How to Retrieve Documents From a Flash Drive That Doesn't Work

by Nathan McGinty
You may be able to retrieve documents from a flash drive that doesn't work.

You may be able to retrieve documents from a flash drive that doesn't work.

Flash drives provide an easy and compact method to store and transport data files and documents. These small drives fit easily a pocket or attach to a keychain, but they aren't infallible. If a flash drive contains important documents you wish to recover fails, all is not lost. The issue is typically either software or hardware-driven. By testing the options, you may be able to fully recover the information that's stored on the drive.

Physical Drive Check

Safely eject the disk drive by clicking on the USB symbol in your task bar, selecting the flash drive and clicking "Eject."

Check that the lock on the drive, if present, is not engaged by sliding it to the "off" position.

Disconnect any hubs or USB extension cables connected to the computer.

Blow into the socket on the flash drive gently or blow it out with compressed air to remove any dust or lint that may be shorting out the connection.

Plug the flash drive into the computer.

A window will pop up if the drive is recognized. Open a file you wish to recover.

Plug the flash drive into another computer if it doesn't connect. This will narrow down the drive problem. If the drive doesn't appear on the new computer, the drive has been damaged. If it does, it means that the USB connector on the first computer may be damaged or the computer's drivers are out-of-date.

Using File Recovery Software

Plug the flash drive into a computer where you know the USB connections are working properly.

Download a file recovery application. Some of these programs are available as a free download; they will scan your drive to see if the file is recoverable before you purchase. Extract the download by clicking on it and follow the instructions to install the software. Start the file recovery program.

Select "Search All Files" and click "Next." In the menu, select the file types (in this case, documents and text files) for which you want to search and select "Next."

Allow the program time to search through the flash drives for files to recover. This may take some time, depending on the size of your flash drive and the speed of your computer.

Select the files you wish to recover by clicking the checkboxes and selecting the "Recover" button, or similar button based on the software you've downloaded.


  • Depending on which specific recovery program you download the exact steps may differ.

Photo Credits

  • Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images