How To Recover USB Data From Formatted Flash Drives

by Rod Dunne on March 12, 2011

in Data Recovery

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Data recovery software has made it possible to recover USB data even when the device has been formatted using software applications. In this post I’ll show you how this is possible and the steps involved in recovering your files.

The key thing to understand is that you can recover formatted data because the files are not actually cleared off the USB device. Formatting only clears down the file allocation table (a system file containing an index of all documents). The process leaves the actual contents of your documents, i.e. the data clusters, on the USB Flash memory so data recovery tools can scan the partitions and piece together these clusters.

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The steps involved to recover USB data using applications are:

  1. Download and install a data recovery application (e.g. Remo Undelete) onto your PC or laptop.
  2. Connect the USB device to your computer.
  3. Start up the data recovery application. It will prompt you for which drive you wish to scan/analyze. Select the USB drive & commence a scan.
  4. The application will scan the USB drive contents and attempts to recover formatted data by identifying clusters and piecing them back together. The scan completes by presenting you back a list of found files.
  5. Review the found files list and copy/clone the documents you need back onto your computer. It is essential to review these files as they will probably not have your original filenames. Filenames are declared according to the file allocation table which is emptied as result of the formatting process. Therefore you will need to identify files by file type (e.g. word documents) and copy them onto disk and then search them to find specific files.

The one major problem that can affect your ability to recover USB contents is if the formatting tool used included a data cleansing wipe of the memory. This is often done to clear away personal data (i.e. data protection) by repeatedly writing over the data clusters. This process will make data recovery less successful.

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