Guide for Teachers: How to Recover Lost Files from a USB Flash Drive

How to Recover Lost Files from a Flash DriveGuide for Teachers: How to Recover Lost Files from a USB Flash Drive

Guest Post by Jessica Carrell

USB flash drives are very portable and convenient. For teachers, chances are you always carry a USB stick with you, and you may ask your student to do so as well. Sure, these days online storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive are free and easy to use. But they are only accessible while connected to the Internet. So, if you walk into a classroom without a network, it can be cumbersome to present teaching materials without a physical flash drive.

But, like any other types of storage media, USB flash drives are versatile to data loss. For example, accidental deletion can happen. You may mistakenly remove some files from the device thinking they’ll go to Recycle Bin or Trash on your computer (well, they don’t). Also, a flash drive can become corrupted with typical symptoms like showing formatting errors, unable to be detected, etc. If you don’t have proper backups, the lost data can touch your nerves, even cause panic. Just imagine the feeling when you couldn’t find or open the files you want.

Fortunately, there is a way to recover deleted or lost files from your USB drive when data backup isn’t available. That is by using a data recovery software, which runs on a PC or Mac.

In this article, I’ll show you how to get back those lost items using a program called EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. Note: the program is not freeware. But it has a free edition that allows you to retrieve up to 2GB data, which should be enough to handle your situation.

What you’ll need:

  • Your USB flash drive
  • A PC or Mac computer (with Internet connection)
  • The EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard software
  • A little bit time (~15 minutes)

Important — stop using your USB drive the moment you realize you have deleted files out of it or the device has become corrupted. That means you should not attempt to save new data to the disk, as doing so would decrease chances of recovery due to data overwriting. Also, do not format the drive until you retrieve the data.


Step 1: Connect your flash drive to a PC or Mac. Make sure your USB stick can be recognized by the computer. If you use a PC, the disk icon should show up under This PC (or My Computer, depending on the Windows operating system your PC is running). For Macs, the disk should appear under Finder > Devices. If your computer can’t detect your drive, see this USB recovery guide (Chapter 5) for fix solutions.

Step 2: Download and install EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free edition on your computer. Get the PC version here and the Mac version here. After installation, launch the program, and you should see its main interface like this:

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac

Main interface of EaseUs Data Recovery Wizard on my Mac (OS X El Capitan)


EaseUS Data Recover Wizard for PC

Main interface of EaseUs Data Recovery Wizard on my PC (Windows 10)


Since the process of recovering files using the EaseUs program on a PC and a Mac is quite similar, below I’m only sharing the Mac tutorial. However, I have tried the PC version and if you have questions regarding that, let me know.

Step 3: Select the type of files you want to recover (see the screenshot in Step 2, by default, it selects Graphics, Document, Video, Audio, Email, and Other). Click Next on the top left. The app will then bring you to this screen, select the USB drive you want to recover files from and click Scan to continue.

Recover Deleted Files

In my case, I selected my Lexar USB flash drive.


Step 4: The scanning process is very fast. Soon you should be able to see a list of files found by the program. Navigate through the tree-style menu to look for your lost items. Pro tip: use the thumbnail view mode to preview the content of a file.

Recover Data - USB Flash Drive

It found many files I deleted in the past…not bad!

Step 5: Select the files you want to pull back, and click the blue Recover button on the top. You then will be directed to choose a destination to save the items. Best to specify a location on your computer because you can’t save the files directly to the source drive (to prevent data overwriting).

That’s it. The last thing you’ll do is check the folder for your lost items, and feel free to transfer them back to your USB disk.

Other Free Options

There are a handful of free data recovery tools out there, besides EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. The reason why I recommend EaseUs is that the program is very intuitive and it has both a Windows and Macintosh version. However, if EaseUs doesn’t work out for you or your files exceed the 2GB limitation, here are some free options. Recuva and Pandora Recovery are as good as EaseUs if you use a PC. Exif Untrasher is nice for Mac users though it only recovers photos (see tutorial here). If you are comfortable with command lines, PhotoRec can be an excellent choice and the app is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

I hope you find this guide useful. For teachers and students, USB flash drives are convenient to use and cheap to get. They are however, without risks — one of which is data loss. Make sure you always backup the device on a regular basis. Sometimes you just can’t afford to lose the files it carries and so far backup is the single most effective way to restore data in some situations. Meanwhile, don’t forget to leverage other tech tools to make your teaching life easier, as Nick has shared a number of them in this blog.

Author: Jessica Carrell

Jessica Carrell is part of the team at Any Software Tools — a technology blog with a mission to help people solve everyday tech challenges with a focus on computer software. This includes PC and Mac tips, mobile and device tips, and software reviews. When she is not working, she loves teaching kids how to use digital devices and hiding behind her cameras shooting nature photographs.


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