How I Fixed a Corrupted USB Drive Flash Asking to Be Formatted

This is by no means a comprehensive solution to the problem of corrupted USB drives asking to be formatted under Windows once plugged in. I accidentally removed my Corsair 32gig USB flash drive without selecting the option to “safely remove” it earlier this evening. My heart sank as every computer I tried the drive on wanted to format it. I had two options:

  1. RAW file recovery using one of these excellent utilities: OnTrack EasyRecovery Professional or Easus Data Recovery Wizard Professional. The benefit of these two options is they can usually recover most files. The drawback is they work with a signature-based system that recognizes file types by the pattern of raw data stored on the device. This makes it impossible to recovery the filenames. Once recovered the user has to rename the files by hand. This can be a daunting and tedious task.
  2. Attempt to check if my problem was a missing partition and/or repair a corrupted one. The pro is that I’d get all my files back with the proper filenames. The con being that I may mess things up so badly that option #1 my not recover all (or any) of my files. (You’ve been warned!)

Before trying either option I tried searching Google for suggestions to a solution. Most forum posts suggested users either try option #1 above or just format their drives and be done with it. This wasn’t what I needed.

Out of other avenues, I tackled option #2 by downloading an open-source utility called TestDisk by CGSecurity. The instructions are straightforward and it found my FAT32 partition in no time. I wrote the partition table changes and exited the program. Unplugging and replugging the USB flash drive resulted in a fully recovered disk. WOOHOO!! If this had failed I could have always gone back to option #1 but it would have been both time consuming and expensive. Hopefully this will give other file recovery rookies a bit of hope.

As always using any tool on your data can screw things up further so if its important then send it to a professional. You’ve been warned!