Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
There you are, at your friend’s house. You’re all gathered around the computer to watch a funny video. But then something happens. A virus pops up and gives you the digital bird. “No problem,” you say, “since I’m a geek, I’ve got antivirus software on my USB stick.” Now you’re the hero. Now you and your mates can watch that guy get the football in the groin…again. You pop your thumb drive into the USB port and – nothing. Back to zero, hero!
Unless, of course, you know how to fix that too.
There are a few causes for this sort of thing happening. So I’ll take you from most likely and easiest method to make corrupt USB jump drives work, to the least likely and still pretty easy way.
Two Drives With the Same Drive Letter
Typically, a computer will assign either the E, F, or G drive letter to your jump drive when you plug it in. Normally, if one of those drive letters is already in use, a different one will get assigned. So let’s say you have a backup drive set at drive letter E:. Then your jump drive should get assigned F: or G:. But sometimes, that just doesn’t happen and that can cause USB jump drives to not work.
Here’s how you fix that. My instructions are for Windows XP, since I like to kick it like it’s 2003. Click on the Start menu, then right-click on My Computer. From there, click on Manage, because we will manage.
Now the Computer Management window opens. Click on the Disk Management option. In the right-hand window, you’ll see all attached drives listed. The U3 drive is my USB key. Currently, it’s not conflicting with anything, but it will do for this demonstration.
Right-click on the drive that you want to change the drive letter on. Then click on Change Drive Letter and Paths.
Now you can click on the Change button.
Then select a new drive letter. I chose G for Guy. Isn’t that cute?
Windows will ask you to confirm that this is what you want to do. I’d click Yes, but that’s just me.
As you’ll be able to see in the window showing all the drives, the drive letter is, indeed, changed to G:. Whut up G?! Now your USB drive should not conflict with any other drive.
That didn’t fix the problem? Hmm….well, maybe your USB drive is actually corrupted somehow. Let’s take a look at fixing that – there are still a few ways to make corrupt USB jump drives work.
Window’s Error Checking utility can be used on USB drives. To access it, open up Windows Explorer. (Here’s a shortcut tip – hold down your Windows Key and press the E key to quickly open Window’s Explorer.)
Once you are in Window’s Explorer, right-click on the USB disk you’re having problems with. Then go down and click on Properties.
Once the Properties window opens, click on the Tools tab. This is where the Error-checking software can be accessed from. Click on the Check Now… button.
I advise checking the box for Automatically fix file system errors. What that will do is, well, fix any file system errors automatically. Yeah, that was a brilliant explanation. Just click on Start.
Lookit! It’s scaaaaaaaaaaning!
The scan doesn’t take very long at all. You guessed it, click the OK button.
My USB thumb drive is 8GB in capacity and it was done in a matter of seconds. If it takes longer than that, perhaps your drive’s problem is somewhat more serious.
You can also do a similar test and repair with third-party disk repair tools out there.
Format the USB Drive
Well, this step doesn’t really help you get at the files you want, but it will restore the file structure so that it doesn’t happen next time.
Warning: Formatting the USB drive will ERASE all the files on your hard drive.
Go into Window’s Explorer again. Right-click on the USB drive you wish to format, and then click on Format….
Once the Format window opens, you have a few choices to make. First, choose what type of File system you want. This is a matter of personal choice. You can choose FAT or FAT32, and with some fiddling around elsewhere in your computer, you could choose NTFS. That may be an article for another day.
You can also set the Volume label. Perhaps you want to customize it and call it ‘My Toolbox’ or something like that.
Then you can choose to either do a Quick Format or not. With something like this, I don’t think it matters if it is done with a quick format or not. Meh…click the Start button.
Now, jump out of your chair, point at your monitor and scream, “It’s formaaaaaaaaaaaating!!!!!!” as though you were Robert Thorn in Soylent Green when he figured out what Soylent Green really was. You don’t have to do that part, but if you do, let me know how fast your Sys. Admin loses his mind thinking you formatted something important.
Well, that makes the next part a little anticlimactic. Just click OK, and put the files you want on to the USB drive.
There are a few more things that could be done, that are a little more complex and beyond the scope of this article. However, it involves messing around with drivers or data recovery software. If there’s enough interest, maybe we can do a follow-up to this article. Anyone?