How do I fix a corrupted flash drive not recognized?

What Causes Flash Drive Corruption?

There are several common causes of flash drive corruption:

Formatting issues – If the flash drive was not properly formatted or was abruptly disconnected while formatting, this can lead to file system corruption.

Bad sectors – Over time, bad sectors can develop on the physical media of the flash drive, leading to unreadable data.

Power failure during write – If the flash drive loses power while files are being written, this can corrupt data mid-write.

Ejecting incorrectly – Not properly ejecting the flash drive before disconnecting can corrupt the file system.

Virus infection – Viruses and malware can infect the flash drive and damage files.


How to Check for Corruption

The first step is to plug the flash drive into your computer and see if it is recognized. Try connecting it to different USB ports on your machine, as the port itself may be damaged. You can check in File Explorer to see if the drive shows up there. If the drive does not appear, it likely is corrupted or damaged.

You can also open up Disk Management in Windows. To access Disk Management, right-click the Start menu and select “Disk Management.” Look for your flash drive in the list of disks. If you see the drive show up here but not in File Explorer, it means the drive needs to be reformatted before you can access the data again.

If Disk Management does not show the flash drive at all, the drive is likely facing serious corruption issues and may not be fixable without advanced data recovery software or professional help. Some signs of extreme corruption include the drive not powering up at all when plugged in or the computer failing to even detect that a drive has been connected.

Overall, checking in both File Explorer and Disk Management will reveal if your flash drive is corrupted or damaged. If it is not recognized in either place, formatting and recovery software may be necessary to salvage the data and restore functionality.

Try to Reformat the Drive

If your flash drive is corrupted or not recognized, the first step is to try reformatting the drive. Reformatting will erase all data on the drive, so be sure to back up any important files first if possible.

To reformat the drive in Windows, go to Disk Management (press Windows key + R and type “diskmgmt.msc”). Right click on your flash drive and choose “Format”. You can choose between FAT32 and exFAT filesystems – FAT32 is compatible with more devices while exFAT supports larger files. Select the file system and click OK to reformat the drive.

Reformatting essentially resets the drive’s filesystem, and often resolves issues like corruption or the drive not being recognized. If the reformat fails, then there may be some physical damage, and you’ll need to try more advanced repair options covered in later sections.


Scan for Errors

One of the best ways to try fixing a corrupted flash drive on Windows is to connect it to your computer and run the built-in error checking utility CHKDSK. To do this:

1. Plug the corrupted flash drive into your Windows PC.

2. Open the File Explorer and right-click on the flash drive. Select “Properties”.

3. In the Properties window, go to the “Tools” tab and click on “Check”. This will start the Check Disk process.

4. Make sure the options “Automatically fix file system errors” and “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” are checked.

5. Click “Start” and let CHKDSK scan the drive and fix any errors it finds. This may take some time depending on the size of the drive and amount of corruption.

CHKDSK will attempt to repair file system errors, recover readable information, and mark bad sectors as unusable. This should help fix many cases of flash drive corruption on Windows.[1]

Update USB Drivers

One potential fix is to update the USB drivers in Windows. This can be done by following these steps:

Open Device Manager in Windows. This can be accessed by typing “Device Manager” into the Windows search bar and selecting the app.

In Device Manager, expand the “Disk drives” section. Right-click on the name of your removable USB disk and select “Uninstall device.” This will uninstall the current driver.

Restart your computer and Windows will automatically reinstall the USB drivers. This may potentially fix any corruption issues.

If the flash drive is still not being recognized, repeat this process but right-click on each USB controller under the “Universal Serial Bus controllers” section to uninstall those drivers as well. Restart again and the USB controllers will be reinstalled.

Updating USB drivers in this manner can often resolve problems with corrupted or unrecognized flash drives in Windows. If the drive still does not appear after reinstalling the drivers, other solutions may need to be attempted. For additional troubleshooting steps, refer to this guide.

Try Data Recovery Software

One of the most effective ways to recover files from a corrupted flash drive is to use specialized data recovery software. Some top options to try include:

Recuva – This free recovery tool from CCleaner can restore files that have been accidentally deleted or lost due to formatting or corruption. It offers deep scans to locate lost data.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard – The free version can recover up to 2GB of data from USB drives. It has a simple interface and effective scanning to find lost files.

Stellar Data Recovery – This paid software has a free trial available. It offers robust scanning to locate files from formatted or corrupted drives and has a high recovery success rate.

The key advantage of data recovery software is it scans the flash drive sectors to locate files that may seem lost. Even if the drive is not detected normally, the software can still scan it and restore recovered files to another location. This gives you the best chance of getting your files back from a corrupted flash drive.

Check for Physical Damage

One potential cause of a corrupted flash drive is physical damage to the drive itself or to the USB port it connects to. Carefully inspect the USB connector on the flash drive – look for any bent pins or damage to the metal contacts. Even very minor damage here can prevent the drive from making proper contact and lead to corruption issues.

Also check the plastic housing of the flash drive for any cracks or internal broken components. If the flash memory chip inside becomes disconnected due to damage, the drive will not be detected properly. Be especially careful with the thin sliding USB connectors on many flash drives, as these can break easily.

Inspect the USB port on your computer as well – a damaged port can also cause connection issues. Look for bent pins inside the port, as well as any looseness or damage to the port housing. If the USB port has any physical issues, try connecting the flash drive to a different port or computer to isolate the problem.

While physical damage often requires replacing the flash drive, sometimes simple cleaning can improve the connection and restore function. Use compressed air to blow out any dust or debris in the USB port. You can also use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to gently clean the metal contacts on the connector end of the flash drive.

Try a Different Computer

One way to troubleshoot whether the issue is with your specific computer or the flash drive itself is to try plugging the flash drive into another computer. Connect the flash drive to a different desktop or laptop running a different operating system like macOS or Linux. If the flash drive is not recognized on multiple computers, then the issue likely lies with the drive itself, such as file system corruption or physical damage.

However, if the flash drive is detected and accessible on another computer, then the problem is isolated to your original PC. This indicates a hardware compatibility or driver issue specific to that machine. You may need to update USB drivers, motherboard firmware, or adjust BIOS settings to regain proper USB functionality on that PC.

By trying the flash drive on different computers, you can rule out broader hardware flaws and isolate the issue. If the drive fails on multiple machines, focus troubleshooting on the device. But if it works elsewhere, investigate PC-specific incompatibilities. This simple test determines if the fault lies with the computer or the flash drive.

Clean the USB Connector

One possible cause of a corrupted flash drive is a dirty USB connector. Dust, lint, and other debris can accumulate in the USB port on your computer as well as on the flash drive’s connector. This can prevent the flash drive from making a proper connection and cause corruption.

First, use compressed air to blow out any dust or debris from the USB port on your computer. Be sure to turn off and unplug your computer first. Spray the compressed air into the USB port for a few seconds to dislodge any accumulated particles. You can also use a small, non-metallic brush to gently brush out any lint or debris from the port.

Next, clean the USB connector on the flash drive itself. Use a cotton swab dampened with isopropyl alcohol to gently rub the metal contacts. This will remove any oxidation or buildup on the contacts. Allow it to fully dry before reinserting into the USB port. Rubbing alcohol can help dissolve any grease or grime on the connector.

Proper cleaning of both the USB port and flash drive connector can help establish a solid connection and potentially fix the corruption issue. Just be gentle while cleaning and avoid getting any liquids into the port or drive. If the issue persists after a thorough cleaning, it could indicate a deeper problem with the flash drive.1

When to Replace the Drive

If you have tried the steps above to fix your corrupted flash drive, but the corruption issue keeps recurring, it may be time to replace the drive altogether.

Repeated corruption is usually a sign of a faulty drive. The storage components inside the drive are failing, leading to corrupted data. At this point, software fixes will only work temporarily before corruption strikes again.

Formatting tools can wipe the drive, but cannot repair physical defects causing the corruption. As the drive components continue to deteriorate, data loss becomes inevitable.

Likewise, if the flash drive is very old and has reached the end of its lifespan, replacement is the best option. Most flash drives last between 3-5 years with moderate use before components wear out.

Before replacing the drive, try using professional data recovery software like Disk Drill to recover important files. Then retire the damaged drive and purchase a new, reliable flash drive.

Replacing a repeatedly corrupted drive will save you from endless frustration and lost data moving forward.

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