By Stephanie / Last update May 11, 2022

How to recover deleted files on USB drive Windows 10?

“I had a USB drive with some important documents on it. Some days ago, I accidentally picked this USB drive to download the Windows system. I have deleted the docs to free the storage space. Today I found the vital files were gone. Is there any way to recover deleted files on a USB drive in Windows 10?”

--From Tom’s hardware

USB drives are useful storage devices for saving important data, transferring files among different devices. It’s very convenient for users in work and daily life. However, USB drives can cause issues such as data loss.

Have you ever accidentally deleted files on a USB drive or unplugged a USB drive but some documents were still being transferred or written? It’s frustrating to lose or delete vital files on USB drives.

Fortunately, there are possible ways to recover deleted files on drives in Windows 10/11. This tutorial lists three free ways for restoring deleted files from USB on Windows computers.

3 ways to recover deleted files from USB for free

After you delete files from USB, they could be marked as free in order to be recovered by new data. If the data is only hidden on the USB flash drive, it can be recovered using a built-in Windows program with a command prompt.

If the files are deleted accidentally or the USB drives are formatted/corrupted, you could try the free app-Windows File Recovery released by Microsoft. If you don’t know how to use CMD, you could try the Windows File Recovery GUI (graphic users interface) to recover deleted files from USB in Windows 10/11.

Method 1. Recover hidden files in USB using CMD

This method is only suitable for files that are hidden in USB, which seems to be deleted from USB drives. You could try using CMD built-in Windows computer to make those files visible on USB disks.

Step 1. Plug your USB drive into the Windows computer. Press Windows + Q keys to open the search bar and type “Command Prompt” and select “Run as administrator”.

Step 2. Firstly, type chkdsk G: /f and hit Enter. (Replace G with the USB drive letter)

chkdsk-command

Step 3. Type G and hit Enter. And then input “attrib -h -r -s /s /d *.*” (Replace G with the USB drive letter)

attrib-command

Using Command prompt is a simple way to make hidden files on USB visible again by following the steps outlined above. Following this procedure, you will find all lost files on your USB drive in a newly created folder.

Method 2. Use free Microsoft utility-Windows File Recovery

Windows File Recovery is a command-line utility that can be used to recover files that have been lost or deleted from your computer. In 2020, Microsoft released this file recovery tool, which you can use to try to restore data on your HDD, SSD, USB drive, and memory cards. But it is incompatible with cloud storage and network file shares.

Windows File Recovery is free to use and available to Windows 10 and later. This file recovery tool for Windows computers is a little difficult for people to use. Because it lacks a graphical user interface (GUI) with clickable buttons. To recover your data, you must enter commands. Sometimes, there are kinds of errors when using Windows File Recovery. 

There are three modes in Windows File Recovery: Default, Segment, and Signature. In the Command Prompt window, enter the command in the following format:

winfr source-drive: destination-drive: [/mode] [/switches]

 

Parameter / switch  

Description

Supported mode(s)

Source-drive:

Specify the drive where the files were lost. Must be different from the destination drive.

All

Destination-drive:

Specify the storage device and folder on which to save the recovered files. Must be different from the source drive.

All

/regular

Regular mode, the standard recovery option for non-corrupted NTFS drives

Regular

/extensive

Extensive mode, a thorough recovery option suitable for all file systems

Extensive

/n

Scans for a specific file by using a file name, file path, file type, or wildcards. For example: 

  • File name: /n myfile.docx
  • File path: /n /users//Documents/
  • Wildcard: /n myfile.*
  • /n *.docx
  • /n * *

All

/segment

Segment mode, recovery option for NTFS drives using file record segments

Segment

/signature

Signature mode, recovery option for all file system types using file headers

Signature

 

For example:

1. If you want to recover “Recovery Test.docx” from G: drive (the USB drive) to E: drive, which was deleted a while ago, the right command should be as the following:

winfr G: E: /segment /n “Recovery Test.docx”

2. If you want to recover the folder “Work” from G: drive (the USB drive) to E: drive, which was lost after formatting, the right command should be as the following:

winfr G: E: /segment /n Work\

Windows File Recovery best alternative-Windows File Recovery GUI

It’s believed that the commands in Windows File Recovery are very difficult for common users to use. Because it doesn’t have a GUI for users to click. Don’t worry, a freeware-Winfr GUI can help you.

It’s a free tool, fully invoking the function of Windows File Recovery but with an easily operable interface.  You could recover deleted files from USB with simple clicks. However, it is the same as Windows File Recovery, only supporting Windows 10 and later.

Step 1. Download and install Winfr GUI freeware on your Windows computer. Plug your USB into your computer.

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Step 2. Run Winfr GUI. After the software identifies your USB disk, select your USB drive to scan and a destination folder to save recovered files.

select-a-partition-to-scan

Step 3. There are two scan methods to choose: Quick Scan & Deep Scan. You could even make "Advanced Settings" to specify file types and folders.

choose-scan-mode-to-recover

Step 4. Click “Start Recovery”. Wait patiently and the recovered files will be saved in the destination path you set before.

click-start-recovery

Method 3. Use free USB recovery software-AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows

The best way to recover deleted files from USB drives is to use USB Recovery Software. You could try AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows. It's a reliable and professional USB recovery tool to restore permanently deleted and missing files from internal & external hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, and other storage media on Windows computers. 

With advanced technology, AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows can help users retrieve data with a quick scan and deep scan. It can effectively scan the partitions and find all the recoverable data.  It's worth trying!

AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows

▶ Support for permanently deleted files recovery, formatted file recovery, and other data recovery methods.
▶ Recover deleted files from SD cards, USB flash drives, HDDs, SSDs, external hard drives, and other storage media.
▶ Recover lost Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, photos, videos, audios, emails, and hundreds of other file types.
▶ Compatible with Windows 7/8/10/11 and Windows Server.

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Step 1. Launch AOMEI Data Recovery for Windows on your computer. Select the USB drive and click "Start Scan". 

scan-external-hard-disk

Step 2. The program runs the scanning process quickly and finds deleted and missing files in the USB partitions. During scanning, you could recover any file you want. 

external-hard-drive-scanning

Step 3. Select the file or the folder that you want to recover and click "Recover files".

external-hard-drive-recover-files

Bottom line

When you deleted files from USB, the first thing you should do is to check whether you have a backup on your computer or another storage device.

Simply go to your backup and restore all of your files. Creating backups on a regular basis is very important and useful. It can help you save time when recovering files from a USB drive when data is lost. It’s recommended to use the professional backup software for Windows--AOMEI Backupper.

If you don’t have any backup, you could try the freeware WinfrGUI, which is easier to use than Windows File Recovery because it has a graphic and simple user interface.