Everybody has at least one USB flash drive, and we usually take them for granted. They're our mobile data pack and host the files we need everywhere. Unfortunately, however, they also occasionally fail.
Thankfully, there are ways to get back missing files, fix corrupted file systems, and keep using most USB flash drives after a mishap. Multiple USB flash drive repair utilities can help you address many such problems.
Why replace a working device when you could "fix it" with straightforward USB flash drive repair software? Let's see how!
When you can't access your USB flash drive's contents, the first thing to do is to ensure you eventually will. You should avoid using the device, for it could lead to further corruption. Instead, only "use it" with the proper USB flash drive repair tools depending on the problem, as we'll see in this article.
How to Tell If Your USB Drive Needs Repairing
Does your computer refuse to detect your USB flash drive no matter what you try? Unfortunately, in such cases, there's not much to do but recycle and replace the device.
If, however, your device is detected, you'll probably be able to get your data back from it. Maybe you'll even fully fix your USB flash drive and keep using it as if nothing happened.
Before moving on to our complete ranking, here is a quick recap of the best USB stick repair tools.
What Are USB Repair Tools?
Multiple solutions fall under the somewhat vague term "USB repair tools". The term covers:
- Tools that come with the Operating System.
- Third-party USB flash drive repair software specializing in data recovery.
- "Live" Linux distributions.
- Standalone backup solutions.
- Third-party utilities that streamline or extend the functionality of built-in OS tools.
8 Best Tools to Repair Your USB Drive
The USB stick repair solutions we will see here are the best for dealing with multiple problems. If you know what you're dealing with, feel free to pick the best USB flash drive repair tool for the issue at hand.
However, we've arranged and listed them in a logical progression that prioritizes the integrity of your data, minimizes the possibility of data loss, and maximizes recovery potential.
1. Disk Drill
Disk Drill is a powerful but straightforward file recovery application worth adding to your USB stick repair utilities collection. We'll zip through it and use it solely for recovering files from a non-accessible USB stick. Still, you can find out more about Disk Drill in our comprehensive review of this fantastic app.
Unlike some other software (such as Clonezilla), Disk Drill doesn't copy everything off your USB flash drive. Instead, it allows you to select specific files that you want to recover from your USB flash drive.
- Download Disk Drill from its official site. Then, install it like any other app on your computer, and run it.
- Select your USB flash drive from Disk Drill's device list. Ensure "All recovery methods" is selected from the pulldown menu on the right. Click on "Search for lost data" to scan your device for files.
- Give Disk Drill some time to perform its scans. You can click at any time on "Review found items" to check the files Disk Drill has located. However, you will (probably) get an extended list of files if you allow Disk Drill to complete its scan.
- Place a checkmark next to the files you want to recover. If you want more information than their filename, right-click on them and choose Preview.
- With all the files you want to get back selected, click on "Recover". Then, choose where you want to recover them.
- After some time, Disk Drill will inform you it completed the data recovery process. Click on "Show recovered data in Explorer" to check out your files in Windows' default file manager.
We almost always choose Disk Drill for its unmatchable combination of features, ease of use, and solid results. Still, if it's not your cup of tea, we've also covered many alternatives worth checking out.
To ensure the safety of the data in your USB flash drive, you should first take a complete backup of its contents, even if it's unusable in its current state. That's because if the problem's source is your USB flash drive's hardware (for example, its memory chips), more use translates to more wear and intensifies the problem. Having a backup will ensure that even if the situation gets any worse, you will still have options to recover your precious data.
There are many backup solutions you could go for, but Clonezilla is always at the very top or close. Download it from its official site, and use it to create a bootable CD, DVD, or USB flash drive.
- Boot from Clonezilla's live media and choose the first option, Clonezilla live.
- Pick the language and keyboard layout that you prefer. Then, choose Start Clonezilla.
- Select "device-image" to create and store a backup of your USB flash drive into an image file.
- Choose the device where you want to store the backup file.
- Skip any filesystem checks by choosing no-fsck.
- Select the directory where you want to store the image file.
- When asked, go for Beginner mode to hide Clonezilla's "more advanced" options.
- Choose savedisk to clone everything in your USB flash drive into a backup image file. If you wish, you can tweak the produced file's name.
- Choose your USB flash drive as the source.
- Leave any compression options as they are.
- Skip the filesystem checks for the source device as well.
- When asked, select Yes, check the saved image to ensure you'll have a recoverable backup when the process completes.
- We suggest "Not to encrypt the image" when met with the option. Finally, choose what you want to happen after the process completes.
- Type Y and press Enter to start the backup process. Then, give it some time to complete.
After the process completes - and a reboot - you'll find your backup in the device and folder you chose.
Did you decide to make a bootable USB flash drive for Clonezilla? Double-check you don't absent-mindedly "burn" the downloaded image on the USB flash drive you want to backup!
3. Live Linux ISO
Sometimes operating system or automatic driver updates may introduce incompatibilities with particular hardware. To ensure you're not dealing with such a problem, you can use a Linux distribution as a USB flash drive repair tool instead of an alternative operating system.
Let's see how you can do it using the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution. Start by downloading it from its official site and creating bootable media with it. Then, boot your PC from your new bootable media - you might have to check your motherboard's manual to find how to do that.
- When Ubuntu's installation wizard welcome screen appears, ignore "Install Ubuntu" and click on "Try Ubuntu".
- After a short while, you'll find yourself on Ubuntu's default desktop. Click on Files from the icon dock on the left side of the screen.
- If your USB flash drive is accessible under Ubuntu, you'll see it listed on the left, under a list of popular locations. Click on it to "Mount and open" it.
- If you can access your files, copy them to an HDD or other type of storage media. Make sure you've copied everything you need.
After finally accessing your USB flash drive, are some files missing or corrupted? That's where software specializing in data recovery can help, as we'll see right next.
If you go for a different Linux distribution, check beforehand that its installation media offers a live desktop environment - many don't.
4. GUI Error Checking
Windows 10 offers multiple paths that lead to the same error-checking tool. The quickest way to reach it is through the operating system's File Explorer.
- Run File Explorer (Windows Key + E). Right-click on your flash drive from the list on the left, and choose Properties.
- Move to the Tools tab of the window that appears, and click on the Check button in the "Error checking" section.
- Click on "Scan and repair drive" to do precisely that. The dialog might look different from our screenshot since the USB drive we used for testing didn't have actual errors.
- After a while, the Windows error-checking tool will inform you about the outcome of the process, successful or not.
If the process fails, you can also skip the command line approach that follows. Although the graphical and command-line solutions appear different, they work similarly and don't lead to different results. Which you use is purely a matter of preference.
Checking your USB flash drive from the command line is equally easy.
- Press Windows Key + X to access Windows 10's quick menu of administrative tools. From there, run Windows PowerShell with administrative privileges.
- Use the command
get-psdrive -psprovider filesystemto see a list of all storage devices attached to the computer and locate your USB flash drive.
chkdsk DRIVELETTER /r /f, where
DRIVELETTERis the one of your USB flash drive, to check for and try to repair any errors on it.
Even if repairing your USB flash drive fails, not all is lost. You might be able to reformat it to keep using it.
6. File Explorer Format
Even if the actual hardware of your USB flash drive is failing, maybe by reformatting it, you will be able to keep using it for a while. The quickest and easiest way to format your USB flash drive is once again through Windows 10's File Explorer.
We must stress that you should stop storing essential data on the device in such cases - a total failure is only a matter of time. We suggest you order a replacement before the inevitable happens.
- Run File Explorer and right-click on your USB flash drive. Choose Format…
- Windows 10's format dialog will show up. Choose the filesystem you want to use (FAT32 is the most popular and widely supported option) and enter a volume label. Since you are dealing with a potentially problematic device that you want to check in its entirety, disable Quick Format. Click on Start to begin the Formatting process.
- You will see a final warning before formatting the device. Click on OK if you are sure you want to proceed.
If you'd prefer the feeling of control offered by the command-line, you can use Diskpart instead to format your USB stick:
- Press Windows Key + X to see Windows 10's quick menu of administrative tools and, from there, run PowerShell with elevated privileges.
diskpartand press Enter to run the app.
- Use the command
list diskto see the diskpart-compatible storage devices attached to the computer. Note the number of your USB flash drive.
- Choose your USB flash drive by typing
select disk DISK_NUMBER, where
DISK_NUMBERthat of your USB flash drive you noted in the previous step.
- Erase everything on your USB flash drive with the command
- Make a new partition by typing
create partition primary. Then, format it with
When the process completes, type
exit and press Enter to quit Diskpart. You can then close PowerShell's window.
8. HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool
HP offers a tool specifically for formatting USB flash drives, which many people prefer.
- Unfortunately, HP doesn't offer an easily accessible link directly to its USB Disk Storage Format Tool. Your best bet is searching for it and downloading it from a trusted software repository, like Techspot.
- HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool doesn't need installation. However, what it does require are administrative rights. Thus, you should right-click on the file you downloaded and choose "Run as administrator" to run it.
- Ensure your USB flash drive is selected under "Device", choose a file system, and enter a label. Disable Quick Format to format the whole storage, locating potential faults in the process.
- Click "Yes" when the tool shows a final warning to proceed with the format.
Odysseas Kourafalos started playing with technology over thirty years ago, with a Commodore 128. Instead of gaming with it, he ended up trying to learn what made games - and tech, in general - tick. Since then, he's used thousands of applications, from music trackers to video editing suites, on multiple platforms, and lived to write about them.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.