USB memory sticks are great for storing files, but they are notoriously easy to break, especially if carried around on a key ring.

But even when there’s no obvious physical damage to the device, data errors can still occur, making the device unstable.

We’ve already offered solutions on rescuing a seemingly dead USB stick, but if you need to get precious files off the device give the tips below a try.

 

How bad is the damage?

If there is physical damage to your USB stick, it may be tricky to retrieve anything from it.

The most common problem is the head part being snapped off. When this happens, you might need to solder the head back on – and that’s not exactly practical for most of us.

But if the files are particularly precious, you may want to sound out a local computer repair store to do it for you.

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Is your USB compatible with your PC?

Sometimes a compatiblity issue can be the problem, in which case your USB isn't broken at all. If your USB stick is all intact, try inserting it into another PC. if you still can't access the USB, there's clearly something damaged.

 

Give the USB a wiggle

This method may sound unorthodox, but if parts of the USB head are not making contact when you plug it into your computer giving the USB a gentle wiggle could help it make contact.

Have your speakers on so you can hear the detection sound if the USB manages to connect with your PC - but don’t bend the USB too excessively otherwise you could cause further damage.

Slowly move your USB in different directions, listening out for the sound - or for the LED light to flash, if your USB stick has one.

If you do manage to make contact, quickly open the device’s folder and transfer your files across to your PC. This may be a bit fiddly if you have to hold the USB stick in a strange position, so you might want to get someone else to carry out the transfer with you.

Should you successfully get your files off using this method, thank your lucky stars – then bin the stick!

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Download recovery software

There are several free recovery software programs you can download to retrieve files. We found MiniTool Power Data Recovery the easiest, which you can download from this website it has a 1GB limit.

Open the installer, select I accept the agreement and click Next >.

Click Next > again, followed by Yes in the popup box.

Click Next > one more time, and then Finish. MiniTool Power Data Recovery is now installed and ready to be used.

Ensure your USB device is plugged in and select Deep scan, recover data from damaged, RAW or formatted partitions.

Next, you need to select your USB device – it may not be named clearly, in which case you should look at the capacity, as the lowest one will be your USB stick. In our case, it’s the 25.00GB one. Select yours and click Full Scan below.

The process should take a few minutes. If the software is able to get past the damage, your files should appear – be aware that this software can also recover deleted files, so you may see some old things you had on your USB before.

If you’re able to find files you wish to recover, select them and click Save, then choose where you want to save the files on your computer.

[Related story: Tired of waiting to transfer files from one device to another? USB 3.0 is the answer]

Remember, keep extra copies in future

As we mentioned, USB sticks can break very easily, so you should always keep a second and even third back-up to prepare for the worst - and most importantly, back up precious photos and other files regularly.

You can also take advantage of BT Cloud if you’re a BT Broadband customer. That way your things are safely stored and accessible anywhere with an internet connection. For more information on BT Cloud, click here.

Have you been able to recover files from your USB stick? Let us know in the Comments section below.