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.
As a Windows user, it's important to realize that a USB device might still be recognized in Device Manager even though it's impossible to access through File Explorer.
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
The first thing to do when dealing with a problematic USB stick is to ensure the precious data you had stored on it won't get lost. For that, there's nothing better than Disk Drill, one of the most straightforward but powerful data recovery apps worth adding to your USB stick repair utility collection.
In this article, we'll use Disk Drill to recover files from a non-accessible USB stick. Still, the app is capable of much more, so it's worth checking out our comprehensive review of this fantastic app to learn everything about it.
In the following guide, we'll take a complete byte-to-byte backup of a USB stick. This is a necessary precaution in case the problems are because of a hardware issue that could soon render the USB drive completely inaccessible and useless. We’ll then use this backup image instead of the USB stick for data recovery.
Are you confident your USB stick is working correctly and has no hardware problems? Then (and only then), you can skip the guide's first part and recover your files directly from it. However, it's best to go through all the presented steps to ensure your data will be recoverable even if your USB stick fails.
- Download Disk Drill from its official site and install it. With your USB stick connected to your PC and correctly detected, run Disk Drill and choose Drive Backup from the Extra Tools menu on the left. Select the USB stick you want to back up from Disk Drill's Device Disk List at the center of its window and click on Byte-to-Byte Backup on the top right.
- Click on the button with the three dots to select a destination for your backup image. Then click OK to have Disk Drill start backing up your USB stick.
- Disk drill will start backing up your USB flash drive. The time needed for this process to complete primarily depends on the size of your USB flash drive, the speed of the port it's connected to, and your computer's CPU.
- When the process completes, Disk Drill will tell you that the disk image was created. You can click on the Show in Explorer button to check it out in your default file manager or click on the button with the Home icon to return to Disk Drill's main interface and proceed to the next step, recovering your data from the backed-up image.
- When on Disk Drill's primary interface and with your USB stick backed up, click Attach disk image on the bottom left of the Device/Disk list.
- From the Open requester window that will show up, navigate to where you stored your USB flash drive's backup image and select it. Then click on Open to attach it to Disk Drill.
- The attached image will appear as a virtual device in Disk Drill's Device/Disk list. You will see its type reported as "Mounted Image". Select it and click on Search for Lost Data.
- Give Disk Drill time to thoroughly scan your backup image file for any files it can locate.
- When Disk Drill reports that the scan was completed successfully and all recovery methods are complete, click on Review Found Items to see all the files the app located in your USB flash drive's byte-to-byte backup image.
- Go through all the files Disk Drill located and place a checkmark on the left of the ones you want to recover. If you need help deciding whether to recover a file, Disk Drill lets you preview many popular file types, like images. To do that, click the little hovering eye icon on the right of any file's filename.
- Since it's probable Disk Drill will have found thousands of files, it's easier to locate the ones you want to recover using the app's filters and categories. You can filter down the results by choosing a category from the list on the left of Disk Drill's window or define a filter from the options above the file list. When you've found and selected all the files you want to recover, click the Recover button on the bottom right of Disk Drill's window.
- Disk Drill remembers the destination paths you've chosen in past recoveries and will show them in a list allowing you to select one of them. If you don't want to store the newly recovered files in one of the existing destinations, click the Choose Destination button and set a new one. Then click on the Next button to proceed to the actual recovery.
- Give Disk Drill some time to recover your files. The process should be relatively swift. The time required depends on the number and size of the files selected for recovery and the speed of your storage devices and PC. When done, Disk Drill will present a brief report of the results and allow you to check the recovered files by clicking the Show recovered data in Explorer button. Alternatively, you can click on the button with the Home icon to return to Disk Drill's main interface.
2. AOMEI Partition Assistant
Is a corrupted partition table rendering your USB flash drive inaccessible? You can fix it using AOMEI Partition Assistant. The tool's Standard Edition is free for personal use and can be a lifesaver when dealing with a problematic Master Boot Record (MBR for short).
The process we'll see can render your USB stick accessible again, but it might also do the opposite, further corrupting its contents, especially if you choose the wrong MBR type. It's best to use Disk Drill to take a complete Byte-to-Byte backup of your USB stick's contents, as we saw in the previous section, before proceeding.
- Start by downloading AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition from its official site and installing it.
- Right-click on your USB stick (not on any partitions inside it) and choose Rebuild MBR from the menu that shows up.
- Select the correct type of MBR on the Rebuilt MBR prompt. Note that despite what the prompt suggests, if you want to keep the data on your USB flash drive intact, you should select the OS under which your USB stick was originally partitioned and formatted. Try the first setting for Windows XP/2000/2003 if dealing with a USB stick with MBR and the FAT32 file system, or the last option, Windows 7/8/10/11/2011/2012, for USB flash drives with GPT and formatted with NTFS.
- You'll see nothing happening despite your actions, and AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition will remain idle. That's because you must manually start any pending operations by clicking the Apply button.
- AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition will present the remaining pending operations. Click on the Proceed button to do precisely that.
- AOMEI Partition Assistant will give you one last chance to abort the pending operations. If you are sure you want to proceed, click on Yes.
- Rebuilding the flash drive's MBR should be relatively quick. In mere seconds AOMEI Partition Assistant will inform you about the successful outcome of the operation. Hopefully, your USB stick should be accessible again.
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.