How can I repair my corrupted USB?

Having a corrupted USB drive can be extremely frustrating. Important files become inaccessible, and you may have no idea how to get your USB working again. The good news is that in many cases, it is possible to repair and recover data from a corrupted USB drive with the right tools and techniques.

What causes a USB drive to become corrupted?

There are several potential causes of USB corruption:

  • Improperly ejecting the USB – If you don’t use the “Safely Remove Hardware” option and instead just pull out the USB, it can cause corruption.
  • Physical damage – Dropping the USB drive, getting it wet, etc can physically damage the drive and leads to corruption.
  • File system errors – The file system manages how data is stored on the drive. If this gets corrupted, it can make your drive unreadable.
  • Bad sectors – Over time, parts of the storage can go bad leading to corruption when those areas are accessed.
  • Viruses or malware – Viruses infecting the USB can modify and corrupt files on the drive.

How can I diagnose the problem?

When you plug in your corrupted USB drive, here are some of the common symptoms you may notice:

  • The drive is not detected at all
  • You get an error trying to access the drive like “Drive is not accessible. The disk structure is corrupted and unreadable.”
  • You can see the files on the drive but cannot open them and get an “IO device error”
  • The drive is detected but you cannot access your files

Based on the specific symptoms, you can start to narrow down the potential causes. Being unable to access individual files suggests file system corruption, while not detecting the full drive points to physical damage or connection issues.

Try a different USB port or computer

As a first step, try plugging the corrupted USB drive into a different port on your computer. Ports can sometimes go bad, causing connectivity issues. If it still is not working, try using a different computer entirely. This helps determine if the issue is with the USB drive itself or something on your specific computer.

Check for physical damage

Carefully inspect the USB connector and port for any signs of physical damage. Look for bent pins, broken/cracked plastic housing, and other obvious physical defects. If the damage is minimal, you may be able to gently straighten bent pins. But major physical damage typically requires data recovery services to attempt extracting your data.

Scan for and remove viruses

Viruses are a common source of USB drive corruption. Scan the drive with up-to-date antivirus software to check for infections. If they are found, quarantine and delete them. You may need to boot into safe mode to fully remove stubborn viruses from the USB drive.

Try data recovery software

If the drive is detected but files are corrupted or inaccessible, data recovery software may be able to help. Software like Disk Drill and EaseUS Data Recovery can scan the USB drive and restore corrupted files. This software can recover files even from drives with file system issues and bad sectors by looking at the raw data. The basic versions usually offer 1 GB of free data recovery.

Reset or format the USB drive

Resetting the USB drive erases all data but can fix software and file system errors that cause corruption. To reset on Windows, right-click the drive, select Format, pick exFAT or FAT32 file system, and click Start. On Mac, open Disk Utility, select the USB, click Erase, specify a format, and click Erase.

This erases all files but has a good chance of making the drive usable again. Attempt data recovery before doing this if you need the files.

Check and repair file system errors

File system corruption is a common problem that can make your drive unreadable. To check for errors and potentially fix them:

  • Windows – Open Command Prompt as admin and run “CHKDSK X: /F” where X is your drive letter.
  • Mac – Use Disk Utility First Aid tool to verify and repair disk errors.
  • Linux – Use fsck command like “sudo fsck /dev/sdb1” to scan and repair the connected USB drive.

This scans the file system for issues and attempts to repair them. If errors cannot be fixed, reformatting may be required.

Disable USB write caching

Write caching is a feature that improves USB drive write speeds by buffering data before writing it to storage. But if not disabled properly, removing the drive before cached data is written can cause corruption. Disabling write caching prevents this issue.

To disable on Windows:

  1. Open Device Manager
  2. Expand Disk drives
  3. Right click on USB drive and select Properties
  4. Go to Policies tab
  5. Check “Better performance” to enable write caching
  6. Check “Quick removal” to disable write caching

On Mac, this feature cannot be disabled. Just remember to always eject properly.

Update USB drivers

Outdated, buggy, or corrupted USB drivers can result in connection issues and failures. Update your USB drivers to the latest stable version provided by your computer or motherboard manufacturer.

On Windows, you can use Device Manager to check and update drivers. On Mac, system updates will include latest USB drivers so just ensure your system is up-to-date.

Low-level format the USB drive

Low-level formatting completely erases and resets the USB flash storage at a low level. This can fix bad sectors and other physical issues with memory modules that cause corruption. But it will erase all data so recover files first.

You can use HDD Low Level Format Tool for Windows and Drive Genius or DiskMaker X for Mac.

Repair USB using manufacturer tools

Most major USB drive manufacturers like SanDisk, Kingston, and Samsung provide their own tools for checking and repairing USB drives. These tools can diagnose issues specific to the drive and even perform advanced repairs not possible with general OS utilities.

It’s worth visiting the manufacturer’s website and looking for any USB tools they provide. Use these tools to run diagnostics and repairs on your corrupted drive.

Send to a data recovery service

For severe corruption, physical damage, or very valuable lost data, a professional data recovery service may be required. They have specialized tools and clean room facilities to physically repair drives and extract data at the lowest level.

This can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars but is sometimes the only way to recover lost files if DIY options don’t work.


USB flash drive corruption can happen to anyone. But in many cases, you can recover your valuable photos, documents, and other personal files. Follow these troubleshooting tips like using data recovery software, checking for file system errors, updating drivers, and reformatting to get your USB back up and running.

If you’ve tried all options without success, professional data recovery services represent the best last resort to salvage your irreplaceable data. With the right tools and techniques, chances are good you’ll be able to use your USB drive again.