk is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?”, “Drive not formatted”, and “Disk not accessible”.Scan for bad sectors and errors using disk utility tools
Slow PerformanceYour USB takes an unusually long time to access, read, write, or respond.Try connecting USB to different port/computer. Reformat drive if issues persist
USB Drive Not RecognizedYour computer cannot recognize your USB when you insert it, or it appears as an empty drive.
Missing Files Some files and folders vanish even though you clearly remember saving them.Recover data using recovery software then reformat USB
Wrong Storage CapacityYour USB shows incorrect storage space, more or less than what it should have.Backup data immediately. Reformat USB to fix capacity issue

Apart from paying attention to the above signs, you can use some tools to detect USB corruption, such as the built-in Check Disk feature in the Windows system, checking the status of your USB in Windows’ Device Manage, and third-party diagnostic software. You also can check the following video for more details.

Video Source: How To Format Corrupted/Unreadable USB Pendrive [Fix] from Tricknology


Do Flash Drives Go Bad If Not Used?

USB flash/pen drives are not intended for long-term storage purposes. It’s important to always back up your dta onto another reliable device. Generally, the data stored on USB drives will remain valid for up to 10 years when stored under normal conditions. The data cells inside carry a charge that may dissipate over time.

Can Files Be Recovered After Formatting USB Drive?

Yes, as long as new data hasn’t overwritten the old files. You can use flash drive data recovery software to retrieve files after accidentally formatting the USB stick. But act quickly, the more you add new data, the less chance there is to restore what was erased.

What Is the Difference Between Flash Drive and Thumb Drive?

The key difference between flash drive and thumb drive is the type of memory they use to store data. Flash drive uses compact flash(CF) only, while thumb drive is type of solid-state drive(SSD), does not use magnetic properties, and also use flash memory(CF) to read, wirte and store data.


The value of USB flash drives as key data storage tools can never be overstated. Sometimes accidents occur, making your valued files and projects damaged or missing. However, that’s still highly fixable if you refer to this comprehensive guide, which will help you pinpoint the causes of these issues and offer beginner-friendly solutions. Plus, from above you get useful tips to avoid future USB corruption issues. With all this knowledge and skills in hand, you are set for a smooth digital journey!

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