USB memory sticks are great devices for storing files and sharing data across different computers. These flash memory devices offer far greater capacities than floppy disks ever could – and they’re becoming ever-cheaper too. Indeed, 16GB sticks, offering storage equivalent to 11,000 floppy disks, can be bought for less than a fiver.
But, like all technology, USB sticks can fail every now and again. In worst-case scenarios, this can mean losing everything you had stored. As such, it’s always advisable to keep files stored somewhere else as well to be extra safe. If you’re a BT Broadband customer, you can store your files for free on BT Cloud.
If you've still got precious files you want to recover on your USB memory stick, you should try some of these solutions first.
But if your computer stops recognising a USB memory stick, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ready to be binned. Have a go at these solutions below before giving up on it for good. Please note, we've used Windows 7 here but the steps are relatively the same for Windows 10.
Tip 1: Try a different USB port
It might seem obvious, but the first thing to try is inserting the stick into another USB port on your PC.
Over time, USB ports can get dirty and worn, so there’s a chance that the issue actually lies with the port where you insert your USB stick and not the stick itself.
Tip 2: Do you need to update the driver?
Again, the problem may actually be with your PC, not the USB device itself. See if a different computer recognises your stick. If it does, it could mean your main machine needs to download a new driver.
To check for a new driver, go to Computer, right click on your USB’s icon and click on Properties.
Go to the Hardware tab and find General USB Flash Disk USB Device. Select it and click the Properties button below.
In the next pop-up, click the Change settings button.
Another pop-up will appear – go to the Driver tab and click the Update Driver… button.
Next, select the first option Search automatically for updated driver software and follow the instructions.
Tip 3: Error-checking
Windows may be able to detect the error with your USB stick.
You can do this by right clicking on the USB icon in Computer and clicking on Properties.
Go to the Tools tab and under error-checking click Check now…
A pop-up box will appear. Ensure both boxes are ticked and click the Start button.
If Windows is able to identify the problem, follow the instructions provided.
Tip 4: Format the USB stick
The final step you can try is formatting the USB stick, but this will delete everything.
To do this, go to Computer, right click on the USB stick icon and click on Format.
In the pop-up box, click the Start button, followed by OK.
If the formatting went ahead successfully, a new pop-up message will appear saying: ‘Format Complete’. You can click the OK button and see whether the USB stick works again.
Tip 5: Create a new simple volume
Another way you could restart your USB stick is by using Windows Disk Management, which again wipes the content.
To do this, search ‘disk management’ in the Start Menu and click on Create and format hard disk partitions.
Here, you should see your USB under Disk 1. Right click and go to Properties to check that you have selected the correct drive. The pop-up box should say ‘General USB Flash Disk USB Device’ if you have the correct driver selected.
If it does, exit this window and right click on the diagonally-striped box which should say ‘Unallocated’ in the centre. Click New Simple Volume…
In the pop-up box, click the Next button.
On the subsequent screen, ensure that the simple volume size in MB matches the maximum disk space in MB, and click the Next button.
Click Next again twice, followed by Finish.
If this works, your USB stick should be accessible.