USB flash drives store data in the memory in a similar manner to hard disk drives, and there are various scenarios which can lead to the data on your USB flash drive becoming inaccessible. While they are great for portability and cost, they are notoriously easy to break.

There are essentially two reasons for a USB flash drive to become unresponsive when plugged in – physical faults or logical faults. With the former, you shouldn’t attempt this at home, especially if your files are precious; you will likely only make the situation worse. Instead, consult a specialist in USB data recovery, who will be able to identify and fix any physical issues with your USB stick. For logical issues, though, there are a number of steps you can take at home to recover lost data from a USB drive.

In order to recover data from an inaccessible USB flash drive, you need to first identify what the problem is. It’s entirely possible, considering USB drives are often made with cheap components, that there is physical damage, typically the circuit connector, circuit board or NAND memory chip. The most common problems users are confronted with are the USB drive not being recognised when plugged in, or being prompted to format the device. If the USB connector or circuit board are damaged, this can lead to the power supply being cut off, rendering the device unusable, and requiring soldering and circuit repair. It is definitely not recommended to undertake this yourself, or you could render the data on the USB drive unrecoverable.

Logical or software issues are a little easier to fix, and can be undertaken at home. If you frequently use your USB flash drive, it can develop bad sectors, which are portions of data that your computer is unable to read. You will need to repair the file structure so the data on the USB flash drive can be accessed again. In Windows, you can scan for problems by right clicking on your right clicking your removable disk, then clicking ‘properties’. Under the ‘Tools’ tab, there will be a ‘Check Now’ button, an two boxes to tick, ‘Automatically fix file system errors’ and ‘Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors’; check both boxes. Click ‘Start’, and the process will begin. 

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