While USB flash drives are reliable and invaluable for their digital storage capabilities, there are times when your device may call for some troubleshooting. The error message “USB device not recognized” displayed on your computer can easily ignite frustration.
If your flash drive is not showing up on your desktop or My Computer section, here are some potential causes and solutions that may help you better understand your issue.
Problem: USB device not recognized.
Possible cause #1: The flash drive shares the same drive letter as another storage element on your computer and therefore conflicts with the system. This usually happens in workspaces with networks.
Solution: Under the Start or Run icon, open the Disk Management program by typing diskmgmt.msc. Find the drive that shares the same letter as the USB. Right click to “Change Drive Letter” and choose another letter from the drop menu before saving.
Possible cause #2: An outdated USB driver. Without the proper drivers, the operating system cannot communicate with the flash drive.
Solution: Click the Run icon and open the Device manager by typing, devmgmt.msc. From there, look for Universal Series Bus controllers. Right click to update driver software. Additionally, if you know the flash drive’s manufacturer, the company’s website may also provide you with step-by-step instructions to download proper drivers if they are lacking on the device’s end.
Possible cause #3: Computer malware may cripple how the flash drive operates.
Solution: Install antivirus software that will remove threats from both the computer and flash drives as well as detect risks as soon as a connection is made.
Possible cause #4: Computer hangs or stops responding when a USB drive is connected to the system.
Solution: Shut down the computer entirely and unplug the power. Occasionally, hardware or softweare can be temperamental and will stop recognizing devices or ports after a certain period of time. Once you power up your system, it will reload all of the device drivers and operating system so your devices will operate once again.
Possible cause #5: A damaged USB port that cannot read the drive.
Solution: While a damaged port should be fixed or replaced, you can opt to use another port on the computer tower for the time being.
Possible cause #6: A faulty or corrupted USB flash drive. Typically this will occur if you are working with a lower end Tier 2 (Grade B) or Tier 3 (Grade C) device. These drives are often procured by third parties and are characterized by their cheap prices and even cheaper quality. These flash drives are prone to high failure rates. Errors occur far less frequently with a Grade A Tier 1 drive.
Solution: When you've exhausted all other options and before you pitch it, you can attempt to format your flash drive. You may ask—how can it be formatted if the computer can't recognize it? If you receive the desktop popup error message, it implies that your computer knows the flash drive is there, it just cannot communicate with it.
A warning: formatting will have to erase all your flash drive's data. With your flash drive inserted, check to see if your system is able to detect “removable disk” under “My Computer.” If so, right click the drive and select “Format”. You'll see a file system default called FAT32. If you have a drive that's more than 2GB, this option must be changed to NTFS. Next, click start and click ok to erase all data. Use the “safely remove hardware” option to ensure that your formatting is complete.
If formatting an unrecognized flash drive does not work after all other troubleshooting options, your USB device has likely reached the end of its lifespan. The best solution in this instance is a new USB flash drive.