How to recover files from a USB memory stick

Saving files to a memory stick is a fast and convenient way to store them and transport them from one computer to another computer. Sometimes these files become corrupted due to the memory stick being damaged, being removed incorrectly or from saving a virus to the memory stick. This can be upsetting, especially if you have saved school work or important pictures or documents to the memory stick. The good news: there is a way to retrieve these corrupted or "hidden" files.

Obtain a USB recovery software program. Make sure this program is compatible with your Macintosh or your version of Windows. You may be able to order an USB recovery software online (see Resources).

Follow the on-screen prompts for installation. Do not skip any steps. Skipping vital steps may cause your system to stop responding or the program to not work.

Plug your memory stick into the USB port on your PC when prompted to complete the installation.

Launch the downloaded program (unless it is still open). Follow the on-screen directions to retrieve your files.

Open the desired file and save it to a location other than the memory stick. Saving the file to your memory stick may make it difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve.


Use a recognised USB recovery software product with strong customer reviews. This should lower the likelihood of downloading software that contains viruses. Also, run a virus scan on the Website before downloading, and then run a scan on the program. If a message pops up saying "Downloading this program may result in system instability," abort the download.


Do not unplug the USB stick during the file-retrieval process or you will lose everything on the memory stick. Do not give enter your payment details on the site unless the page is secured. Run a virus scan on the program before downloading it.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access
  • Debit or credit card
  • Corrupted memory stick
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About the Author

April Khan is a medical journalist who began writing in 2005. She has contributed to publications such as "BBC Focus." In 2012, Khan received her Doctor of Public Health from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She also holds an Associate of Arts from the Art Institute of Dallas and a Master of Science in international health from University College London.