How to recover files from USB Flash Drive without formatting

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USB flash drives are an excellent choice for data storage, compared to internal hard drives. Since these are portable storage devices, they make the data transfer process easier.

But, these USB flash drives suddenly stop working, become unreadable or are not recognized if they get corrupted, or if their file system is damaged.

In that case, you can’t access the files present on the USB flash drive. And usually, to make it usable again, you have to format it.

But, we know that the format action totally erases the files located inside the drive.

So, if you have important data stored on the USB flash drive that you don’t want to lose, formatting is not the right solution.

But, how to recover files from a USB stick without formatting? In this article, we have separated some easy and effective solutions for this.

Common data loss problems on USB flash drive

Many factors affect the security of the data on the USB flash drive. The reasons behind data loss can be summarized into 3 main categories.

Let’s take a closer look at them and understand what steps should be taken to recover data from a USB flash drive when faced with different situations.

USB flash drive doesn’t show files

This prevents you from accessing the files on your USB flash drive. The most likely cause of this problem is a virus attack.

Some unknown viruses can not only infect your files, but also make them hidden. This creates an empty shortcut to your files and folders that leads nowhere.

USB flash drive becomes RAW or inaccessible

RAW it is an error that means that the operating system cannot recognize the file system type of the USB flash drive.

Some of the common reasons for your file system to become a RAW one are improper removal of USB flash drive, file system corruption, virus attack, too many bad sectors, etc.

The other possible cause of the RAW error is a file system that is incompatible with the operating system.

For example, if you plug an APFS (Apple File System) formatted USB flash drive into your PC — Windows will show that you’re using a RAW flash drive, as it doesn’t support that type of file system.

Windows says the USB flash drive isn’t formatted

The “USB Drive Not Formatted” error appears in Windows when you connect a USB flash drive with a damaged or unrecognized file system.

As a result, Windows prompts you to format your flash drive so that you can use it.

The USB flash drive is damaged or corrupted

If your pen drive is damaged or corrupted, this can also prevent you from accessing the stored data.

Some signs that your USB flash drive is damaged or corrupted are:

  • The file system keeps asking to format the disk;
  • The USB flash drive has been infected by viruses and has become corrupted;
  • The drive’s current file system is not supported;
  • The USB flash drive shows empty, 0 bytes or “the folder is empty”;
  • The drive is not recognized or the data is not read.

Careless deletion

Careless deletion can also cause data loss from your USB flash drive. This involves both deleting a file on the USB flash drive unintentionally, formatting the USB flash drive and accidentally deleting the data.

Is it possible to recover deleted files from USB flash drive?

Yes, because even if the files become inaccessible due to deletion, formatting, or any other reasons, the data is still on your USB flash drives.

So, if you haven’t saved any new data, you have a high chance that the files will be recovered as they are still there.

How to recover files from USB flash drive?

Now that we know that it is possible to recover deleted data from USB flash drive, we need to find out how it can be done. Check it out below:

Using a professional data recovery service

This is the only sure way to ensure the recovery of files from the USB flash drive without having to format.

In addition, a professional data recovery service is the best way to ensure the integrity of your USB flash drive, preserving it from the risk of being damaged.

Using a Recovery Tool

You can opt for a data recovery system to solve the problem. In this list, we’ve separated some of the best, with the pros and cons of each.

However, it is worth remembering that this solution requires technical knowledge and can aggravate the situation of data loss, if executed incorrectly.

Via backup

If you have a routine of backup it can recover USB flash drive files from them, eliminating the need to format it.

Using CMD

CMD is another option to recover data from USB flash drive without having to format. To use it:

  • Connect your USB flash drive to your computer’s USB port;
  • Click “Start”, type “cmd” in the search bar and press “Enter”;
  • This will open the command window, where you must type the following command: chkdsk /X /f (where “f” should be the letter corresponding to your pen drive);
  • If the recovery process completes successfully, it will display the message “Windows has made fixes to the file system” in the command window.

Now, you can open your USB flash drive and easily access the stored files.

How to fix a corrupted USB flash drive without formatting

If the data stored on your USB flash drive has become inaccessible due to some kind of corruption, here are some ways to fix the problem without resorting to formatting:

Plug into another USB port

A faulty USB port can be one of the reasons why your USB flash drive doesn’t work properly. So, try connecting your USB flash drive to other USB ports on your computer.

Connect to another computer

It’s possible that your computer, specifically, is failing to access data from your USB flash drive.

To test this theory, plug your USB stick into another computer and try to access it. If you do, the problem is really with your PC.

Change the drive letter

For that:

  • Go to the “Control Panel”, select “System and Security” and then “Tools”;
  • Click on “Computer Manager”;
  • Right-click on the drive corresponding to your USB flash drive and select “Change drive letter and path”;
  • Click the “Add” button and then “OK”;
  • Assign a new letter (that is not being used by any other drive) to the USB flash drive and complete the process.

Updating or reinstalling the drivers can get your USB flash drive working properly again. To do this:

  • Press the “Win+R” keys together to open the “Run” dialog box and type devmgmt.msc;
  • Expand the “Disk Drives” category and check for devices with a yellow exclamation mark next to them. If there is, right-click on your name(s) and select “Update Driver”;
  • If it doesn’t work, uninstall and reinstall the driver. To uninstall, click “Uninstall device” and then restart your computer. The driver will be automatically reinstalled.

Use Error Checking

If there are any kind of logical or software issues or errors with the USB flash drive, you can fix it by repairing the file structure so that the drive can be used again.

To do this, follow these steps:

Windows 7:

  • Connect the USB flash drive to the PC;
  • Open “My Computer”, right-click on “Removable Disk” and open “Properties”;
  • Click on the “Tools” tab and click on the “Check Now” button;
  • You will see 2 disk check options: “Automatically fix file system errors” and “Scan and try to recover bad sectors”;
  • Check both options and click “Start”;
  • This will start the scanning process;
  • Once the verification process is complete, click “Close”.

Windows 10:

  • Connect the USB flash drive to the PC;
  • Open “My Computer”, right-click on the “Removable Disk” and open “Properties”;
  • Click on the “Tools” tab and click on the “Rebuild” button;
  • This will start the scanning process;
  • Once the verification process is complete, click “Close”;
  • Finally, right-click on the USB drive icon, select “Eject” and remove the flash drive from the USB port.

After following the above process, you can check if the pen drive issue is fixed or not.

Use chkdsk

The chkdsk it is used to check the file system and system drive status to fix the errors found.

To use it:

  • Go to the Start menu and type cmd in the search tab;
  • You will see the Command Prompt;
  • Right-click on it and select “Run as administrator”;
  • Then type chkdsk U: /r and press the “Enter” key (replace “U” with the letter of the thumb drive).

Now, Windows will start repairing your USB flash drive. Wait until the process is complete.


Whenever the USB flash drive (or other drives) have an error, the first reaction is to resort to formatting.

However, if you have important files and documents stored on the flash drive, formatting it will cause irreversible loss of the files.

To fix the problem in this case, there are a few possible solutions. Such as, for example, recovering data from a backup, using CMD, using software or — the most recommended alternative: with a professional data recovery service, such as the one we offer here at Bot!

Our data recovery service is carried out from a meticulous analysis of your USB flash drive, preserving the integrity of the device.

With more than a decade of tradition and more than 100,000 solved cases, we can recover data from your USB flash drive within 48 hours.

If you have any questions about our recovery process, we can clarify them at any time of the day or night on our social networks.

Finally, for your convenience, we offer free collection of your USB flash drive from any location in Portugal.

Don’t waste time: start your data recovery with us now and become one of our satisfied customers.


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