USB drives are a durable and convenient way to store data. However, they aren’t immune to data loss. The good news is that you can fix broken USB drives and recover the missing data. Closely read the sections that follow to perform a broken flash drive recovery successfully.
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What Are the Signs of a Failing USB Flash Drive
Typically, a pen drive will not instantly fail. There are a few telltale signs that can indicate if the thumb drive is about to fail. Ideally, you should get information off of the USB drive as soon as you notice any of these symptoms:
- Randomly Disappearing File: One of the main signs of a damaged USB storage device is disappearing files. If you notice a file or two goes missing randomly, take it seriously, as the drive may be about to fail.
- Slow Read and Write Speeds: While this could be an issue with your computer or USB port, sudden sluggishness in the read and write speeds of the USB drive could indicate imminent failure. Just to be safe, back up your data as soon as you notice this.
- Computer Not Recognizing the USB Drive: If your computer displays messages such as “USB drive not recognized,” when you connect the USB drive, it could be a sign of a corrupted flash drive. Cheap USBs are more susceptible to random corruption.
- Physically Damaged USB Drive: Needless to say, a bent or cracked USB drive will typically not work. Additionally, excessive use and overheating can damage the NAND chips on your thumb drive. Water-damaged USB drives are also quite common, and it’s dangerous to continue using them.
Why USB Flash Drives Stop Working Properly?
There are a few reasons why your USB drive may stop working properly. Knowing the exact cause of why pen drives malfunction is important because it helps narrow down the ideal way to fix damaged USB drives.
Here are a few common causes behind USB drive failure:
- Incorrectly Removing the USB Drive: All of us are guilty of this. Suddenly removing a pen drive from your computer can cause logical or physical damage to the USB drive. Always use the Eject Media option on Windows and then gently remove the pen drive from your PC. Additionally, disconnecting the drive while it’s reading or writing data can result in data corruption.
- Component Failure: Naturally, a USB drive consists of various electronic components such as microcontrollers, resistors, and capacitors. An unexpected power surge, short circuit or water can irreversibly damage them.
- Excessive Use: All USB drives have a limited read-write expectancy. In typical usage scenarios, a USB drive will last many years and possibly a decade before it maxes out its read and write rating. However, with excessive use, it can fail earlier than anticipated.
- Corrupted File System: Malware and improper usage (such as disconnecting the drive abruptly) can cause file system corruption, making your data inaccessible. Incorrect formatting is another reason for a corrupted file system. A corrupted file system comes under logical damage. In most cases, you can easily recover data from a corrupted USB drive.
- Manufacturing Defects: Cheap USBs use low-quality components and will fail earlier than better quality ones. It’s always best to invest in a good quality USB drive (such as SanDisk or Lexar) from the beginning and save yourself the cost of data recovery when a cheap one fails.
- Permanently Connected USB Drives: While it’s important to remove your USB drive correctly, it’s also important not to keep the drive connected to your PC permanently. The voltage fluctuations and other factors can result in overheating as well as significantly faster wear and tear of the components.
Can You Retrieve Data From a Broken USB Stick?
To perform a broken USB recovery, it’s imperative to know the cause of data loss. DIY recovery is possible in case of logical damage, accidental file deletion, and data corruption. Mild physical damage such as a bent USB flash drive can be bent back into shape.
The most important thing to realize, is that the pen drive should be readable by your PC. Even if it doesn’t appear in the File Explorer, it should be visible in the Device Manager, for data recovery software to do its work.
Here’s how you can check if the USB drive is visible in the Device Manager:
- Type Device Manager in Windows Search and open the application.
- Now, look for the Disk Drives section and expand it.
- You should see a device by the name of Generic USB Flash Drive or something similar. If it’s visible, it means that your USB drive is readable, and you can use third-party data recovery programs to recover data.
If a drive is not readable or there is extensive physical damage to the thumb drive, always make use of a professional data recovery service. Attempting DIY recovery can result in further data loss.
Fix logically damaged USB drive
Use Windows Troubleshooter and reinstall the USB drivers.
Fix physically damaged USB drive
Remove the casing and connect the USB, ensure the port is working, and clean the USB and the port.
Recover data from a readable flash drive
Use Disk Drill to recover the data.
Fix a USB drive with extensive physical damage or one that is not readable at all
Contact a professional data recovery service.
Recover Data from a Broken/Damaged USB Drive
If your USB is visible in the Device Manager, you can use third-party USB recovery software to retrieve the missing data. However, ensure you use a good data recovery program since repeated data recovery scans further stress the drive.
Disk Drill is a well-reviewed third-party data recovery software, that can easily retrieve lost data from the USB drive. It is also simple enough to use for absolute beginners, making broken flash drive recovery a breeze. Here’s how to retrieve data from broken flash drive(s)using Disk Drill:
- Download Disk Drill and follow the instructions in the setup file to install the program.
- Connect your USB drive to the computer.
- Launch Disk Drill and select the affected USB drive. Click on Search for lost data to begin the data recovery scan.
- Once the scan is over, click on Review found items to see the recoverable files.
- Disk Drill will display a list of recoverable files along with the recovery chances next to each file. Simply select the files you want to recover, then click the Recover button.
- Choose a destination where the recovered files will be saved. Choose a different location than the USB drive. Click on OK.
- Disk Drill will recover the selected files.
How to Fix a Broken/Damaged USB Drive
You can fix a broken, damaged, or corrupted USB drive at home provided the damage is not extensive, and you have the right tools.
How to Fix a Logically Damaged USB Drive
There are two main scenarios when a USB drive is damaged–either it’s readable or it’s not. Depending on the case, there are different fixes that can repair the damaged flash drive:
Case #1: USB Drive Is Readable and Visible in the File Explorer
If the USB drive is readable and visible in the File Explorer and Device Manager, you can use Windows’ error checking service to automatically detect and fix logical issues in the drive. Here is how to do this:
Scan the Drive With Windows Troubleshooter
- Open Windows Explorer and right-click on the USB Drive.
- Click on Properties.
- Navigate to the Tools tab, and under Error Checking, click on Check.
- On the next window, click on Scan and repair drive.
- Windows will automatically detect and fix any errors on the USB drive.
Scan the USB Drive Using CHKDSK
- Type “cmd” in Windows Search.
- Right-click on Command Prompt > Run as Administrator.
- In the console, type chkdsk X: /f (replace X with the drive letter of the USB, visible in the Windows Explorer.) and press Enter.
- Windows will scan and fix the USB drive.
Change Drive Letter Using Disk Management
- Press Windows Key + R to open the Run application.
- Type diskmgmt.msc in the text box and press Enter.
- Look for the USB drive in Disk Management and right-click on it. Select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
- On the next window, click on Change.
- Select a letter from the drop-down menu and click OK.
- Click OK again and close Disk Management.
Case #2: USB Drive Is Not Visible in the File Explorer
In order to perform a DIY, a USB drive needs to be visible in the Device Manager, even if it’s not displayed in the File Explorer. Fortunately, you can use the Device Manager to reinstall the USB drive’s drivers and potentially fix the corruption:
- Open Windows Search and search for “device manager”.
- Click on Device Manager.
- Expand the Disk Drives section.
- Right-click on your USB drive and click on Uninstall device.
- In the prompt, click on Uninstall.
- After the uninstallation, remove the flash drive and reboot your PC.
- Reconnect the drive and Windows should automatically install the drivers again.
How to Fix a Physically Broken/Damaged Flash Drive
Only attempt to fix a physically broken USB drive if you’re confident and have the right equipment to do so. In all other cases, it’s better to let an expert fix the flash drive.
There are some common fixes that can help mild physical damage to the USB drive. Try these, and if they don’t work, it’s best to contact a professional to repair the damaged USB drive.
Common Fixes to Try
- Clean out the USB port and ensure you wipe out all dust and other particles.
- Connect your USB drive to different ports and a different computer to ensure the issue doesn’t lie with the PC or port.
- Remove the USB drive’s casing. A damaged casing can prevent you from inserting the drive properly in the port. Be careful while prying it open so that you don’t damage the internal components.
- If the USB is bent out of shape, simply try bending it back into shape and see if the computer detects it.
In What Cases Should I Contact the Flash Drive Repair Service?
Simply put, you should use a broken flash drive repair service when the USB is physically damaged to the point it’s not readable by your computer. There are plenty of data recovery services that offer USB data recovery and repair.
Here’s an overview of what to expect when using a data recovery service to get back data from a USB drive or jump drive:
- Contact the data recovery service using their website or emergency hotline.
- Tell them about your USB data loss scenario and ask for an evaluation (usually free).
- Drop off or courier the damaged USB drive to the data recovery lab.
- Experts will evaluate your pen drive and get back to you with an exact quote.
- Decide whether you want to proceed with the data recovery or not.
The easiest and most effective way to recover deleted files from a USB drive is to use Disk Drill:
- Download & install Disk Drill.
- Connect the USB drive to your PC.
- Launch Disk Drill, select the drive & click on Search for lost data.
- Click Review Found Items & then select the files you want to recover.
- Click on Recover & select a recovery destination.
Yes, provided it’s not severely physically damaged. A bent pen drive can be put back into shape. Logical damage can be fixed using Windows’ in-built troubleshooter and reinstalling the drivers using Device Manager.
Some common fixes include–rebooting your PC, updating the USB drivers, reinstalling the drivers, and disabling the USB Selective Suspend setting. Our article on how to fix USB drive not recognized error delves into this issue in more detail.
Disk Drill is a good choice if you want to recover data from a logically damaged USB drive. However, you’re not lost for options, since there are plenty of other USB repair tools that do the same.
Repairing a USB drive and the cost of data recovery can range anywhere from $20 all the way up to $3000. However, companies will only be able to provide you with a quote after they analyze your drive.
A damaged pen drive will likely not show up in Windows explorer. There are various ways to format a damaged USB without losing data, but the easiest is to create a byte-to-byte backup using Disk Drill and then format the drive.
The main takeaways from this article are that broken USB drives can be recovered right at home if they’re still readable and there’s only minor physical damage. But, it’s important you closely follow the steps above to retrieve the data without any hiccups.
Manuviraj Godara's interest in technology began as soon as he got his first computer. From Googling how to run incompatible games on his PC to writing about computers for a living, the world of technology has never ceased to amaze him. When he's not obsessing over the latest innovations in the tech world, he likes to spend time listening to his favorite music records.
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.