How to recover corrupted files / lost files from corrupt or accidentally formatted USB devices.


The issue of files getting lost or corrupted is a hot topic on many online forums. At some point or the other, you might have lost a file to accidental deletion, corruption or circumstances you can’t explain. I myself recall those dark days when i would save my favorite songs on my 256MB MP3 player (256MB of then felt like the 100GB of now) and then for reasons unknown, they would just stop playing and I would have to format my beloved MP3 player then start the music hunt from scratch; tragic! If you have been
through a similar or worse experience, then i shall – via this tutorial – explain how to recover corrupted files or lost files so you can say goodbye to such bitter occurences.

What is a corrupted file?

A corrupted file is a computer file that has become unreadable, unusable or inoperable to your computer (be it a laptop / desktop pc, mobile device etc). In other words, your computer can’t recognize such a file and thus, tags it as void.

What could cause a file to get corrupt?

Sincerely, there are quite a number of reason why files get corrupted. Common reasons are:

  • Bug in the Software that created the file: The software which created the file in question might have experienced a runtime error while saving or creating the file.
  • Virus or Malware: Malware or virus might corrupt certain programs or damage the file system itself. For this reason, new or exixting files might experience a modification which would leave them corrupted.
  • Error occuring during file access: This usually occurs when an external storage device (SD Card, USB stick, External Hard Disk etc) is suddenly disconnected from your computer while actively in use or without using the safely remove or eject option.
  • Error occuring during reading, storage, writing, transmission or processing of files: Interruption of data transmission ( like a poor wireless connection or environmental conditions like rain) and hardware / software failure are also common causes of corrupted files.
  • Power outages or other power-related problems.
  • Hardware problems or failures i.e hard drive failures, bad sectors, bad RAM, and the likes.
  • Crash dumps or poor programming which could result in a hard restart or incorrectly saved data.

how do i know if a file is corrupted ?

File corruption could either be of the detected or undetected type. The detected types are the ones you would usually notice due to error messages while the undetected types are silent (could be dangerous) alterations which still leave the file undamaged. There are some general indicators of a corrupted file:

  • If you try to run or open the file using a program which should be able to read it but can’t or you get an error message then the file is likely corrupted.
  • If you try to delete the file and your computer pops up a ‘…could not recognize…’ error message and isn’t able to delete the file then the file is likely corrupted.
  • A checksum can also be used to identify a corrupt file.

My files just vanished without me deleting them, why?

It is possible they have been accidentally deleted or hidden from you either by a malware or by a user of the computer.

Why do my files keep getting corrupt whenever i try to move them?

This mostly points to an already corrupt or damaged storage device (SD card, USB stick, HDD etc). It is important your repair the storage device ( See: How to fix / repair corrupt memory card, SD card or USB drive ) which you have been attempting to tranfer your files to without success

How do i prevent my files from getting corrupted ?

  • Avoid forced-shutdowns i.e shutting down by holding down the power button.
  • Ensure to use the ‘safely remove’ or ‘eject’ option before disconnecting a USB device.
  • Avoid hibernating or sleeping your PC for too long ( See: Hibernate or Shutdown, which should i do and why? )
  • Run regular checks and maintenance on your storage devices
  • Have a strong and updated antivirus installed on your PC (We recommend Norton Internet Security or Avast Internet security)
  • Whenever you get an error while trying to run a file, ensure to troubleshoot.
  • Be wary of the kinds of software you install ( PC optimizers, RAM boosters etc).

How do i prevent my files from getting lost ?

The most reliable approach is to frequently backup your files to an external storage device ( SD Card, USB stick, external HDD etc) for easy retrieval in case of data loss. Also, avoid using SHIFT+DEL on your PC, use just DEL instead so that deleted files will be sent to the Recycle bin from which they can easily be restored.

Can corrupt files harm my device?

This would depend on the file in question. If the corrupted file is an important OS file, or a file corrupted by a virus then you might want to have the issue rectified asap because your PC is at risk. If however it is just some media file which got corrupted due to improper handling then its harmless to your PC, you only lose the file.

How can i recover corrupted files / lost files?


Data recovery comes in very handy when you find yourself in such a mess. Here are a few good methods:

How to recover files turned to shortcuts by the recycler virus: The recycler virus is responsible for those times when all your files get replaced by their shortcuts which would all be the same size alongside some other shorcuts like porn, sexy etc. To fix this:

  • Connect the storage device to a safe PC and wait for it to be recognized
  • Open ‘My Computer’ and note the storage device’s drive letter (e.g I , G or H)
  • Press your windows button and search for cmd.exe
  • Right-click on it and run it as admin
  • In the command prompt environment, type cd then press enter
  • Type G: and press enter (where G is the drive letter from step 2 above)
  • Type attrib -r -a -s -h /s /d and press enter *Note: put a space between -r and -a and -s ……
  • Wait for the process to finish running then go to your storage device
  • All your files should have been returned.
  • Delete a folder called recycler

How to show hidden files: It is possible that your files have been hidden from view either by another user or a malware. To show hidden files:

  • Tap the windows button or click the start button.
  • Search for Folder Options.
  • Click it when found.
  • Click the View tab.
  • Tick or check Show hidden files, folders and drives .
  • Click OK then Apply

How to search for a file using its extension: Its possible that the files are still on your computer but their locations have changed. You can search for a file using its extension (last 3 characters after the “.” in the file name). To do this:

  • Tap the windows button or click the start button.
  • Search for .avi for movies of type avi
  • A list of .avi movies will be shown to you
  • Click ‘See more’ to view all .avi files
  • You could search for .mp4 , .mp3 , .jpg , .3gp etc

How to recover lost files using data recovery software: Data Recovery Software can help you recover lost files even after they have been deleted and the drive formatted. You can try Icare Data Recovery or TestDisk .

How can i repair corrupted files?

There are a number of approaches you could apply to repair corrupt files. One valuable tool in repairing corrupt OS files is the SFC / SCANNNOW command. to run it:

  • Press the windows button or click the start menu.
  • Search for cmd.exe .
  • Right-click on it and run as Administrator.
  • Click Yes or enter your Admin password if prompted for it.
  • Type SFC /SCANNOW *Note: Ensure to leave a space between SFC and /.
  • Press Enter
  • Your files will then be scanned and repaired if necessary. It may take 10 or 20 minutes, depending on your system.

Sometimes, files aren’t saved with the correct file extension after download or transfer. For example, a movie file (.avi) might have been saved as .txt. Changing the file extension of such a file could fix the issue. Also, File-repair is a good tool but if it can’t repair a file of your choice then it means you need a file-format specific repair tool. You can request for such a tool at our Forum ( Device Clinic and Solutions Zone ) and ensure to state the file type you wish to repair.

See video tutorial below:

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