USB sticks are one of the many modern portable devices that can be used to recover files.
Unlike a hard drive, a USB drive has no moving parts, which means it has fewer points of failure than other storage devices. However, it is still very vulnerable to damage, so you could lose access to your irreplaceable data.
How to damage a USB Stick
There are two main ways to damage a USB drive: physical and logical.
Physical damage occurs when the plug bends or breaks off, if it is bumped or pushed when connected to a device. It can also happen inside the equipment. In this case, removing anything from it can be tricky, especially if a connector, NAND memory chip, or circuit board is broken.
Logical or non-physical corruption occurs when you don’t know about it until you see errors when trying to use a USB flash drive or data stored on it. Its software can get corrupted or there can be problems with NAND memory due to poor quality NAND memory chips.
Some of the common causes of data corruption include sudden power outages, USB driver problems, NAND memory wear, operating system and program crashes, or improper shutdown.
The good news is that you can recover files from a damaged USB drive using a few tips.
How to recover files from a physically damaged USB drive
Gently shake the USB stick
If some parts of the USB head do not contact when connected to the computer, turn on the speakers and wiggle. If you hear the detection sound, then the USB is connected to the PC.
Make sure this is a gentle bend and not an excessive bend, as this could damage the device further.
Move the joystick slowly in different directions, checking if there is an LED indicator (if any) or listening to the detection sound.
If the flash drive comes in contact with your computer, open the folder with the files and quickly transfer them to your computer. You may need to hold the joystick in a weird position, so if possible, have someone transfer the files while you hold it.
Pry off the metal connector
If the metal connector on your flash drive is broken so that it can’t fit into the USB port, try opening it with pliers. This step requires extra care as it could result in further damage to the stick or yourself.
In addition, you can get the assistance of a disk repair specialist and help you recover files depending on the damage and the type of recovery required. The most important part is the NAND memory chip inside the drive; if it’s still intact, the chances of saving your data are high.
Check the USB port for debris or foreign objects
A USB drive may not be a problem, especially if there is no visible physical damage. In this case, check the computer’s USB port for foreign objects or debris by gently brushing the port’s mouth with a toothpick or cotton swab to clean them.
If that doesn’t work, the internal component or drive might be damaged.
Soldering and repairing chains
If the PCB of the USB stick or the connector is broken, it may turn off the USB power. In this case, circuit repair or soldering is required.
Have a professional with special equipment do it for you so that you don’t permanently lose access to your data or USB drive.
Recover files from a logically corrupted USB Stick
In the event of non-physical damage, such as file corruption, you may receive common error messages such as â€œUSB not recognized or defectiveâ€, â€œInsert disk into removable diskâ€, â€œAccess Deniedâ€ or similar messages.
Damage can occur if the NAND memory chip makes the flash drive unreadable and displays the wrong size, usually 0MB. This also occurs if the disk controller software is damaged or the disk itself is damaged by viruses.
In this case, you can use several methods to fix the damage, including formatting the USB drive, professional repair services to undo the controller and retrieve your data, or a third-party data recovery solution.
Scan File Drive
If your USB drive is damaged, you can scan it for logical problems. To do this:
1. Insert the USB stick into the system port of your computer. Under This PC, look for the removable disk icon in the list.
2. Right-click on “Removable Disk” and select “Properties”.
3. Click the Tools tab and click Check.
4. You will have two options: automatically fix file system errors or Scan and try to repair bad sectors. Check both boxes. If there are no errors, you will receive a notification that you do not need to scan the disk. Click “Start” to start scanning and then click “Close” when the process is complete.
Change drive letter
Sometimes, you may not see the data on the USB drive when connected to a computer. You might think it is corrupted, but Windows may not have assigned a drive letter to it. Change the drive letter and check if you can access your data.
1. In the search box, enter “Disk Management” and select “Create and Format Hard Drive Partitions”.
2. Find your USB drive in the list of drives and right-click it. Select “Change drive letter and paths”.
3. Click Change and select a new drive letter for the drive. Every time you connect it to your computer, it will use the newly assigned drive letter.
4. Now you can extract files from disk.
Reinstall disk drivers
If you still cannot access your data from the USB drive, do not rule out the possibility of disk damage yet. Your computer’s drivers may be corrupted. To be sure, reinstall the disk drivers and check if your files can be accessed again.
1. Right-click “Start” and select “Device Manager”. Expand the Disk Drives category to see all drives connected to your computer.
2. Right-click the drive to be repaired and select Remove Device.
3. Remove the external drive and restart your computer.
4. Insert the USB drive back and let Windows automatically detect it and reinstall the drivers. Check if you can access your files and save them to your computer.
Check and repair disk
You can do this in two ways – using Windows Explorer or Command Prompt.
Using Windows Explorer to check and repair your drive
1. Connect your USB drive to your computer and open Windows Explorer. Click This PC, right-click the drive you want to fix, and then select Properties.
2. Click the Tools tab. In the Error Checking section, click Check. Windows will scan the drive and give you the scan results. If there are other problems with the disc, a pop-up window will appear notifying you of the problem.
3. Click Repair Disk to fix the problem and let the process continue until it is complete. Upon completion, you will receive a confirmation screen. If you need more information about the repair, click Show Details to open the Event Viewer and view the complete log.
Using the command line to check and repair a disk
1. In the search box, enter CMD and click Open. In the command prompt window, enter chkdsk [drive letter]: / r and press Enter to start scanning.
Once the scan is complete, you can see the results and a list of repairs (if any) on your disk.
Use third party recovery software
If you are unable to recover your data using the solutions we have already reviewed, you can try using third-party recovery software
There are many such apps and tools that promise to recover data for you, but not all of them live up to their promises. However, there are some good tools that are known to help extract data, such as EaseUS Data Recovery tool, TestDisk and PhotoRec or Recuva All this can help to recover data and partitions on disks, including deleted and damaged files.
Visit a Specialty Store
If all else fails, it’s time to take the USB drive to a specialist. They have specialized and powerful tools that you may not have at home that can save most, if not all of your data.
USB drives are vulnerable to software corruption and can break very easily. Depending on the degree of damage, you can recover files from a damaged USB drive.
However, to prevent such problems in the future, make sure that you regularly back up your data and valuable files to other hard drives or cloud storage. Also, always handle your device with care when plugging it in or out of your computer, and consider replacing it every few years to reduce the chance of damage.