Kim Barloso

How to recover deleted files from usb flash drive: step by step guide


Files (videos, photos, documents) are often lost on a flash drive. Let's talk about how to recover deleted /files from the flash drive, which programs can really help you get your data back. By the way, the described methods are relevant not only for usb flash drives but also for memory cards, sd cards, digital photo cameras.

At the end of the article we'll answer the readers questions. Fire away! It is desirable to stick to the topic of the article (how to recover photos from a flash drive, are there chances, what to do with corrupted /files, etc.).

And before asking, read the guide itself. Here is its contents:

  • First steps when deleting /files from usb flash
  • Main causes of loss
  • Cleaning flash from viruses hiding /files and folders
  • Restoring /files, deleted /files on flash drive
  • What to do with partially recovered /files
  • Questions and answers about flash drive recovery

The initial step of usb flash file recovery

If you find that data has been deleted, set the usb flash drive aside - until you use recovery software to recover from the drive. Here are a few key things to know:

  1. The deleted /files are marked as "writable" on the drive, but in fact they are not irretrievably erased. They are quite easily recovered by any recovery program.
  2. Till recovery do not use the flash drive for its intended purpose, do not copy data to it. This will increase the chances of finding the deleted data. Accordingly, the more information written to the flash drive before recovery, the less likely the deleted /files will be recovered.
  3. When recovering, NEVER install programs on the device where the /files are scanned and searched. Install a recovery program on another disk / removable device.

Main Causes of Deletion

Why do /files suddenly "disappear" from a disk, drive, flash stick etc.? Here are the most common causes, from the simple to the complex:

  1. Device damage to USB is one of the most frequent causes. The /files are not deleted but hidden from the user's eyes. Fortunately, recovering /files on a flash drive with such "damage" is easy: just check usb-flash for viruses and remove malware from the flash drive. Read below how to do it.
  2. Remove to Recycle Bin and then clean it up. Also one of the common ways to say goodbye to the /files on the flash drive. Nevertheless, with the help of specialized recovery software it is possible to detect the data by signature and return it back to the flash drive.
  3. Inadvertently, incorrectly or deliberately formatting the flash drive . The situation is more complicated, and it is problematic to reanimate data after such "processing". However, the methods of recovery after a quick format are similar to the ones if you delete a file through the Recycle Bin. Here again proven search utilities come to the rescue. By the way, I have already talked about formatting a flash drive in my article "How to format a flash drive correctly".
  4. Corrupting a usb storage device . Difficulties of flash drive recovery in this type of information loss are the most difficult and, alas, in most cases irreversible. Qualified specialists will help you. It is impossible to repair the flash drive yourself, at home.

Checking usb flash drive for viruses hiding /files

If you have not deleted /files and do not know the reason for their disappearance - check if they are hidden by malware.

First of all, disable the system option Show hidden /files, folders, and drives. To do this:

  1. In the taskbar search box, enter 'folder'.
  2. Select 'Show hidden /files, folders, and drives'.
  3. In the 'Advanced settings' section, select 'Show hidden /files, folders, and drives'. Press OK to confirm.
  4. After a while check if new /files have appeared on the flash drive without your permission.

Second, enable the display of Windows system /files. To do so:

  1. Open File Explorer (enter 'Explorer' in the search box) and click the application icon
  2. View - Preferences - View tab.
  3. Check the checkbox 'Hide protected system /files'. Click on OK to confirm.

Hide hidden /files on usb flash drive

If the /files have been hidden again, you should check all partitions on the flash drive and remove malware. You can do it using free antivirus software and methods described here:

Methods to protect USB flash drive from viruses

Recover /files deleted on flash drive: Unformat

What to do if /files are not hidden but really erased by the user or lost after formatting? Let's try to recover flash drive contents using software method. For this we will need Unformat software. It has a step-by-step wizard, so proceed exactly as instructed.

1. Install and launch the application on your PC.

Download Unformat

2. Go to the tab Physical devices and choose in the list the usb stick. Click on the Next

3. Specify the types of /files to recover on the flash drive (video, audio, images, etc.), scan depth and other parameters that affect the chances of detection.

4. Recover deleted information from the flash drive, save the /files to disk.

Unformat is a classic application for finding disappeared /files on a flash drive

Files partially recovered? Try Recuva

Partially recovered /files may open with errors on the flash drive. This depends on extension and on file type.

For a partially restored image the partial loss of digital information may be significant: you may only see a fragment of photo or image, the file will be unsuitable for display or personal use.

In case of an archive (RAR, ZIP, etc.) the outcome may be better: some archivers allow to revert the archive contents despite the partial loss of information.

What concerns the partially restored video: The partial loss of information will cause the file to successfully open, however in some cases the file may fail. Try to recover them again using other disk/partition format recovery software like - Recuva.

Download the free version of Recuva

Helpful Tip . By activating the deep scan option in Recuva, you will increase your chances of recovery. The scan process may take up to several hours but it is well worth it.

Recuva is an universal tool to search for deleted /files on different media

Frequently asked questions about usb sticks and their recovery

I insert the USB Flash Stick into the computer but there are no /files. I get a message that I have to format the usb stick. Should I do as asked?

First of all, do not panic and do not succumb to Windows "provocations". Instead of formatting, try to recover /files on the flash drive using the method described above. If that won't help, try to recover it using one of the following flash drive recovery software: Tenorshare Data Recovery or Zero recovery from ZAR data recovery.

I was working with a flash drive and accidentally deleted a file to Recycle Bin. Then I emptied it - consequently the file is no longer on the flash drive. What can I do? I have already written an article about recovery after emptying the Recycle Bin - I hope this will help you in case of your problem.

Read article: How to recover /files deleted from the Windows Recycle Bin.

I found an old flash drive (2 or 3 years I have not used it). What are the chances to recover the file if it is so old?

It does not matter how long ago you deleted the file, what matters is if the flash memory has backed up anything since the /files were erased. If yes then the probability of recovery decreases proportionally to the exposure of the usb stick. It is quite possible that you can recover at least a part of your data.

The flash drive has almost everything you were looking for. The problem is that certain types of information were never recovered, the most important ones.

It is likely that you did not check the checkbox of the deleted file types to scan the device. When recovering, it is advisable to tick all types. Yes it will take more time, but it will significantly increase your chances of detecting deleted /files.

I bought a flash drive and copied the /files from the device. Everything copied, but when I went to Gallery, all my pics became gray squares. Phone Samsung J7.

To copy photos to computer use usb cable, copy /files directly to PC. Possibly the /files transferred to the flash memory stick may not have saved any part of the information, and the photos may have been corrupted.

Another tip: Try to format the stick using the FAT system. If that does not help - try to copy the data to another medium (your stick might be faulty).

As for the recommended software, the recovery of the photos from the flash stick is available with the Unformat.

I took the flash stick out of the camera (there were about 3000 pictures), I inserted it to the phone to unformat the photos. When I brought the flash card back there were no pictures.

Maybe the camera does not see the flash card, so make sure you have inserted it correctly.

Maybe you have moved (not copied) the pictures to the hard disk. So make sure the /files you are looking for are not on your computer. If the photos are still not found, install Recuva or Unformat, insert the card into a notebook or PC (via a card reader), try to find the /files with the help of the Recovery Wizard in one of the above mentioned programs.

The memory card in your phone has photos but when you insert it into the phone, it is not visible.

The best way to recover photos from a flash drive is to install Unformat, Recuva and MiniTool Power Data Recovery programs (try each of them). I have recorded a step by step instruction with video for you, so be sure to watch it to make sure you do not screw it up.

Tried to find the /files, the result is that nothing is found. What is my mistake and how do I recover my data?

Try to follow the manual that comes with the program. Maybe you have skipped some step and therefore no /files were found on your flash drive. As an alternative, search on this site for information on recovery from the flash drive.

Files are recovered, but among them I have not found exactly what I need on the flash drive. Are there any solutions, any programs to solve the problem?

It is possible that you have not read this manual properly. I suggest that you follow all the steps described in the manual one more time.

It is very likely that you formatted the USB key or copied /files (or that the operating system did this without your knowledge).

Other questions not answered in the FAQ

I have been taking pictures and videos on my daughter during half a year with my phone (samsung galaxy mini). The photos and videos were stored on a microsd card, in a separate, specially created folder. Recently, I have tried to browse through the photos and videos and noticed that some of the photos were opening in the following way: first, a black screen with a torn photo icon appeared, then the photo itself was opened, but the picture was blurred and no options could be applied to it. Video does not play. I have not deleted anything from the phone.

What does this mean? Please tell me if there is any way to restore a normal picture?

Answer . The blurriness of a photo can be caused by a variety of reasons. Maybe Android Gallery is opening thumbnails of images instead of full /files. Try installing a third party picture viewer, this way you can check if your Gallery is working correctly.

If third party viewer has not solved your photo problem, open the same images on your computer by plugging the sd card through the card reader. And already in the last step, you can use one of the photo recovery software. By the way, a guide on how to recover photos from flash drive or sd card is available above on this page.

  1. My phone model is Nokia Lumia 625, it had a 15GB SD flash drive installed. The problem is that at one moment phone's screen became black and said "Resume", and then photos, music, video were erased, so i.e. phone erased everything... How can i recover /files, very important /files, help me please!
  2. I had Galaxy S7 phone, there were photos on flash drive. The screen on the phone burned out, I removed the flash drive and put it on the Galaxy S5. The memory card opens, the photos are all there, but they don't open. It says "wrong format". I connected it to the computer, wanted to copy it to the computer - it didn't work, it won't open on the computer either. How to restore the deleted photos from the flash drive? Help, very important photos.
  3. I have one Google Account and it is used on several devices: my Samsung and my sister's LG and another one. I wanted to disable the LG from the list of devices I use. It popped the question "do you really want" etc; "will delete all photo /files" etc... I clicked OK. Instantly her phone shut down and reset to factory settings. Thought only play market apps were deleted. But other than that, everything was gone, photos, videos, contacts. But most of all surprised that the deleted and photos from the flash drive!!! I don't get it, is the flash drive involved? Tried to restore everything again from my own account, to no avail. Whatsapp restored, but very recent photos. Went to my google drive. It says there is a backup of deleted LG. But I think it's already a new copy after my recovery attempt. Can you please tell me what to do? Is it possible to recover photos and anything at all from a flash drive? If you have deleted /files from a 15 GB flash drive, the best option is to attach it to a PC using a card reader and recover it using any recovery software. And it is advisable to remove the memory card from the phone right away, because at any moment, this or that application may overwrite the deleted data.

    Telephone - Samsung Galaxy 4 SCH-I545, was reset to factory settings, tried to use programs to recover messages, photos and contacts. Programs work and restored photos, but you can not see them, they appeared - some in blue squares with a person silhouette (I do not know how to explain, well, like when you have to upload a profile photo, there silhouette - "avatar") with information about the photo, ie, date and number, and some in the gray squares. As it turned out there was no flash drive.

    The question is: "If something came back and there was no flash drive, is there any way to return all the information, from memory or something else? Please advise how to recover deleted /files on a flash drive! Very much needed.

    Answer . The whole question is where the /files were located - in the internal memory of the phone or on the sd card. Regarding deleted photos, the thumbnails of the full images are stored in the same folder, and it could happen that after deletion the thumbnails are still there.

    In order to recover the deleted file(s), you need to know exactly where it was stored. If on a memory card - scan the folder where the thumbnails are located. If in the internal memory of the phone you use Wondershare Dr.Fone or Undeleter.

    1. I took the USB stick from Canon EOS 650D camera and put it into my Sony Ericsson phone. After putting the card back into the camera, Canon says: card error, format. I didn't do anything, the pictures I need. The card is a pity, 64 gig, I really need to recover deleted /files from the flash drive. What should I do?
    2. I inserted the USB stick in the usb port of the computer. A window pops up, I need to format my flash drive but I need the data on it. How do I make my data not get lost? That is, how can I recover the data on my flash drive, download it and restore the operation of the drive? Ignore the message about formatting and do not agree to do it under any circumstances. Run any recovery program (see here, e.g. Recuva or CardRecovery) and then try to recover data using the recovery wizard. At the same time, minimize your work in the operating system, do not write /files to usb flash drive until recovery process is completed on the flash drive.

      All folders are missing from the flash drive. I need to download some pictures from the flash drive to my computer. I inserted the flash drive into an adapter, opened the drive, computer froze for a couple of seconds, everything crashes. Removed the flash drive, inserted back, and all the folders incomprehensible names, and even not opened. Repositioned the flash drive back into the phone - all the /files do not exist! Gone and all that do not know. All right, if it showed that the place is occupied, but no, all cleared and the flash drive is now empty. Please tell me how to be, is there any chance to restore data from flash drive?

      I bought new flash drive in the phone.... old inserted in the pc, cut out her data in the folder on the desktop, and then from a folder cut out the data in the new flash drive. But did not check and removed the memory stick from the pc, put it into the phone samsung turned out that out of the 16gb of information is 560 mb. should I look for the lost /files on the old flash drive or the pc?

      Reposition the memory stick from one device to another. After this procedure writes that the flash drive is not suitable for the device, although everything was fine in the beginning: most of the /files were readable. But after full analysis of the /files on the flash drive, the device automatically formatted it and deleted all the music. I tried to use file recovery programs, but they also see only one audio record out of the n-number. Is it even possible to recover deleted /files? Or not to try to restore the folder but to download all the music again?

      32 Gb flash drive inserted to the PC blinks, in Task Manager it's detected as a removable drive but I can't see all the /files, but in the flash drive properties it says that it has zero memory. What might be the problem?

      I took the USB stick out of the phone to download media /files to the PC, put it in the PC the USB stick was opened, i started copying, after about 10 sec the copying stopped, now the data is gone, is there any chance to recover the /files from the USB stick? All the data I needed and the photos, videos and pdf /files were on it. The other day a notification came up on the smartphone that the sd flash drive was corrupted. Tried to run it through laptop, laptop froze. Tried all your tips, recovery software, nothing works. Help please!

“Hello. My name is Kim. I discovered that technology, when used with a purpose, can be pretty amazing. To share the wonder of tech, I’ve written for blogs like and With over three years of freelance writing experience in the technology and entertainment niche, I can write a storm about a software app, a cool browser extension, a new mobile device and other geek-centric stuf... “

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Kim Barloso