How to fix a file system problem on a USB drive (Flash drive)

If you plug in a USB stick, and you find that your computer cannot read anything because the file system is corrupted, DO NOT PANIC!

In most instances, the data is not gone forever.  It simply means that Windows can’t figure out what to do with the drive and files without some fixing.  Here are the two methods.

First, plug in the USB stick and try to open it through “My Computer” if you get a popup box that says something like can not open drive file system corrupted or along those lines then this article is for you.  Now if your drive doesn’t show up or it says Drive (letter) inaccessible then that is a different issue and this article won’t be of help.  Please don’t read through everything, and blame me for not alerting you about this  🙂


Method 1 (within Windows):

Go to “My Computer” and find the drive letter and right click on it. In the drop down menu that will popup, click on the last option that says “properties”. In the Properties dialog box, choose the Tools Tab. In this tab, we run the Error-checking tool, look for a button that says “Check Now”… click this. In the new window do tick both options (automatically fix file system errors) and (scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors).

The software should then run, and if there are any sectors or issues with the file system or boot sectors it will fix them for you. If the program says it completed successfully then you can try to open your USB drive, if you are successful then you are done. If the program just blinks and then stops and never prompts you that it has finished then this method didn’t work; you need to move on to method 2.


Method 2 (command line):

The command line method will seem more complicated to those who have never run a command line, but it really isn’t. All you will need to do is go to “Start” and choose “Run”. In the text box that comes up, type “cmd” and hit enter. This will open a command line text prompt… it looks like a black window on the otherwise colorful windows workspace.  Leave that black window for now.

Before you can proceed, you have to find out the drive letter of the USB drive.  Go to “My Computer”, the letter will be next to the drive in the window.

Assuming your USB drive is drive F, then the command line will look like below.  The “/f” and “/r” are just specific “switches” for the chkdsk command, using Windows jargon. (note that you do not have to type the “C:\>”. Also note the spaces before the drive letter, and before each of the switches).  Remember, this is typed into the black window.

C:\>chkdsk F: /f /r

After that, the software will run, and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete

Good luck.

Do drop me a comment if you find this useful.  Or if you got all confused by my poor writing skills, do drop me a line or two and perhaps I can improve the article.



About Stephen T. (Johor Bahru, Malaysia)

Trying to live a simple life in a complicated world. I am a Malaysian (of Chinese ancestry) living in Johor Bahru, Malaysia
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