USB drives are great for providing additional storage for your Mac or MacBook. Many people use them to share music or photo libraries with friends. But like all disk-based storage devices, it can suffer data loss or corruption. You may need to fix a corrupted USB drive on Mac or fix a broken USB device while saving its data.

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We are going to show you how to retrieve files from a corrupted USB drive with your Mac. We will also look at things like how to format a corrupted USB drive on a Mac. Let’s get started.

Signs of a Corrupted USB Drive on a Mac

How do you know if your USB drive has been corrupted? Before looking at the signs that your USB drive is corrupted, let’s look at how to figure out if your USB port is broken on a MacBook or Mac computer. 

If your computer has more than one USB port, your first course of action should be to connect a USB device that is having issues to a different port. If that is not an option, try connecting the device to another computer’s USB port. In this way, you can determine if the drive is fine but the interface is the problem. 

There are multiple signs that you may have a bad drive that requires you to recover corrupted files from USB on your Mac. Here are some of the most common indicators of a corrupted USB drive.

  • The USB drive is not recognized by the OS and does not appear in Finder.
  • The drive is visible in Finder but you cannot see or access its files and folders.
  • Files are arbitrarily renamed and cannot be opened.
  • The drive appears grayed-out in Disk Utility.
  • You encounter macOS error messages when attempting to access the drive.

If you are experiencing any of these issues, you may have a corrupted USB drive. Let’s look at how to recover USB files from a corrupted drive on a Mac and show you some methods that may get your data back.

❗️If you suspect your USB drive is corrupted, stop using it immediately. Any attempt to write new data to the drive can further corrupt its contents and make it impossible to recover files with data recovery software. Don’t use the device again until the issue has been fixed or the data has been recovered. 

How to Recover a Corrupted USB on Mac with/without Data Loss

Multiple methods are available with which to attempt to recover corrupted files from a USB device on a Mac. Some involve destroying the data stored on the drive so it can be reused and others recover the data from the corrupted device. 

Let’s investigate these methods and see if one of them can help you in getting data off a corrupted USB drive.

Solution 1: Fix a Corrupted USB on a Mac With Disk Utility

Disk Utility is an application that is installed with macOS. By default, it should be located in the Other folder in Launchpad. The following steps show you how to fix a corrupted USB flash drive on Mac with Disk Utility.

  1. Open Disk Utility and choose View > Show All Devices.
  2. Select the USB drive from the sidebar and click the First Aid button.

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  3. Click Run in the First Aid dialog and follow the onscreen instructions. 
  4. Click Done when the First Aid process finishes.

The USB drive should be recognizable by your Mac if Disk Utility is successful. You should be able to access the data on the drive at this point. If not, you may want to try data recovery software which is discussed in a later section of this article.

If Disk Utility is not successful in fixing the drive, proceed to the next method. 

Solution 2: Update the USB Driver

The USB device driver is updated automatically through macOS software updates. Follow these steps to see if there are any updates currently available for your Mac and manually install them.

  1. Choose About This Mac from the Apple menu.
  2. Click on Software Update to check for updates.

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  3. Click the Update Now button if updates are available. You can click on More info to see details about the update 

If there were any USB driver updates, they will now be installed. Try to access the USB drive again to see if the update resolved the problem.

Solution 3: Fix an Unreadable or Broken USB Flash Drive by Reformatting

Before attempting this method of fixing a broken USB stick on a Mac, be advised that it may result in the loss of any information residing on the drive. You may be able to recover data with recovery software after formatting, but it is better to try the recovery before you format the USB drive. The following steps show you how to fix a USB flash drive by reformatting it on your Mac.

  1. Connect the USB drive to your computer.
  2. Launch Disk Utility.
  3. Select the USB drive from the list in the left panel.

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  4. Choose Erase. Do not select extra security options if you plan to try and recover data from the device.
  5. Name the drive and select the format you want to use.

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  6. Click Erase in the bottom left corner.
  7. A progress bar will open and display the status of the procedure.
  8. Click Done when Disk Utility is finished formatting the corrupted USB.

A normal format may allow you to recover data with recovery software as outlined in the next section. Formatting with multiple passes will fully clear the storage space and make it impossible to recover any data from the USB drive. Formatting the disk is a method of permanently fixing a broken USB device.

Solution 4: Recover a Corrupted USB on Mac with Data Recovery Software

Mac data recovery software can retrieve data from a corrupt or formatted USB drive. The key is that the drive must be recognized by the operating system for the recovery application to work on it. 

To recover files from a corrupted USB drive on your Mac:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill USB Recovery Software for Mac.
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  2. Connect the USB device to your Mac computer and launch Disk Drill.
  3. Select the USB flash drive from the app’s disk list.

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  4. Click the Search for lost data button to start scanning for deleted files.

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  5. Preview the recoverable files and select those you want to recover.
  6. Select a safe location to save the recovered data and click the Recover button. 

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Disk Drill makes data recovery easy with this simple procedure. Be sure not to save the recovered files to the affected USB drive to avoid overwriting the data before it can be retrieved.

Why does this work? The answer is that deleted data is often still physically present on the storage device. The logical links that make the data accessible by users and applications have been removed. Data recovery software repairs these links and makes deleted files and folders accessible again. The recovery might seem like magic, but it’s the result of sophisticated scanning algorithms. 

Solution 5: Send the Device to a Data Recovery Service

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If all else fails and the information on the corrupted or damaged USB drive is important, you may want to engage a data recovery service to attempt the recovery. The technicians at a data recovery center use specialized software and hardware tools to clone the storage device and extract its data. Here’s how you go about using a data recovery service to get back your valuable information.

  1. Contact the data recovery center to obtain shipping information and receive a preliminary estimate on the potential data restoration. 
  2. Ship the device to the recovery center.
  3. Upon receipt, the data recovery center will examine the device and provide a more realistic estimate for performing the recovery.
  4. Technicians will extract the data from the device and ship it to you on new media. 

A data recovery service is the most expensive option for recovering your data, but may be necessary if other options do not work. Choose a reliable service like CleverFiles Recovery Center. A trustworthy recovery center will not charge you unless they can restore your data and will not advertise a per-gigabyte recovery price.

How to Prevent USB Drives on a Mac From Becoming Corrupted

Here are some tips that may help you minimize the chances of a USB drive becoming corrupted.

  • Take care when connecting and disconnecting the device to avoid damaging the connectors.
  • Make sure you run antivirus software and limit the exposure of the device to strange computers whose safety cannot be verified. 
  • Don’t remove a USB drive without ejecting it from your computer.
  • Allow all read and write operations to complete before removing the drive from a computer or other device.

Conclusion

All hope is not lost if you are faced with a corrupted USB drive. You may be able to fix a corrupted USB drive on Mac using the features of the operating system. You can also recover data from a corrupted USB drive using data recovery software like Disk Drill.

Follow our advice and don’t use the USB drive until you have attempted data recovery or you risk further corruption that will make it impossible to save your information. 

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Robert Agar

Robert is a freelance writer who graduated from Pace University in New York with a Computer Science degree in 1992. Former computer specialist at IBM. Over the course of a long IT career, he has worked for a number of lar...

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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.