USB stick not recognized or not seen: how to fix

If the USB stick or external disk is no longer viewable in Windows, let’s see how to correct the problem and access your files again

If by connecting an external disk or USB stick to the PC, we notice that the device is not readable or it is not recognized by the system (with the classic window that warns of the failure to recognize the USB device), the problem could be with both hardware and softwarewith various solutions that you can apply to solve the situation brilliantly.

In the guide that follows we have collected all the possible solutions when we find one USB stick not recognized, unreadable by the PC or that does not appear at allrecommending the methods that we can try on our own without the intervention of a technician.

READ ALSO -> Best USB sticks: the fastest, the cheapest, the biggest

1) Faulty USB connection

The first cause of problems with external sticks and disks is the USB connection used, i.e. the integrity of the contacts on the stick or on the cable used by the disk.

Even if it is intact or without visible damage, just a little damage to the internal wires can make the disk unreadable at the hardware level. In this ugly scenario we can do very little: You’d better find the right place where the USB connector works and transfer the files to PC as soon as possible.

2) Damaged USB port

The second method of solving involves change the USB portusing one of the other ports on the PC.

On desktop PCs it is not difficult to find a new USB port to try, while on laptops the number of ports present could be reduced (2 or 3 USB ports): in this case it is better to have a USB hubs to expand known good USB port.

To proceed, connect the HUB to the only functioning USB port, then connect the disk or key to one of the HUB ports, so as to be able to access the files stored in it. For this purpose it is advisable to use only USB 3.0 ports, which are faster and capable of supplying the energy required for the disk and for the USB stick.

3) USB ports disabled

If we have used programs to disable USB ports keys and external disks will not be accessible until we remove the feature that disables ports, which is often enabled for security reasons on corporate PCs or computers on public display.

On this subject we can read our guides on how deactivate and reactivate the USB ports of the PC with a click come on how to reset or re-enable USB ports.

4) Write protected USB stick and disks

External USB sticks and disks can be write-protectedtherefore making their use impossible to save new files.

In this scenario we check the block tab (lock) on the stick or disk and move it up UnLock; if the block is at the software level we can solve the problem by reading our guide on how to unlock or format write protected usb stick.

5) USB external disks turned off for energy saving

All recent Windows versions turn off USB ports if they are unused for a certain period of time, even if there is an external drive or USB stick on which we have kept important files.

To prevent Windows from turning off the USB ports we are using, we invite you to read our guide on How to always keep USB external drives active on PC.

6) Format USB stick or disk

Not all file systems can be read by Windows: a stick created on Mac may not be viewable on Windows, as well as a file system created on a Linux distribution. To be on the safe side, we advise you to connect the key or disk to the computer where we created the file system and use FAT32 or exFAT for maximum compatibility.

To learn more, we can read our guide on how to format a usb stick: difference between NTFS, FAT32 and exFAT.

7) Manage USB drivers

If none of the previous methods have solved the problem, we will have to start using the “strong ways” to force Windows to read the disk.

First, connect the non-functioning disk to a USB port on the PC, right-click on the Windows Start menu, open the menu Device managementlet’s expand the word USB controllers and identify the voices Host controllers And USB root hub.

Right-click on both entries (one at a time), press on Propertylet’s go to the tab Drivers and we use the keys Update drivers or Uninstall driversbased on the severity of the problem.

Before proceeding with this uninstall, we advise you to schedule PC restart after 2 minutesto make the changes effective and thus start the installation from scratch of the USB drivers even without using the USB keyboard and mouse.

8) Fix corrupted file system

As a last attempt before formatting and forced recovery we can try to analyze the USB stick or disk with the disk error handling systema tool already built into Windows.

Press the right mouse button on the unreadable disk or USB stick, press on the item Propertylet’s go to the tab Instruments and click on the button Check it out to start the file system check and immediately recognize any errors.

On this subject we can read our guide on how to fix disk errors with chkdsk on windows 10 and 11.

9) Retrieve files on USB stick

If the external disk or USB stick is still unreadablenow there is very little we can do to recover the files it contains.

Before throwing in the towel we suggest you try recovering unreadable files with a powerful program Recover.

After installing this program we connect the unreadable disk to the computer, start Recuva and select in-depth recovery, taking care to indicate the external disk as the recovery source. Once the process has started, we wait a few hours leaving everything on: with a little luck we will recover all the files still accessible from the file system, even if damaged.

To learn more, we can read our guide on how to recover files from a broken usb stick.


The ones we have shown you are the main reasons and the solutions for unrecognized USB sticks or disksmany of which are decisive for returning to using the device again as done so far.

To avoid these bad situations we advise you to always have one backup copy of files vitally important (for work or out of necessity) too on the cloudperhaps by choosing a serious and stable cloud service like those seen in our ai guide best free cloud to save files online.

Always staying on the subject with unreadable discs, we suggest you also read our guides on how recover data and files from a computer that won’t boot and how to do it file recovery from broken disk or dead computer.


Professional writer with a passion for technology and all things related to personal computing. With years of experience in the field, William has honed his craft as an expert in writing about how to use PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and staying up-to-date with technological updates.

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