Ping Fm Logo
Roman Kropachek Photo
Written by:

Last update on

How to Retrieve Files After Formatting a USB Drive

How to Retrieve Files After Formatting a USB Drive

Losing data from a formatted USB drive can be a frustrating ordeal. It’s a common mishap that can occur due to various reasons such as accidental formatting, virus attacks, or even system errors. Fortunately, specialized recovery tools like Disk Drill and PhotoRec can significantly increase the chances of retrieving your lost files. In this in-depth guide, I’ll share my personal experience on how to recover data from a formatted USB using these powerful software solutions. It’s worth noting that there are many tools available for data recovery, and proven software for effective USB file recovery reviews and ranks the top USB data recovery software tools for 2023, including both free and paid options.


Common Scenarios:

Accidental Formatting 🧹

  • The most frequent scenario where you might need to recover data from a formatted USB is when you’ve accidentally selected the wrong drive during a clean-up session.
  • Quick Format options do not erase data completely, which increases the chances of recovery.
  • Always double-check the drive letter and name before formatting to avoid such situations.

Virus Attack 🦠

  • Viruses and malware can cause your system to format your USB drive without consent, prompting a need for data recovery.
  • Using antivirus software regularly can help prevent such involuntary formatting.
  • It’s important to recover the data before it’s overwritten with new files.

System Errors ⚠

  • Sometimes, system errors may prompt a format of your USB drive, which can result in data loss.
  • Make sure to eject USB drives safely to prevent system errors that may corrupt data or initiate an unintended format.
  • Using a reliable file system that is less prone to errors can also mitigate such risks.

Step-by-Step Guide. Recover Formatted Usb Drive:

Method 1: Disk Drill 🛠

  • Start by downloading and installing Disk Drill from the official website on your computer. Ensure that you install it on a different drive than the one you are trying to recover to prevent overwriting data.
  • Launch Disk Drill and select your formatted USB drive from the list of available drives. Click the ‘Recover’ button to start the scanning process.
  • After the scan, review the recovered files and select those you wish to restore.
  • Disk Drill’s official website provides detailed instructions on the recovery process, and it’s a great resource for troubleshooting any issues.

Note: It’s better to run a deep scan if the quick scan does not find your files.

Conclusion: Disk Drill’s intuitive interface and powerful scanning capabilities make it a reliable choice for data recovery.

Method 2: PhotoRec 📷

  • Download PhotoRec from the official website, which is bundled with TestDisk. Extract the contents and run the ‘photorec_static’ executable.
  • Select the formatted USB drive when prompted, and choose the filesystem type. If you are unsure, you can select ‘Other’.
  • Choose a directory where recovered files will be saved. It’s crucial that this is on a different drive than the one being recovered.
  • Let PhotoRec scan your drive. The process may take a while depending on the size of your USB drive and the amount of data.
  • The official PhotoRec guide gives comprehensive step-by-step instructions and can aid if you run into any hurdles.

Note: PhotoRec will recover files without their original filenames, so you might need to sort through them manually after recovery.

Conclusion: PhotoRec’s no-nonsense approach to data recovery makes it an exceptional tool, especially for those comfortable with non-graphical interfaces.


Youtube video to watch


Precautions and Tips:

Safeguard Your Data ⚔

  • Always back up important files to multiple locations, such as an external hard drive or cloud storage.
  • Use write protection on USB drives to prevent accidental formatting or data modification.
  • Regularly update antivirus and anti-malware software to protect against malicious threats that may compromise your data.

USB Data Safety

When it comes to the safety and recovery of USB data, we can never be too cautious. While software like Disk Drill and PhotoRec provide robust recovery options, the key is in taking preventative measures to safeguard your data. Regular backups are your first line of defense against data loss. Services like Windows Backup and Restore and iCloud facilitate easy and consistent backups.

Moreover, it’s essential to be discerning about the USB drives you purchase. Some drives come with built-in encryption and other security features that can prevent unauthorized access and data loss. Educating yourself on the types of formats (FAT32, exFAT, NTFS) and their respective use cases is also valuable.

Additionally, ensure that you’re equipped with dependable antivirus software. AV-TEST provides unbiased reviews and ratings of antivirus programs that can help you make an informed decision. Last but not least, consider investing in data recovery insurance or a recovery service plan if you frequently handle sensitive or critical data.


Recovering data from a formatted USB drive isn’t an easy feat, but with the help of Disk Drill and PhotoRec, you have a fighting chance to reclaim your files. Remember, the key steps in recovery are prompt action, choosing the right software, and ensuring you don’t overwrite precious data. By staying informed and prepared, you’ll stand the best chance of getting your data back into safe hands.


Immediately stop using the USB drive to avoid overwriting data. Disconnect it from your computer safely, and prepare to use a data recovery tool.

Yes, data can often be retrieved from a quick-formatted drive since the process does not erase the data completely, just the address tables.

Recovery is more complex for full formats, as they erase data more thoroughly, but specialized software can sometimes still recover files.

Look for features like a user-friendly interface, the ability to recover various file types, a preview function, and positive user reviews.

Recovery software scans the drive for remnants of lost files and attempts to reconstruct them from the data that has not been overwritten.

Without software, recovery options are limited, but you may try checking previous versions or using commands if you have technical expertise.

Yes, there are free tools like Recuva which can be quite effective for recovering files from a formatted USB drive.

Attempt recovery again with a different tool or use a file repair utility to try and fix the corrupted data.

The duration depends on the size of the USB drive and the extent of the data loss, but it can range from a few minutes to several hours.

Visit reputable service providers like DriveSavers or check out Ontrack for professional recovery services.