In this article, we explain how to bring the dead back to life. Don’t worry: we’re not talking about creating another Frankenstein’s monster. We’re talking about dead flash drive recovery, a process that makes it possible to retrieve files that were seemingly lost forever. Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t! You just need to follow our simple step-by-step instructions.

Common Signs Indicating a Truly Dead USB Drive

easily repair dead usb stick

There are many reasons why USB flash drives sometimes refuse to cooperate, and not all of them are equally serious. To determine if your flash drive is truly dead, look for the following signs and apply the corresponding recovery method to retrieve your files:

Sign #1: USB Flash Drive Not Recognized

Why it happens: Issues of USB flash drives not being recognized are typically caused by mechanical damage.

Suitable recovery methods

Sign #2: USB Flash Drive Can’t Be Accessed 

Why it happens: If you can’t access the content of your SD card, then it’s possible that it has become corrupted.

Suitable recovery methods: 

Sign #3: USB Flash Drive Appears Empty 

Why it happens: From accidental deletion to careless formatting to malware, there are many reasons why a USB flash drive may appear to be completely empty.

Suitable recovery methods:

As you can see, most data loss scenarios have multiple solutions. As long as your computer can recognize the dead USB flash drive, you can use DIY data recovery software to quickly, easily, and affordably recover all inaccessible files that are still physically present on the flash memory chip.

If your USB flash drive can’t be recognized at all, you can still restore your data from a backup (if you have one), or you can pay a professional data recovery service to repair it and extract all recoverable data.

How to Recover Data from a Dead USB Drive

Let’s go over the three main recovery methods that you can use to recover data from a dead flash drive.

Restore from a Backup

dead flash drive recovery from a backupHaving at least one backup of important data can pay off big time when things go south. If you have a recent backup of your dead USB flash drive, you don’t need to spend any time learning how to fix it—you can simply restore lost data and move on.

Data backups come in all shapes and sizes, so make sure to check not just other flash drives and storage devices but also cloud storage like OneDrive and Google Drive. The chances are that the lost data exist in more than one location without you even knowing about it.

Once you have successfully restored your data from a backup, we recommend you avoid using the same USB flash drive in the future unless you know exactly what caused the data loss in the first place and are sure that the issue has been resolved.

Use Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software lets you perform an in-depth scan of a dead USB flash drive to recover lost files from it. The best data recovery software solution can deal with extensive file system corruption, allowing you to get back your data even if you don’t know how to actually fix a dead flash drive.

These days, you can choose between countless data recovery software applications for Windows, macOS, and other operating systems. One popular application with a proven track record of recovering files from dead USB flash drives is called Disk Drill.

Learning how to recover data from a dead flash drive using Disk Drill is straightforward because the application takes care of all the technical stuff for you:

1. Scan your USB flash drive

how to fix a dead flash drive disk drill

As a user, you just need to start a scan of your drive and wait until Disk Drill is ready to present you with a list of all recoverable files.

2. Preview recoverable files

recover dead usb drive

When recovering files from a dead USB drive, it’s critically important to preview files to verify their recoverability. If a file can be previewed, it means that it can also be recovered, so you can safely add it to your recovery queue.

3. Select a safe recovery location

recover data from dead flash drive

Finally, you need to pick a suitable recovery location for your files. You can point Disk Drill to your main hard drive or some external storage device other than the dead USB flash drive.

Contact a Data Recovery Service

how to fix a dead usb port

There’s no reason to feel apprehensive about paying someone else to recover your data for you. Professional data recovery services have the experience and equipment to recover lost files even from mechanically damaged USB flash drives, and their prices aren’t nearly as high as many people assume.

Just make sure to select a data recovery service with a “no data, no charge” policy. That way, you can rest assured, knowing you won’t pay a single dollar unless you get your data back.

Most data recovery services work more or less the same: First, you initiate a work order. Then you pack and ship your USB flash drive and wait for an expert estimate. Finally, you approve the quote and kick back until you receive your data via email, FTP, or on a recovery storage device.

How to Fix a Dead USB Drive

Sometimes, it’s possible to repair a dead USB stick and regain access to all files stored on it. Described below are three effective fixes that you should definitely try before throwing the stick away.

Reinstall USB Drivers

There’s a chance that your computer can’t recognize your USB flash drive because there’s something wrong with your USB drivers. This issue often happens after installing third-party drivers because such drivers may cause all kinds of conflicts. The good news is that the solution is simple:

  1. Press the Windows logo key + X.
  2. Select Device to fix a dead flash drive
  3. Navigate to the Universal Serial Bus controllers section.
  4. Right-click your USB flash drive.
  5. Select Uninstall device and confirm.recover dead usb drive

You can now restart your computer. When you log in to Windows again, the correct drivers for your USB flash drive will be installed automatically.

Try a Different USB Port/Computer

recover data from dead flash driveWhen trying to fix a dead USB flash drive, you should always rule out the possibility that your computer is to blame.

First, connect the flash drive to a different USB port. If your computer suddenly recognizes it, it means that the USB port is damaged. You can learn how to fix a dead USB port by reading online tutorials, or you can pay a professional to fix it for you.

Have you tried all USB ports and still no luck? Then go and find another computer and see if it recognizes your USB flash drive. If it doesn’t, then it’s almost 100% guaranteed that the drive is really dead.

Repair the USB Flash Drive

Are you able to see the USB flash drive but unable to access it? Then you should check it for file system errors. The good news is that you can do just that directly from File Explorer. Here’s how:

  1. Open File Explorer and go to This PC.
  2. Right-click your USB flash drive and select Properties.
  3. Go to Tools and click Check.
  4. Select the Scan and repair drive dead usb stick
  5. Wait for Windows to repair your USB flash drive.

You can also repair the drive on any Mac computer using the First Aid feature in Disk Utility.

Tips to Avoid Ending Up with a Dead USB Drive

Nobody wants to end up with a dead USB drive, but not everyone knows how to prevent a fully functional USB drive from becoming a useless brick. If that includes you, then we highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the following data loss prevention tips:

  • Back up your data: Regular backups are the best prevention against data loss caused by your USB drive suddenly dying. To ensure recoverability under all circumstances, we recommend you use cloud backup services in addition to local data backups.
  • Take care of your USB drive: Most USB flash drives are fragile, and it doesn’t take much for them to break. To avoid ending up with a dead USB drive, you need to take care of it by keeping it away from the elements and storing it safely when not in use.
  • Avoid no-name brands: Flash-based storage devices are so affordable because flash chips barely ever get thrown away. Instead, subpar chips are used to manufacture various no-name USB flash drives, whose lifespan is nowhere as good as the lifespan of their brand-name counterparts.

💡 Bonus tip: You can extend the lifespan of your USB drive by safely ejecting it before physically disconnecting it from your computer.


As you can see, there are multiple ways to resurrect a dead USB drive, including do-it-yourself data recovery software like Disk Drill. We hope that at least one of the methods described in this article will be able to help you recover your data. And if you practice our data loss prevention tips, you won’t need to read this article ever again.


David Morelo

David Morelo is a professional content writer specializing in the technology niche, covering a wide range of topics from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry applications. His passion for te...

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Approved by
Brett Johnson

This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.