How to Repair a USB Flash Drive

Do you have a USB flash drive that just won't work anymore? Assuming the hardware is undamaged, and you don't mind losing all your files, you could try formatting the USB drive.

Repairing Physical Damage

  1. Decide if your files are unimportant enough to risk a DIY attempt at data recovery. If your decide your files are too important to risk, you will want to find a flash drive data recovery company.

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    • These companies have special hardware and tools designed to repair circuit boards. The more advanced companies have the tools to remove the NAND memory chip from the circuit board in order to extract and unscramble the raw data stored inside.
    • The prices for data recovery can vary from $20 - $850 based on the severity of damage done to the drive, and the type of recovery required.
    • Some data recovery companies offer solutions for minor to moderate physical/internal damage costing under $200.
  2. Get the tools. If you decide you are comfortable risking your files, you will need:
    • A soldering iron with solder and flux
    • An old USB cable
    • Wire cutters/strippers
    • A small flathead screwdriver
    • A magnifying glass or jeweler's loop
    • Note: These steps only apply if your flash drive has a broken connector.
  3. Using the flathead screwdriver, carefully remove the flash drive's outer casing.
  4. Use the magnifying glass to inspect the circuit board (PCB) and solder pads. If the PCB itself is damaged or the solder pads are lifted, you will probably need the help of a professional. #*Note: Solder pads are the 4 bits of solder that connect the prongs of the USB connector to the copper lines in the circuit board. If the connector has broken away without causing damage to the PCB or solder pads, continue to the next step.
  5. Set the flash drive on a hard surface with the connector end facing toward you and the solder pads facing up.
  6. Use the wire cutters to cut one end off of the USB cable. Cut the female end if it's not male-to-male.
  7. Use the wire strippers to expose about 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) of each of the four wires inside the cable. Or, if you do not have a spare USB cable to use, you may solder pieces of small gauge electrical wire to each of the prongs on the broken USB connector; this will create your own mini USB cable.
  8. Solder each of the four wires to the four solder pads. The colors from left to right are black, green, white, red.
    • Do not mix these up or your flash drive (and files) are toast.
    • If you used your own individual wires instead of a cable, simply solder each wire straight across to the corresponding pad regardless of what color the wire is.
  9. Plug the other end of the USB cable into a computer and cross your fingers.
    • If it registers, great! Just save your files to your computer.
    • If it's still not being recognized, it's likely that there is a different underlying problem that can't be seen with the naked eye. Either consider sending it to a professional recovery company, or use it as a Christmas Tree ornament that reminds you to always back up your important files.

Scanning for Problems (Windows)

  1. Insert the drive into the USB port on the computer.
  2. Open My Computer and right click on the Removable Disk Icon. Choose the Properties option.

  3. Click on the Tools tab.

  4. Click on the Check Now button.

  5. Click on both “Automatically fix file system errors” and “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” check boxes. Click Start.

  6. Wait for the scan to complete. Click Close when finished.

Reformatting the Drive

  1. Format with NTFS instead of FAT32.
  2. After this, format again with FAT32.

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