Is there any free USB recovery software?

USB drives have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. We use them for storing important files, transferring data between devices, and even booting operating systems. However, like any storage device, USB drives are also prone to corruption and data loss. Accidental deletion, virus attacks, physical damage, or system errors can all lead to data loss on your USB drive.

When such data loss occurs, your first reaction is probably panic. Those files contained your important documents, precious photos, music collection, or other irreplaceable data. But don’t lose hope just yet. With the right USB recovery software, you can often recover lost or deleted data from USB drives and other external storage devices.

Can you recover lost data from a USB drive for free?

The good news is – yes, there are free options available to recover lost data from USB drives. While paid software understandably offers more features and better recovery success rates, free USB recovery tools can still help you get back your lost files in many cases.

However, not all free USB recovery software are made equal. The effectiveness and ease-of-use varies greatly across different tools. We will discuss some of the best free options that offer reliable data recovery capabilities without heavy limitations of free versions. But first, let’s look at some common causes of data loss on USB drives and how data recovery software works.

Common causes of USB data loss

Before looking at options to recover your data, it is helpful to understand why data loss occurs on USB drives in the first place. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Accidental deletion – Files may be permanently erased if you use the “permanent delete” option or format the USB drive.
  • Corruption – Abrupt removal, virus infection, bad sectors or file system errors can corrupt data on the drive.
  • Physical damage – Dropping or bending the USB drive can lead to physical damage and inaccessible data.
  • System errors – Problems with the USB port, cable or driver software can cause data loss.

How does USB data recovery work?

When a file is deleted or lost from your USB drive, it isn’t immediately erased from the storage media. The space occupied by the file is simply marked as available for overwriting by new data. Similarly, corrupted data is still present on the drive, but may be inaccessible.

Data recovery software work by scanning the USB drive sector-by-sector and searching for recoverable data based on file signatures. Even if the file system shows the space as empty, recovery tools can restore previously deleted or lost data by accessing the actual raw storage sectors on the drive.

However, the chances of successful data recovery reduce over time. The deleted data may get partially or completely overwritten by new files saving to the USB drive. Therefore, using data recovery as soon as possible after data loss gives you the best chance to get back your files.

Features to look for in free USB recovery software

While assessing your options for USB data recovery, keep an eye out for the following useful features and capabilities in a free tool:

  • Recovery success rate – A higher percentage of recoverable files, including formatted or corrupted partitions.
  • Deep scanning support – Multi-pass scanning to find more recoverable data from your drive.
  • Wide file format support – Ability to recover common file types like documents, media files, emails, archives, etc.
  • Disk imaging – Safely create disk image files to work on copies rather than risking original drive.
  • Preview before recovery– Allows viewing the recoverable files before restoring to check their integrity.
  • Easy-to-use interface – Wizard-driven or one-click options for an accessible data recovery process.

Top free USB data recovery software

Here are some of the best free USB recovery tools that can help you get back lost files and valuable data from your USB drives:

1. Recuva

Recuva is one of the most popular free data recovery tools for Windows. Its deep scan capabilities can detect even non-contiguous file fragments to maximize your recovery chances. Recuva supports FAT, exFAT, and NTFS file systems with its quick and deep scan modes.

Some key features:

  • Interface with wizard-style guidance for beginners.
  • Ability to recover files from healthy or damaged/unbootable drives.
  • Secure overwrite option for permanent deletion.
  • Preview for checking integrity of recoverable files.
  • Supports wide range of file types – documents, media, archives, emails, etc.

2. TestDisk

TestDisk is an open source, freeware recovery tool mainly focused on partition recovery. It can rebuild or repair damaged partition tables and file systems to regain access to your data and recover lost or deleted files.

Key features include:

  • Fixes partition issues and rebuilds boot sectors to recover inaccessible drives.
  • PhotoRec built-in for media recovery from FAT, NTFS or exFAT file systems.
  • Recover lost partitions – supports various file systems like FAT12/16/32, exFAT, NTFS, ext2/ext3/ext4, etc.
  • Data recovery from deleted or damaged partitions and unbootable drives.
  • Available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

3. Disk Drill

Disk Drill offers free recovery for up to 500 MB data on storage devices. It delivers an intuitive interface even for first-time users. Flexible scan options, protection tools and additional features are available in the PRO version.

Notable features of Disk Drill:

  • Quick, deep and undelete scans for lost data across devices and file systems.
  • Preview recoverable files before restoring them.
  • Protect important folders against accidental deletion.
  • Supports internal/external drives, USB flash drives, cameras, iPods etc.
  • Bulk and guaranteed file recovery options available (PRO only).

4. PhotoRec

As the name suggests, PhotoRec specializes in recovering image and video files from media storage like hard disks, USB drives, SD cards etc. It works with almost all file systems – FAT, NTFS, exFAT, ext2/ext3/ext4 and HFS+.

Some key capabilities:

  • Recovers photos, videos, documents and archives from formatted or damaged partitions.
  • Scans sector-by-sector to find recoverable media files via file signature search.
  • Supports major image, video and audio file formats like JPG, PNG, AVI, MOV, MP3 etc.
  • Available on Windows, Linux and Mac platforms.

5. UndeleteMyFiles Pro

As a free file recovery tool, UndeleteMyFiles Pro allows you to recover up to 2 GB of deleted data. It can help find and restore accidentally deleted files from hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, cameras, iPods, etc.

Notable features:

  • Tools for recovering deleted files as well as lost partitions.
  • Preview option to view files before recovery.
  • Supports FAT and NTFS file systems.
  • Filtering by file size and extensions for easy search.
  • 100% freeware free version.

How to avoid needing data recovery in the future

Prevention is always better than cure. While recovery tools can save the day after data loss, avoiding some common mistakes can reduce your need for recovering USB drive data.

  • Safely eject the USB drive before removing it to prevent corruption.
  • Maintain backups – don’t keep any irreplaceable data on just one USB drive.
  • Keep your anti-malware software updated to prevent virus infections.
  • Handle USB drives carefully and store them safely to prevent physical damage.
  • Avoid using USB drives across multiple operating systems without proper formatting.


Losing important files from your USB drive can be stressful. But free data recovery software offer a ray of hope to get back your lost data in many cases. Tools like Recuva, TestDisk, Disk Drill, PhotoRec and UndeleteMyFiles Pro provide decent recovery capabilities without cost.

However, flexibility and advanced options come at a price. Paid recovery software invest more into research and technology to enhance their recovery success rates. They offer capabilities like hardware troubleshooting, phone support, cloud backup, disk imaging etc. If your priority is flexibility and recovery guarantees, commercial tools like Stellar Phoenix, EaseUs Data Recovery, Disk Drill and ReclaiMe Recovery can be worth the price.

At the end of the day, prevention is better than cure when it comes to data loss. Be vigilant to avoid deletion mishaps, virus attacks and physical damage that may need recovery software to fix. Maintain regular backups of your important data on separate devices. And handle your USB drives with care to get the most out of them!