How To Make Corrupt USB Jump Drives Work Again

Guy McDowell 05-08-2009

MolemanFilmThere 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.


computer jump drives work, usb jump drives work

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.

jump drive not working

Right-click on the drive that you want to change the drive letter on. Then click on Change Drive Letter and Paths.


jump drive not working

Now you can click on the Change button.

usb jump drives work

Then select a new drive letter. I chose G for Guy. Isn’t that cute?


computer jump drives work

Windows will ask you to confirm that this is what you want to do. I’d click Yes, but that’s just me.

computer jump drives work

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.


jump drive not working

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.

Error Checking

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.

corrupt usb drive

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.

lost data on jump drive

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.

lost data on jump drive

Lookit! It’s scaaaaaaaaaaning!

jump drive not working

The scan doesn’t take very long at all. You guessed it, click the OK button.

jump drive not working

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….

corrupt usb drive

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.

corrupt usb drive

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.

lost data on jump drive

Well, that makes the next part a little anticlimactic. Just click OK, and put the files you want on to the USB drive.

lost data on jump 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?

Related topics: USB, USB Drive.

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  1. s kihaku
    January 11, 2018 at 2:44 am

    this is assuming of course that the USB drive is recognizable in explorer.... what about cases where you can see it in disk management, but can't even format it there?

  2. Bongani
    March 1, 2017 at 9:32 am

    I tried all you said BT when it start formatting it just stop and say windows was unable to complete the formatting so what must I do now ?

  3. John Ralph
    November 2, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Does not work , not even anything like it .Pc can't read open or show me properties just shuts down PC when properties is pressed .4 days now and about 15 different usb formatting apps downloaded .None work.

  4. jd
    September 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    did not help me, you need help also.

    • Seth
      November 4, 2016 at 7:01 am

      He truly does need help. Who leaves a troubleshoot tutorial in Windows xp? leave that for your own personal time man, we are using w10

      • joe Blow
        January 13, 2017 at 3:48 pm


  5. Sameerwni
    August 30, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I had same Read Only problem with my 32 GB Samsung Memory card, fixed it by formatting in android mobile.
    Those who dont have an android phone or linux os, just use linux live cd and fromat the drive.

  6. Dardoo
    May 26, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I've had this USB drive for less than a month. I was copying a bunch of files and when I was done, I forgot to eject the drive. Next time, write protect.
    I've tried everything from page to page on this site - all softwares but the USB disk shows as Read Only and the entire RAW partition shows HEALTHY.

    I've spent a day and a half trying to figure out how to just reset, LLformat, MBRformat or just get that damn Read Only changed to Online, but nothing's worked. Help!

  7. jamal
    May 8, 2016 at 10:28 am

    my usb cannot formet and say window was unable to complete the fomet and not corrept volum

  8. pratik pagare
    February 11, 2016 at 6:21 am

    What is mean by 'Please Insert A Disk Into Removable Disk'....
    My pen drive does not work...
    Can't open...

  9. Kristopher
    February 10, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    My USB drive won't let me format it or check it for errors. Whenever I try to do either, it just gives me an error saying that it's write-protected. What can I do?

  10. Kgabo
    February 6, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    My USB drive does not does not show space even in disk management and when i try to do anything to its it gives me a massage that says the computer can not access the USB drive.
    it does not allow even to change the volume path, its written like the first picture in this tutorial (disk 1, Removable (f) ) its say no media how can i fix it

  11. Chris
    January 24, 2016 at 7:05 am

    I tried everything but didn't come right. Under Disk management, when I right click on the drive, it only allows me to go to properties, the rest of the options are grayed out.

  12. miss
    January 8, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Hi, I need help. My usb pendrive says the memory is 2gb free out of 7gb+ and it can be accessed but I see nothing inside (my folders gone) and completely empty inside. How to recover them back?

  13. Anonymous
    July 15, 2015 at 1:09 am

    Hi Guy!

    My 8GB micro SD card has corrupted. I have tried plenty of methods to format it but all have failed. Whenever I try to format it, this error appears, "Windows was unable to complete the format."
    I've scanned it through ESET and there is a worm in it but it doesn't let eset clean it just like it doesn't let windows automatically fix errors or format. It starts but suddenly the drive is unmounted and disappears. I tried formatting through cmd but only 2% is completed and then the disk unmounts by itself. I tried using the SDFormatter but it says that the disk is write protected.

    Any suggestions?

    • Chandan
      January 1, 2016 at 9:34 am

      Hi i have a sandisk 16 GB pendrive. it was connected to Vedeocon D2H setup box for PVR. after usage of two days i have formatted it in my laptop (win 7). after formatting its showing only 304 MB free 304 MB. pls help.

      • Guy McDowell
        January 8, 2016 at 1:07 pm

        Check your pendrive with diskmgmt.msc. Type diskmgmt.msc into the Start Menu's search to find that.

        Chances are you'll see that there are several volumes on your pendrive now.

        Using diskpart in a command prompt window, you should be able to remove these volumes so that there is only one volume. That one volume should be just about 16GB.

        You can find more details on using diskpart in my article, How To Format A Write Protected USB Flash Drive.

        Then format the pendrive again. You should be good after that.

  14. Anonymous
    July 8, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Hey, Thanks man.big help!

    • Guy McDowell
      July 10, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Hey Maxio, I'm glad I could help. Cheers!

  15. Anonymous
    July 2, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    So I tried your suggestions and I think my USB is beyond help. It was working just fine, and then BLAMO ... I get a message that it is FAT and contains no files! When I tried the directions above for automatically fixing errors, the screen said there was no files to fix! 8 months of work! THANK GOD I copied the file on my hard drive at the office and can make the one change I was making since yesterday on Monday a.m. (Ironically I was taking a word out, and "saving it as" the same file name to not take more space...(I knew I was getting close to capacity and now I have nothing...and it won't let me save anything onto the empty USB now! Good thing its a long weekend so I can drink heavily!

    • Sriram
      January 13, 2016 at 6:40 am

      HDD Low Level helped me a lot!. It helped me to format two drives that are in RAW format. Thanks a lot!

      • Guy McDowell
        February 3, 2016 at 12:45 pm

        Hi Sriram,

        You're very welcome. I'm glad I could help.

  16. Anonymous
    June 22, 2015 at 3:54 am

    this didnt fix my problem my problem is it wnt shw up when i plug it in??? help?

    • Guy McDowell
      June 22, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Try going into Disk Management and seeing if it shows up there.

      If it does, you may need to change it's drive letter. It's possible for two or more drives to try to use the same drive letter, like E:. Then only one will show.

      If you're not comfortable working in Disk Management, don't go in there. It is easy to mess up your whole system there. Get someone who knows this stuff to help you.

  17. Suzette
    May 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I have tried my Lexar thumb drive on 3 computers all weekend long. All three computers now do not recognize the thumb drive and so I have to believe the Lexar went kaput. Is there any possible way to retrieve data from a kaput flash drive?

  18. JM
    April 25, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Great article. Funny and helpful. Thumbs down to nitpickers and haters. Soylent Green is indeed people.

    • Guy
      April 28, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Glad you liked it. Cheers!

  19. Omid
    March 25, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    I also tried HP USB disk formater. it gives the error: The disk is write-protected

  20. Omid
    March 25, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    thanks for your articles.
    I tried all of the steps of "How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick" and also this above article but non of them worked :(
    when I try to format it (the last way) it would not proceed. nothing happens by the time.
    in the "Error checking" step, it gives an message when I click "check"; it says: You don't need to scan this drive
    then I click "scan and repair" the message comes: there was a problem repairing this drive.
    do you have any other advice?
    I also tried HP USB disk formater. it gives the error:

  21. Jole
    March 24, 2015 at 10:32 am

    You can also try the solutions mentioned over here:

    These guys were simply superb and helped me in getting the inaccessible files back.

  22. Gary
    December 30, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    You guys kill me. This guy wrote a great article and was trying to be helpful and you whine about if he used the term jump drive or thumb drive. He was 110 percent write about the kleenex/tissue/brand/generic reference. Give up or kill yourselves already. lol. Great article guy.

    • doug
      December 11, 2014 at 2:12 am

      agree with gary , thx for the help!

  23. Monique
    November 20, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Thanks for the article, it was really helpful and i liked the humor!

  24. Nukoca
    October 14, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    "Windows unable to complete the format". Crap. It's worse than before. I try to format, it shows the same message every time.

    What to do?! Please respond, this drive was $40.

  25. Devesh Prabhu
    August 26, 2009 at 4:57 am


    I really was intrigued by the article, but had some doubts. You post presumes the USB drive to be detected by the system (PC/XP).

    What happens when it is not detected by the system. In that case hos do I get it working. The device shows a question mark in Device Manager and does not show up in Disk Management.

    Would appreciate a reply as to if there is any way i can recover my USB Drive.

    Devesh Prabhu

    • Guy McDowell
      August 26, 2009 at 11:33 am

      If the device is showing, but with a question mark, that can indicate a driver problem. Perhaps try updating the driver?

      Is this a U3 drive or a regular USB drive? If it's a regular USB drive is it the 2.0 USB spec or lower? Is there any physical damage to the connections on the USB drive or port? Does it do the same thing on every port or another computer?

      Lots of questions to answer before the problem can be narrowed down.

      • Devesh Prabhu
        August 26, 2009 at 9:17 pm


        The device in question is a Transcend 1 GB Pen Drive. I had installed the drivers, but being an XP SP2 machine the system should have detected the device even if it was a 1.0 or 2.0 device, of which I am not sure.

        From the outside there is no physical damage, but from the inside, which of course, is not visible.

        Yes, it shows the same thing on all ports and on all machines.

        Devesh Prabhu

  26. S.K.Rajendran
    August 9, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Very useful article indeed.

  27. Herry
    August 8, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I have a 4GB USB drive (USB to IDE type). When plugged in, Windows device manager regocnize it as a Drive with some wierd name (ÑÑÑÑ -> capital N with tildas on top of it), but no Drive Letter is assigned, and it doesn't show up on Disk Management, but it shows up on Device Manager. Is there any tool that might be able to restore it?

    • Devesh Prabhu
      August 26, 2009 at 5:22 am


      I once has that problem on my friends phone, but not quit sure how I was able but I do remember using Avira (anti-virus) and a-squared Free. I first did a virus scan & then used the a-squared software.

      Devesh Prabhu

  28. Luis
    August 6, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Can I assume that if my 4GB USB drive shows up as having only 30MB that it is completely messed up?

    • Guy McDowell
      August 6, 2009 at 11:24 pm

      Only if you can be sure that there is more than 30 MB of free space on it.

  29. Pranav Gupta
    August 6, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    i am having a 1 GB memory card in my nokia 3230 phone.
    a friend of mine was sending me some files via blutooth when my phone hung......
    i restarted my cel phone multiple times but in hung up the very moment i started....
    then i restarted formatted my cellphone.......
    now its workin fyn....but the moment i put in my memory gets stuck.........

    then i tried scanning my caard for virus on my computer...
    i tried norton , mcafee , avg , avast & quickheal....but one of these identified the virus....
    i thought it maybe corrupt but when i look for shows the amount of space used {AROUND 900 MB}....sometimes i am also able to the folders in the card but upon opening...those folders r empty....

    PLEASE HELP ME OUT........
    i rely need the data in that card...........
    sometimes i am also able to open the

    • Guy McDowell
      August 6, 2009 at 6:20 pm

      I'd suggest using a disk-repair type of tool to check the memory card for faults. If there is absolutely nothing wrong there, then I would suggest contacting the maker of the phone to see if there is some sort of compatibility problem.

    • Devesh Prabhu
      August 26, 2009 at 5:19 am


      I once has that problem on my friends phone, but not quit sure how I was able but I do remember using Avira (anti-virus) and a-squared Free.

      I first did a virus scan & then used the a-squared software. After that I have been using both these software for better protection. Hey! By the way, both are freeware.

      Devesh Prabhu

  30. Peter
    August 6, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Why would I use a system that I know is infected with a virus and corrupt to try to fix a corrupt drive? That is a really bad idea and pretty much guaranteed to cause other problems for you down the road.

    • Guy McDowell
      August 6, 2009 at 6:18 pm

      Although you might infer that I was suggesting to use a corrupt system to fix the corrupt flash drive - that wasn't what I was suggesting.

  31. Henderson NV
    August 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    I'm gonna "Xerox" this off and send it to all my friends, then I'm going to take a dip in the Jacuzzi, then... tissue... yep tissue. Would you like a Cola or a Coke?

    Soylent Green is PEOPLE... everyone knows that right?

    • Guy McDowell
      August 6, 2009 at 6:21 pm

      LOL! Very good!

    • K.I. Matthews
      May 10, 2015 at 11:36 pm

      I need an Acetylsalicylic Acid after this!

  32. Bev Montenaro
    August 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I needed this post as this is a problem I'm currently having. But please, stick to the remit instead of trying too hard to make it amusing as well. You just aren't funny and so it spoils an otherwise good article.

    • Guy McDowell
      August 5, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      Correction: YOU don't find me funny.

      • Peter
        August 6, 2009 at 11:14 am

        Correction: Bev and Peter don't find you funny.

        • Guy McDowell
          August 6, 2009 at 6:14 pm


    • Anonymous
      February 20, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      I think you are funny. :) Thanks for the help.

    • Guy
      February 20, 2015 at 7:25 pm

      Thank you!

      If people are looking for dry, rigid, technical manuals, O'Reilly or Auerbach have plenty.

  33. Dels
    August 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    The more common problem i already discovered with flash drive was damage on IC component due to power loss or electricity and mean that you (usually) need throw this and buy a new one

    I have unusual with portable mp3 player, i have an old creative muvo usb 2.0 that someday in the past were damaged and incapable of working (already try this and that), then i leave it on my desk after i desperate, and lately after 1 month it seem back to normal

    • Guy McDowell
      August 6, 2009 at 6:13 pm

      Yep, the integrated circuit is fairly easily damaged, especially in older flash drives.

  34. Doc
    August 5, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    "Jump Drive" is a Lexar brand name. I prefer "thumb drive" or "flash drive;" YMMV.

    • Guy McDowell
      August 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm

      I think I used those throughout the story. Does anyone ask for a tissue anymore, or just a Kleenex?

      • Peter
        August 6, 2009 at 7:36 am

        A little thin skinned there Guy? Doc pointed out something that is in fact correct. Trying to defend your mistake by saying other people make mistakes in other situations isn't a real defense.

        If you want to get picky, you used the phrase "jump" 6 times in the story, "thumb" 2 times and "flash" does not appear at all in the story.

        And, yes, I always ask for a tissue.

        • Guy McDowell
          August 6, 2009 at 6:11 pm

          I wasn't defending a mistake, because no mistake was made. Using a brand name as a generic name happens all the time. Nor was I upset about Doc pointing that tidbit out.

          And nope, I don't want to get picky!

    • Christy
      May 21, 2015 at 1:06 am

      How funny. Wasn't so long ago that when one asked, "Do you want a coke?" it was in reference to ANY type of soda in a can. Lol. And if the reply was, "Yes, please..." the next question was likely to be, "What kind?"

  35. Brian 500
    August 5, 2009 at 11:47 am
  36. JadoJodo
    August 5, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Somehow, I find this unlikely >.<

    "...will ERASE all the files on your hard drive."

    • Guy McDowell
      August 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm


      • Vincent  
        August 8, 2009 at 8:23 pm

        enjoyed your article - found it informative and entertaining. I'll be back for more. LOL to all.