USB Flash Drive Recovery Tips

July 21, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Anyone who regularly uses a USB flash device is constantly running the risk of losing their data, perhaps permanently if the data isn’t’ backed up elsewhere.

The main reason for this is that the devices are delicate, and a sharp shock can lead to corruption both in the files and in the directory structure of the flash memory.

If you suspect your device is corrupt in some way, you can confirm this by inserting it into a desktop or laptop computer. Regardless of the data stored upon the device, you will quickly be able to tell is there is a problem thanks to a now apparently-empty device or a USB thumb drive that cannot be detected by your computer.

USB flash devices can become corrupt

Device Cannot Be Detected

If your USB flash device cannot be detected, there are a couple of things that you will need to do to establish what is happening here.

While it might seem that only the USB flash device is affected by this fault, you should check the drive with other USB devices. Additionally, check the device in other USB ports, as the problem may be related to the computer rather than the device.

Once you have ruled out your computer or USB port, and you’re certain the device cannot be detected, try restarting your computer and trying the process again. If you still have no success here, sadly the device will need to be discarded, and the data along with it.

Corrupt Data?

If the device can be detected, however, but the data that you would normally expect to find on it isn’t present, then you should be investigating your recovery options. Several are available, from the native Windows check disk function to third party solutions.

One of the best third party solutions is TestDisk, available free from Versions are available for all popular operating systems, and data written in a variety of file formats can be recovered, making this perhaps the first choice that you should try.

What this means is that TestDisk will find and recover data written to your USB device in file formats that aren’t native to your operating system, a useful function!

Safe Removal

The one sure-fire way to protect any data on your USB flash memory stick is to make sure you remove the device safely from your computer. Doing this will protect the data on the device by ensuring that it is not being accessed when removed, something that could potentially corrupt your data.

On Windows, you will need to find the USB device in the system tray; right-click this and select Eject. Windows will tell you when the device can be removed.

In Mac OS X, the USB device will appear as a drive on your desktop when connected. To safely remove the device, you will need to discard the drive by dragging it to Trash. Once this is done, you will be able to remove the device.

Finally, under Linux distros such as Ubuntu, safely removing a USB thumb drive is a little trickier.

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