How to Recover Deleted Files From USB Flash Drive

USB Flash Drives

Recover Deleted Files From USB Flash Drive

See if this sounds familiar. Let’s say you were copying some photos or some documents to a USB drive, and all of a sudden you accidentally unplug it or it becomes disconnected somehow, and everything gets corrupted. Now you’re sitting there like, damn… Or you accidentally deleted something from your USB drive and only then realized that you needed these files.

We know that feeling. Today we are going to show you exactly how to recover these files. We will be showing you three different ways to recover your files from a USB drive on Windows. So let’s get started.

USB Deleted File Recovery: Dos and Don’ts

Before we start, there is a little bit of groundwork that we need to cover first, and that is what actually happens to files when they get deleted. If you have never read this blog before, then make sure you pay attention to this part specifically because it’s really important.

When you delete files, they’re not actually gone. Rather, they’re just hidden by Windows (or macOS, if you use Mac) to be overwritten later on by more files down the line.

What this means is that if we act fast, we can get our files back by “unhiding” them, using some backup methods, or software, and that will allow us to get our files back very easily. This also gives us a few guidelines that we should pay attention to:

  • Stop using your USB drive. This will prevent any further corruption or permanent deletion of the files that we’re trying so hard to recover. Continued use of the device may overwrite your deleted data with new data, making it unrecoverable. But don’t worry, this does not mean that if you copy one new file, you have permanently erased everything on the flash drive that was on it before you deleted or formatted it. That’s not how it works.
  • It would be a good idea to unplug the USB drive from the computer. This kind of goes along with point number one. It just forces you to stop using the drive and make sure that nothing will go into the drive or come out of the drive, thus greatly increasing the probability that you’ll be able to get your files back.
  • It’s best not to copy anything that remains on the drive from the drive to your computer. Using the drive at all can further corrupt the files if you’re not careful and you don’t know what you’re doing.

Just completely leave the USB drive alone. That’s basically all-encompassing here. Do not mess with the drive at all. Rather, the very next thing you should do is follow these simple methods that we are about to share with you in this article, and we’re going to get started right now with number one, which is using data recovery software.

Method 1: Recover Files Deleted from a USB Flash Drive Using Data Recovery Software

Deleted files from your USB? Then we’re going to be using method one, which is using file recovery software that will extract the data and get our files back for us.

So, there’s a lot of software out there, right? Some are better than others, but what we’re looking for is something that can actually go inside the drive and pull the data out and reconstruct all the data to give us the best chance of getting our files back. For that, we’re going to be using Disk Drill.

Disk Drill is, of course, awesome. We have talked about it before. But one of the great things about Disk Drill for Windows, especially with the advent of Disk Drill 5, is that you can use it for free and recover 500 megabytes of files from your drive right now.

It’s amazing because not only do you get those free files, but you also get to preview everything that’s been recovered so that you know 100% that those things are recoverable. So, it sounds pretty good to us, and we’re going to show you how to use it right now. Let’s go.

  1. First of all, download and install Disk Drill. Then, once you’ve downloaded and installed it, go ahead and launch it. This will bring up a bunch of different tutorials that you can follow if you want. But if you don’t want to, or once you’re done following those tutorials, it will bring you to the main screen which opens the data recovery panel by default.
  2. Now, select the disk that you want to scan, which in this case is our USB drive. Click the “search for lost data” button, which will initiate Disk Drill’s scanning algorithms.
  3. Depending on the size of your USB drive, this could take a little while, so you may have to exercise some patience here. Once it’s finished, you can review the files within the file structure here or in the categories on the left-hand side.
  4. One thing that we need to stress here – this is really important – when you’re looking through the files that have been recovered, make sure that these files are previewable. Previewing means that you’re actually able to see a preview of that file in its entirety inside of Disk Drill before you even recover it. This guarantees that those files are 100% intact, meaning that they have not been overwritten or damaged. This essentially guarantees that they are recoverable from that drive. Please note, you can only preview files that Windows can open natively.
  5. You can preview those files by clicking this little eye icon right next to the file name. If they are previewable inside of Disk Drill, then you know that those files are 100% recoverable, and you’ll be able to get them back in the event that you try to recover them. Making sure that those files are previewable is paramount.
  6. Once you find the files that you want, put a checkmark next to them, click the “Recover” button, and choose a save location. We strongly recommend that you export your files to your internal drive or somewhere that’s not the USB drive that you’re trying to recover from. Again, that’s really important to make sure that we don’t overwrite and corrupt those files in the recovery process. We typically choose the desktop, so that’s what we’re going to be doing today. Then, click “OK,” and that will recover the files to the location that you selected. Click the “Show recovered data in Explorer” button.

Now, as you can see, all of our files are right here, and they are completely usable. We can move them, copy them, open them in software, email them, and it’s literally just like they never left.

Method 2: Recover Files on a USB Drive Using CMD

So this is definitely not only the more advanced method, but it’s also a slightly different approach, or rather a slightly different USB file recovery concept. It uses CMD and a couple of special codes and commands that we can use in order to (1) repair the damaged file system on your USB and (2) unhide files that could have been hidden for some reason.

  1. To start, connect your USB flash drive to your computer. Then, open the start menu, type CMD, and hit enter on your keyboard.
  2. Now we’re going to be using two commands within CMD, and the first one is this: chkdsk X: /f. It’s basically a check disk command that’s going to scan the entire drive for us using CMD and fix the issues with your drive’s file system if there are any. And the one thing that’s really important here is the X in the command needs to be replaced with the drive letter of the USB drive that you’re trying to recover from. You can find this out just by going to your Windows Explorer, and in the sidebar, you can actually see which drive is associated with which letter. Then, once you’ve entered the command, go ahead and hit enter.
  3. Finally, we’re going to use this command: ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D X:. But again, make sure to replace that X in the command with the same drive letter that you used for the first command – very important. Then go ahead and hit enter again and wait for the process to be completed. So what this is going to do is it’s going to repopulate any missing or hidden files from the drive back onto the drive in the event of a virus or corruption or something like that. It doesn’t always work, but it is definitely a good thing to try.


Where do deleted USB files go?

If you’re wondering whether files deleted from a USB drive go to the Recycle Bin, the answer is no. The Recycle Bin uses a portion of each drive to store files deleted on that specific drive. When you delete a file from your C: disk, it goes to the C: Recycle Bin file.

When you delete a file from an external flash drive, there is no Recycle Bin on that disk. As a result, you’ll be asked if you want to permanently delete the file. However, when you delete files from a USB drive, they are not immediately erased from the device. Instead, the file system just marks the space on the drive where the deleted files were stored as available for new data to be written over it.

Until that space on the drive is overwritten with new data, it may be possible to recover the deleted files using specialized data recovery software.

How to recover deleted files from USB?

Here’s a super quick guide on how to recover deleted files from a USB flash drive:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Connect the USB drive containing the deleted files to your PC or laptop.
  3. Select your flash drive from the device list and start the scan.
  4. Select the files you want to recover and choose a recovery location.
  5. Complete the USB deleted file recovery process.

How to recover deleted files from USB without software?

Unfortunately, data recovery software is the only reliable way to recover permanently deleted files from your USB flash drive. However, if the problem with your flash drive is caused by viruses or logical file system errors, you may be able to fix it without using software by utilizing command line options such as chkdsk or attrib.

How to recover files from USB using command prompt?

Here is a short step-by-step guide on using CMD commands chkdsk or attrib on a USB drive:

  1. Connect your USB drive to your computer and open Command Prompt.
  2. Type “chkdsk X: /f” (without quotes) and press Enter, replacing X with the drive letter of your USB drive.
  3. Chkdsk will scan your USB drive for errors and attempt to fix them.
  4. If there are errors that cannot be fixed, type “chkdsk X: /r” (without quotes) and press Enter to scan and attempt recovery of bad sectors.
  5. Wait for the process to complete. If any issues are found, chkdsk will attempt to fix them.

To use attrib, type “attrib -h -r -s /s /d X:*” (without quotes) and press Enter, replacing X with the drive letter of your USB drive.

This command will unhide any hidden files on the USB drive and remove the read-only and system attributes.

Wait for the process to complete. Your USB drive should now be free of any hidden files and the read-only and system attributes.

Final Words

In conclusion, losing important files from a USB drive can be frustrating, but it’s not a hopeless situation. When a file is deleted from a USB drive, it’s not permanently erased, and if you act fast, there are ways to recover it. However, it’s important to stop using the USB drive immediately, unplug it from the computer, and not copy anything else to it. Using file recovery software like Disk Drill is an effective way to recover lost files. With these tips and methods, you can easily retrieve deleted files from a USB drive and prevent data loss.

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