We are going to show you three ways to perform flash drive recovery. By following our step-by-step instructions, you can bring back files you thought were permanently deleted and avoid losing everything from hours of work to irreplaceable memories.
Flash drive technology is an extremely popular method of adding extra storage to a computer or mobile device. These small, portable storage devices are known by many names including thumb drives, memory sticks, pen drives, and USB sticks.
Millions of users rely on USB flash drives or comparable removable storage devices to save and protect their data. Music, photos, videos, and other items are stored on flash drives from smartphones, cameras, and handheld devices. Unfortunately, flash drive technology is just as susceptible to data loss as other storage technologies.
How to Restore Deleted Files on Your Flash Drive Using Data Recovery Software
Data Recovery software is the first way we will consider to undo the effects of accidental file deletions or inadvertent flash drive formatting.Our editorial team prefers Disk Drill. This is a simple but feature-rich solution that can help you undelete files from your USB in a few easy steps.
To maximize your chance of recovering lost files and folders, you should stop using the flash drive as soon as you suspect data loss has occurred. This includes not using the drive to download and install Disk Drill.
Download and Install Disk Drill
Disk Drill can be easily downloaded from the official website of its developers, Cleverfiles. The free version for Windows allows you to recover up to 500 MB of data for free, which is plenty for hundreds of documents or dozens of songs and images.
Connect the Flash Drive to the Computer
Simply connect the flash drive you want to recover to any free USB port on your computer. To enjoy the best data recovery speed possible, always choose the fastest USB port available.
Launch Disk Drill
With your flash drive connected, you can go ahead and launch Disk Drill. Keep in mind that Disk Drill may request admin access before running. Without it, the software can’t use its powerful algorithms to analyze the flash drive at the deepest level.
Select the USB Drive You Want to Recover
Select the connected flash drive from the list of storage devices detected by Disk Drill. If you’re not sure which device to choose, you can select it and then switch to the Info tab for more information about it.
Scan Your Flash Drive
Click the Search for lost data button to start Disk Drill’s scanning procedure. By default, all recovery methods are applied in the optimal order to identify as many recoverable files as possible.
Review the Results
Review the list of recoverable files and select the ones you want to recover. When you click on a file, Disk Drill will attempt to display its preview. Generally, all files that can be previewed can also be successfully recovered.
Recover Your Data
Click the Recover button to restore the files to their new location. Choose a location that’s not on the same USB drive from which you’re recovering your lost files to avoid overwriting.
Disk Drill is a comprehensive data recovery software solution that can restore deleted files from a flash drive by employing powerful scanning algorithms. They allow the tool to reconstruct files in hundreds of formats and return the files and documents you thought were erased (including MS Office documents and RAW photos & videos). Apart from recovering deleted or missing files from your “healthy ” USB drive, it can help you recover data from flash drives that turned RAW, became corrupted, or even virus-infected. On top of that, your files will be recovered with original file names and folder structure. It can also be used to recover data from virtually any storage device, for example, external hard disks.
How to Recover Deleted Files From Flash Drive Using CMD
Windows users can use the command prompt to attempt flash drive file recovery using two native commands, one of which checks and fixes file system integrity, while the other one reveals hidden files and folders.
To recover files using CMD, follow these steps:
- Open a command prompt by pressing Windows + R and typing CMD in the search box.
- Type chkdsk “drive letter”: /f and press the Enter key.
- Use this command to recover the lost files on the drive: ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D “drive letter”:*.*
When recovery is complete a new folder will be created on the flash drive with the recovered files. They may be in CHK format and will need to be renamed and saved in order to be usable.
How to Restore a Previous Version of Files on Your Flash Drive
You can attempt to recover deleted files from a thumb drive by restoring a previous version of the files and folders. This can be done in a number of ways.
If you are running Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 7, or even Windows 11 you can use the built-in facility in the OS that allows the restoration of previous versions of a file or folder.
Here is a simple procedure to follow:
- Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the folder that contained the files or folders you wish to recover.
- Right-click and select Restore previous versions.
- Select the version you want and click Open to verify it is the file you want to restore.
- Complete the restore by selecting the previous version you want and click Restore.
Another way to restore a previous version of a file is through backups that have been previously created. The specific steps will vary depending on the method you use to make the backups, but the general procedure is the same.
- Fire up your backup tool.
- Search for lost files or folders.
- Restore them from the backup storage media or the cloud.
Of course, to take advantage of this method you need to have a backup that contains the deleted items. Even if you take regular backups, newly created or modified files may not have been backed up before being accidentally deleted.
Advantages of Using USB Data Recovery Software
USB Recovery Software offers you the best chance to recover deleted files from USB drives. You can attempt to perform recovery without software using the methods described above, but they are an inferior solution to using data recovery software.
Recovering from a previous version or a backup forces you to use an outdated file that will not contain any changes made since the last backup. Recovery software goes after the actual data that was deleted and restores it to the state it was in before deletion.
Protect Files on Your Flash Drive From Accidental Deletion
You can protect the files on your flash drives in a variety of ways. Some of the best are:
🛡️ Backup the files
This task can be easily accomplished with the cloud backup option available with many mobile devices in which a flash drive is used. You can also use another physical storage device to create an extra copy of your data. Regular backups are key to data protection.
🔤 Label the flash drives
Clear labeling can help prevent accidental formatting or file deletion.
✅ Keep your flash drives safe
Thumb drives can easily be lost or damaged if not cared for properly. This can lead to the loss of valuable and potentially irreplaceable data.
Most Common USB Flash Drive Issues
– USB Device not recognized
Solution: There are a few different ways to approach the “USB Device not recognized” issue.
- Try a different USB port.
- Completely power down your system and restart it.
- Remove and reinstall or update the driver.
- Try the device on a different computer.
– USB Flash Drive Showing “Disk Not Formatted”
Solution: The USB drive is asking to be formatted? Format the drive or try it on another computer. If you need the data on the drive, after formatting you can attempt to restore it with data recovery software.
– Connected Flash Drive is not detected in Windows
Solution: This problem can be caused by drive corruption, erroneous BIOS settings or compatibility issues. Try a different computer if available. Data recovery software may be able to rescue the data from the drive if it can identify it as a raw disk.
Files deleted from your USB drive do not take up temporary residence in your Recycle or Trash Bin. They are essentially permanently deleted from a logical perspective. However, until they are overwritten, they can be recovered.
Here’s a super-quick guide on recovering deleted files from a USB stick:
- Download and install Disk Drill.
- Connect your USB stick to your PC or Laptop.
- Select your USB drive and click Search for lost data.
- Mark the files you need to retrieve.
- Choose a safe recovery destination and finish the recovery process.
There is no need to format your USB drive before attempting data recovery. You should avoid using the drive for any reason until the recovery is complete.
Robert Agar is the Content Writer & Managing Editor for Handy Recovery. Robert brings over 30 years of experience in data storage, security, compliance, backup, and recovery to the HandyRecovery team. Several years ago, he turned his attention from hands-on technical roles to develop a career as a freelance writer concentrating on technology and its impact on society. Areas of focus include the cloud, data recovery, artificial intelligence, and industrial automation.
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.