Have you ever unplugged a USB drive while some files were still transferring only to discover that you’ve lost not just the files that were still in transfer but also files that were already on the USB drive? You certainly wouldn’t be the first person in the world, which is why we’ve decided to put together 4 ways how to recover deleted files from USB drives.

how to recover deleted files from a usb flash drive

Reasons for USB Data Loss

In addition to unplugging a USB drive while it’s still in use, there are several other reasons why data sometimes disappear without warning from USB drives, including:

  • ❓ Accidental file deletion.
  • 🐜 Malware infection.
  • ♻ Formatted USB Drive.
  • ⛔ Physically damaged .
  • 💥 Hardware failure.
  • ❌ Software bug.
  • 😧 Problems with the supply of power to USB ports.

But regardless of the reason for USB data loss, there are certain things you need to do to ensure that you can successfully recover deleted files from flash drives:

  • ✅ Stop using the flash drive immediately after discovering that your data has been lost.
  • ✅ Safely disconnect the flash drive from your computer and store it somewhere safe until you have time to start the USB data recovery process.
  • ✅ Don’t attempt to copy data from the flash drive to a different location, any read/write operation might further complicate recovery efforts.

Now that you know the most common reasons for USB drive data loss and understand how you can ensure a successful recovery, it’s time to explain the 4 ways to recover files from flash drives we want you to know.

How to Recover Deleted Files from a USB Drive without Software

Before exploring third-party recovery tools, it’s insightful to utilize built-in commands for specific USB recovery scenarios. The CMD ‘attrib’ command can be used for uncovering hidden files, often a quick fix for seemingly lost data. Meanwhile, ‘chkdsk’ tackles file system errors on corrupted drives, effectively setting things straight.

Method 1. Use the Restore Previous Versions Feature

Present in all recent versions of the Windows operating system (including Windows 7, 8, 10, and 11), the Restore previous versions feature makes it possible to recover deleted files without any third-party tools, but it works only if you had enabled it before you deleted your files.

To recover deleted data from a USB flash drive:

  1. Connect the USB flash drive to your computer.
  2. Open the Start menu, type "This pc", and hit Enter on your keyboard.
  3. Right-click on your USB flash drive and select "Properties".
  4. Go to the "Previous Versions" tab and look at the list of available recovery options.
  5. Select a previous version and click "Restore".recover deleted files from flash drive without software

If you see no previous versions, it means that you can’t use this method to recover deleted files from your flash drive. In that case, we recommend you move on to the third method, which is guaranteed to work no matter what.

Method 2. Recover Deleted Files from a USB Drive Using CMD

We’ve decided to start with this method not because it’s the easiest or the most effective, but because you don’t need to download any third-party tools to use it or have some data protection feature activated. CMD, better known as Command Prompt, is an integral part of all Windows installations, and it supports all the commands you need to follow the instructions below to completion.

  1. Connect the USB flash drive to your computer.
  2. Open the Start menu, type "cmd", and hit Enter on your keyboard.
  3. Type "chkdsk X: /f" in the Command Prompt window and hit Enter. Just make sure to replace “X” with the letter assigned to your USB flash drive.recover deleted files from flash drive without software
  4. Finally, type "ATTRIB -H -R -S /S /D X:*.*" and hit the Enter key (Again, replace “X” with the drive letter of the USB drive).recover deleted files from flash drive
  5. Wait for the process to be completed.

Provided the method was successful, you should see all deleted files on a newly created folder on your USB drive.

How to Recover Permanently Deleted Files from a USB Drive

If ‘Restore Previous Versions’ and CMD didn’t recover your USB flash drive files, there’s still a path forward. The next step is to utilize third-party software like Disk Drill and built-in tools such as Windows File Recovery. 

Method 3. Recover Data from USB Drive with Third-Party Software

flash drive recovery software

Losing crucial files can be a distressing experience, particularly when they are permanently deleted from a USB drive. However, there is a silver lining – software programs designed to restore those files. With advanced algorithms at their core, these programs meticulously scan your USB drive and successfully recover lost files.

Disk Drill Data Recovery is a complete, professional-grade data recovery solution that’s so easy to pick up and use that even beginners who fear computers like vampires fear crosses can use it to recover their files in no time. This software has the capability to retrieve files from flash drives that have been corrupted, formatted, or even damaged.

To recover deleted files from a USB flash drive:

Step 1. Download and install Disk Drill for Windows or Mac OS X.

Disk Drill
Data recovery for free
Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery

Step 2. Connect your USB drive and launch Disk Drill.

Step 3. Click the "Search for lost data" button next to it.

flash drive recovery software

Step 4. Preview the files you need to restore.

Preview the files you need to restore

Step 5. Select which files you want Disk Drill to recover and click the "Recover" button.

recover files from usb drive

Disk Drill scans your USB drive — or any other storage device for that matter — using state-of-the-art file recognition algorithms that can recognize even damaged files and resurrect them back to life. Disk Drill is free to try, and you can use it to recover up to 500MB of data without paying. 

As you can see, recovering files with Disk Drill is extremely simple. But despite its simplicity, you would be hard-pressed to find a more reliable data recovery solution than Disk Drill.

Method 4. Use Windows File Recovery Build-in Tool to Get Back Deleted Files

In response to the substantial demand for third-party data recovery software like Disk Drill, Microsoft released its own data recovery application, called Windows File Recovery

Windows File Recovery is available for Windows 10 version 2004 and higher, and you can use it to get back your deleted files from any USB drive. The only problem is that the tool doesn’t have a graphical user interface, so it’s not nearly as easy to use as Disk Drill. 

To recover deleted data from a USB flash drive using Windows File Recovery: 

  1. Download Windows File Recovery from the Microsoft Store.windows file recovery download
  2. Connect your USB flash drive to your computer and memorize the drive letter assigned to it.
  3. Open Windows Terminal or CMD as administrator.
  4. Enter the following command: Winfr E: C: /extensive (replace E: with the drive letter assigned to your USB flash drive and C: with the drive letter assigned to the storage device where you want to store recovered files.)windows file recovery terminal command
  5. Wait for Windows File Recovery to finish. 

After exploring the options to recover permanently deleted files from a USB drive, particularly through third-party software like Disk Drill and Windows File Recovery, I’ve had firsthand experience with both. Below is a straightforward comparison based on practical use, highlighting key aspects such as ease of use, compatibility, and overall functionality. This guide aims to help you choose the right tool for getting back your lost data from a USB drive.

Criteria Disk Drill Windows File Recovery
Interface Easy-to-use GUI suitable for all skill levels Command-line interface requiring technical knowledge
Compatibility Available for both Windows and macOS Only available for Windows 10 version 2004 and later
Functionality Advanced file recovery for various scenarios including corruption, formatting, and damage Mainly focused on recovering deleted files, with options for more thorough scans
User Friendliness Straightforward process with visual guidance and file previews More complex, best for users comfortable with CMD or Windows Terminal
Data Recovery Limit Free recovery of up to 500MB; paid upgrades available for more No data recovery limit, but less intuitive for average users
File Support Supports an extensive range of file types and formats with over 400 file signatures Good support for common file formats, might require specific commands for best results
Learning Resources Comprehensive tutorials, including video guides Primarily documented guides and support articles
Usage Ideal for beginners and those preferring a GUI Suited for tech-savvy users and those familiar with command-line tools


Just because you’ve lost important files doesn’t mean that there’s no way how to get them back. In this article, we’ve described four methods how to recover deleted files from flash drives, and it’s up to you now to follow our instructions and save the day.


Romana Levko

Romana Levko is a content writer with a strong interest in the technology field: data recovery, cybersecurity, and everything Apple are among her favorite subjects to explore. Her goal is to expand the reader’s unders...

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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.