Fixing the "USB Device not Recognised" Error Message

Ever got that frustrating “USB device not recognised” message? Here are the ways you can diagnose and hopefully fix the problem.

It can be worrying seeing “USB device not recognised” when you connect a USB flash drive or an external hard drive. Are your precious files safe? It depends on what has caused the error message in the first place. The first thing you should do, however, is to simply try another USB port on your machine. If you’re using a desktop, the USB ports on the back tend to be directly connected to the motherboard itself. If your device still isn’t being recognised, try plugging it into some USB hubs on different machines. If the drive shows up, there’s an issue with your machine, and not the USB device. If it doesn’t show up on another machine, you know there’s an issue with the device itself.

The next step you should take is to check if the USB device appears in Disk Management. You can access it from the control panel or by pressing Windows+R, typing in diskmgmt.msc and pressing enter. A list of all the drives connected to your machine will appear, and you will be able to identify your USB device based on its size. If you can see your drive in Disk Management but not in Explorer, there could be several issues wrong. Ypu should first check the partition status; it should be described as “healthy”, and assigned a drive letter. If it isn’t, this explains why you won’t be able to view the files. You can use a free data recovery tool, like TestDisk, to fix the partition table.

If the USB device is reported as being “healthy”, it might just need assigning a drive letter. To do this, right-click on the partition and select “Change Drive Letter, and then add on -  making sure it’s unique and not being used by any other drives. If your drive appears in neither File Explorer or Disk Management, it’s possible there’s a hardware fault. You can check this in Device Manager, found in the control panel or by pressing Windows+R and typing in devmgmt.msc, and pressing enter. Expand the drives section and look for your USB device. If there is a yellow and black exclamation next to it, you have a driver fault. You may need to update the driver details, or you can try rolling back to a previously installed driver.

Unfortunately, though, USB flash drives are particularly prone to physical damage, and you might have to seek out the help of a dedicated USB data recovery specialist to access the flash chips directly, and recover your data.

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