USB flash drives, while quite convenient and easy to use, occasionally experience hiccups. If you plug a USB flash drive into your computer’s USB port and it is not recognized, there are few different issues that can be occurring. It’s easy to troubleshoot the issue and, in most cases, get your USB flash drive responding as it should.
Start with Disk Management
Step 1: Plug the drive into a USB port and check whether Windows is detecting the presence of the drive. Open the Disk Management tool by pressing the Windows Key + R simultaneously. A box will pop up. Into the field labeled ‘Open,’ enter ‘diskmgmt.msc’ (do not include quote marks) and click the OK button on the screen, or hit the enter key. Your USB flash drive should show up in the list of drives in the Disk Management window. If you don’t find the drive listed, go to step 3 for instructions on how to properly format the drive so Windows can recognize the flash drive. If you don’t see the USB drive on the list, continue on to step two.
Check Your Hardware
Step 2: If Windows is not recognizing the drive, the problem could be your computer’s USB port, a problem with a driver on your computer, or the drive itself. Try plugging the drive into a different USB port. If it is working fine in another port, you may have a broken USB port on your computer. If you’re using a USB hub, try plugging the drive directly into a USB port on the computer, as sometimes USB hubs are not powerful enough to work with external drives.
If you’ve tried other USB ports on the same computer and the drive is still not recognized, it can still be difficult to determine if the problem is the flash drive itself or if there is a problem with your computer. You can try connecting the drive to another computer and see if it can be detected. If it is not detected on another computer, repeat step 1 to determine if the drive is being recognized by Disk Management. If it is not being recognized by Disk Management on another computer, the problem is likely a dead USB drive and it will require replacing.
If you find the drive works OK on another computer, or you’re unable to test it on a second computer, you can check your computer to see if there may be an issue with a driver. To check this, you’re going to use Device Manager. Press the Windows Key + R simultaneously. A box will pop up. Into the field labeled ‘Open,’ enter ‘devmgmt.msc’ and click the OK button on the screen, or hit the enter key. If you see any disk drives with a warning (!) mark next to them, you have a problem with a driver. Right click on the line with the mark and select ‘Properties’ to see the error. You can then use Google to search for more information about the error.
If you’ve only recently experienced a problem with getting the USB drive to be recognized by your computer, you may want to try System Restore to easily correct the problem. Or, you can click on the ‘Update Driver’ button on the list of device properties to install a newer driver if one is available. The ‘Roll Back Driver’ button will restore the previous version of the driver. You can even use the ‘Uninstall’ button to uninstall the drive from your computer. Hopefully you system will them reinstall and configure the driver correctly upon reconnecting the drive.
Partitions and Formats
Step 3: You may be experiencing issues with the partitioning or file systems on the USB drive. A drive that is unpartitioned or unallocated can be cleaned up and partitioned, allowing it to be used.
If you’ve partitioned the drive and it’s still not reading, be sure you’ve set a drive letter to allow Windows to access it. Normally, this is automatic, but if you’ve manually unset the drive letter, you may not be able to access the drive through Windows.
If the drive is partitioned and still not showing up, it could have been partitioned on the wrong file system. The drive may have been formatted through another operating system. Reformat the drive with the NTFS system or the older FAT32 file system to allow the drive to be recognized If you have important files you need to save and the drive was formatted with another operating system, you’ll need to take the drive back to a computer with that operating system and save the files to another drive.
If you’ve tried these troubleshooting steps and the drive is still not recognized, there is a chance that your flash drive is broken and will need to be replaced.