After plugging your USB into your Windows 10/11 computer, instead of seeing your files, you’re met with an error message saying “USB Device not recognized”. Don’t worry, it’s happened to most of us at least once.
While your first instinct may be to mourn the loss of your files, you should first read this article and look at the various solutions you can implement to fix the issue.
Causes Behind The “USB Device Not Recognized” Issue
It’s often hard to determine the cause behind the message based on the fact that it can be caused by many things. Here are a few of the most common reasons why the USB isn’t being recognized by your Windows 10/11 computer:
- 👎 Outdated drivers – For your devices to function properly, they need to be running the latest drivers available. Outdated drivers cause performance and compatibility issues that can result in error messages.
- 🔧 Faulty hardware – If the USB drive has sustained physical damage, the drive’s internal components may not work as intended. The same is true for the USB port or USB hub itself. To isolate where the issue resides, try the USB in multiple ports.
- 🙅♂️ Corruption – Corruption doesn’t only occur to files. In fact, logical corruption can affect the entire USB. A corrupted USB will often show various messages that indicate something is wrong.
- ❗ Pending Windows updates – Windows regularly releases updates that contain important fixes and changes. If you’re running an outdated version of Windows, the error could be attributed to this.
Let’s move on to some of the solutions you can use to fix this message for good.
How to Fix a USB Flash Drive That’s Not Recognized
Most solutions are easy to implement. Simply follow the numbered steps through each solution until you find one that has fixed the problem.
Method 1: Restart Your Computer
The solution that’s most often mentioned as the first troubleshooting step. While it may seem unhelpful, restarting your computer actually helps detect devices that it previously didn’t. Before trying any of the other solutions, make sure you’ve completely powered down your computer and turned it back on.
You can perform a full shutdown by right-clicking the Start button, hovering over Shut down or sign out and clicking Shut down while holding the SHIFT key.
To ensure your computer is powered down completely, unplug the power cable after the computer has shut down, then plug it back in. If you have a laptop, simply holding the SHIFT key while clicking Shut down will suffice.
Method 2: Plug the USB Directly Into Your Computer
Using a USB hub is a great way to expand the number of USB ports available on your computer. However, they can be counterproductive if they don’t produce enough power to support the connected devices.
Try removing the USB from the hub and plugging it directly into your computer. If this has fixed your problem, try swapping your regular USB hub out for a powered USB hub, as they are designed to send enough power to each connected device.
Additionally, if you’re plugging the USB into a USB 3.0 port, try testing it in a USB 2.0 port to see if is detected.
Method 3: Force Your USB Drivers to Reinstall
Your existing USB drivers may be corrupted or damaged. Uninstalling the drivers and re-inserting the device can force a refresh of the drivers that were once working.
- Right-click the Start button and click Device Manager.
- Expand Portable Devices. Right-click your USB device, then select Uninstall device.
- Reconnect your device to your computer so the drivers can reinstall.
Once your device is connected again, Windows will force the drivers to reinstall.
Method 4: Update Your Drivers
Your devices use drivers to communicate with each other. Outdated drivers can cause hardware-related problems, like this error. Not only do you need to check if your USB drivers are updated, but also your motherboard’s.
- Right-click the Start button and click Device Manager.
- Expand Universal Serial Bus Controllers. Right-click Generic USB Hub and click Properties.
- Go to the Driver tan and click Update Driver.
- Click Search automatically for drivers. Alternatively, if you have drivers that need manual installation, click Browse my computer for driver software and select it.
Once finished, Windows will search for any driver updates and automatically install them. If your drivers are already up-to-date, or if updating the drivers hasn’t worked for you, move on to the next step.
If updating your drivers actually caused the issue, you can instead roll back to a previous driver. On step three, instead of clicking Update Driver, choose Roll Back Driver to revert to the previous version.
Method 5: Disable the ‘USB Selective Suspend’ Settings
Laptops often come packed with features. These features can consume a lot of power if left active. Windows combats this by implementing power-saving features. One of these features is called USB Selective Suspend. This disables USB ports that aren’t being used to help conserve power.
The problem with this is that it can cause erratic performance if it disables USB ports that it’s not supposed to. We can fix this by disabling the setting.
- Click the Start button and search Edit power plan. Select the first result.
- Click Change advanced power settings.
- Expand USB settings, then USB selective suspend setting. Change these settings to Disabled and click Apply.
Method 6: Fix the Power Management of the USB Root Hub
As we mentioned in the last step, Windows includes a few features that help conserve power that’s being wasted. The USB Root Hub helps support the USB ports that are included with your computer. We can tell Windows to ignore the USB Root Hub so that it’s not disabled by accident.
- Right-click Start and click Device Manager.
- Expand Universal Serial Bus controllers. Right-click USB Root Hub and select Properties. It may also appear as USB Root Hub (USB 3.0).
- Go to the Power Management tab and uncheck Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power. Click OK.
Repeat this for any other USB Root Hub list items you have in the Device Manager.
Method 7: Troubleshoot Hardware and Devices
Windows includes a variety of troubleshooters that can detect and automatically solve problems, one of which focuses on the hardware of your computer and any devices you may connect. Before starting, make sure your USB device is connected to the computer.
- Press Windows Key + S and search Command Prompt. Open it.
- Type msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic and press Enter.
- When the troubleshooter opens, press Next. It will begin to scan for problems.
- When a problem is detected, click Apply this fix. The troubleshooter can be run multiple times to detect various issues.
- Once the troubleshooter has finished, you’ll have the option of clicking View detailed information for clarity on what problems were detected.
Method 8: Update Your BIOS Version
The Basic Input and Output System (BIOS) is a small chip that signals all hardware components to power on the moment you push the power button. Nowadays, it’s more common to find computers with a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), however they both serve the same purpose, leading both terms to be commonly used interchangeably.
An outdated BIOS can cause problems with your hardware, especially in terms of compatibility. You can check your BIOS version and compare it against the latest version available to see if you’re up-to-date.
Updating your BIOS can be an intimidating process due to its technical nature. Any interruption to the update process can cause catastrophic problems. You can follow this guide as a supplemental resource to your manufacturers instructions, but if you’re not confident, have a professional perform the update for you.
- Press Windows Key + S and search msinfo. Open System Information and take note of the BIOS version.
- Go to the website of your computer’s manufacturer and check the latest BIOS version available for your machine. Every manufacturer will have a different update process. Some will provide an automatic updater, others will require a manual update which can be more difficult.
How to Recover Data From a USB That Reads “USB Device Not Recognized”
There’s only so much you can do to fix a USB that’s not being recognized by Windows. If you’ve tried everything above, then your next step is to recover the data that was on the USB.
Method 1: Recovery Using Data Recovery Software
Data recovery software isn’t new. In fact, data recovery has been around for years, with the first instance of successful data recovery occurring in 1987. Obviously, since then, we’ve made numerous technological advancements in how we use our data and how we recover it.
Nowadays, you can download recovery software at the click of a button and recover your data in any situation in a matter of minutes. Through the use of advanced recovery algorithms, these applications can deep scan your storage media and recover data after deletion. Most can even recover data from a recently formatted USB.
We’ve taken our time to compile a list of the best USB recovery software available on the market. If you’re stuck in a pinch because your USB isn’t showing up, try data recovery software to recover your files. If your USB device isn’t appearing in the data recovery application, then it’s time to consider a data recovery center.
Method 2: Recovery Using a Professional Recovery Service
In more advanced data loss situations, sometimes not even data recovery software works. Or, if you’re not confident in your technical abilities, you may prefer someone else to take care of it for you. Introducing data recovery professionals.
By using a data recovery service, you’re putting your data in the hands of a trusted professional. Using commercial-grade equipment and tools, they can carefully recover the data from your damaged drive, as well as recover deleted files from the USB if you choose.
Enlisting the help of a data recovery expert is usually the last resort. Where you can, try and recover the data yourself. It could save you time and money.
Prevent USB Errors Going Forward
There’s no way to guarantee your USB will be error-free for the remainder of its life, but there are steps you can take to proactively care for your USB’s health:
- 👍 Keep software and drivers updated – If you’re actively keeping your USB drivers and operating system up-to-date, you’re less likely to encounter issues relating to outdated firmware or software.
- 💻 Eject storage media safely – Before removing any storage device, be sure to eject it safely. This will reduce the chances of the drive becoming corrupted or damaged.
- 📦 Store the USB safely – Rather than keeping your USB at the bottom of your backpack, consider picking up a shock-proof case for all of your portable storage media to protect it against physical damage.
- 💾 Create backups – Of course, accidents always happen. To make sure you’re prepared, make regular backups of your data. In the event of catastrophic failure, at least you’ll have a copy of the data to continue working on.
Errors occur on most of our personal devices and present themselves at the most inopportune times. The “USB Device not recognized” error that appears when you connect your USB can be a head-scratcher. Luckily, with the solutions presented in this article, you’re equipped with the necessary fixes to get it sorted in no time.
Jordan Jamieson-Mane is a freelance content writer with a passionate interest in technology. Starting from a young age, this interest gradually turned into a career, with Jordan studying in the field of IT and moving into a technical role right out of tertiary education. After gaining first-hand experience in the field, he started his journey as a freelance content writer. As a tech enthusiast, his interests within the realm of technology include hardware, networking, smart technology, and consumer electronics.
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.