USB Data Recovery: Damaged Partition Table

Most people don’t bother ejecting their USB stick before they remove it from their computer, and this can cause corruption – as a client of ours recently found out. Here’s an example of a recent USB data recovery we successfully completed.

We received a call last week from a student who had a Kingston DataTraveler SE9 32GB USB flash drive that wasn’t being recognised by his laptop, or any other machine he connected it to. The USB flash drive was being used by the client to store critical postgraduate research, so naturally, she was keen to recover the data. She had attempted to get her data back using free USB recovery software, to no avail. Upon inserting the USB stick into one of our machines, we got a message stating that “One of the USB devices attached to your computer has malfunctioned, and Windows does not recognize it.” This is an error message that we see time and time again, and is typically caused by prematurely removing a USB flash drive from a computer. Thankfully, there was no physical damage to the client’s USB stick, so we were confident that we would be able to complete a successful USB data recovery job on this occasion.

Who actually ejects their USB drive before removing it from the USB port on their computer or laptop? Hardly anyone. But the few seconds it takes to right-click the drive and eject it can make all the difference. Data gets corrupted when you hastily unplug a USB flash drive due to a process called write-caching. When write-caching is enabled, to improve performance, your operating system caches all files and writes them all in one go before the device is ejected. If a write process is in operation, data loss can occur. Mac and Linux systems will give you a warning when you unplug a USB flash drive without ejecting it first, but Windows doesn’t. Microsoft recognises that most users don’t bother to manually eject their drive each time they disconnect it, so write-caching is disabled by default. Our client that approached us for USB data recovery, however, had enabled it by mistake.

When the client removed her USB flash drive, the logical chain was broken, specifically, the partition table. The partition table points to the locations of the data stored on the device, while also describing the setup of the drive’s filesystem. Removing your device without ejecting it doesn’t always corrupt the partition table, but when it does, there’s little you can do except consult a professional USB data recovery specialist. With a broken partition table, your USB flash drive will appear blank, as if there’s no data on it. Because according to the partition table, there isn’t.

Our USB data recovery team created an image of the client’s USB stick, and all of the files contained on it where intact. Although improper removal of a USB flash device can lead to the partition table becoming corrupted, it won’t always happen – but we recommend ejected your device just to be safe!

Data Recovery Specialists complete dozens of USB data recovery jobs every month, with an incredibly high success rate. Get in touch no for a no-obligation USB data recovery quote. 

USB Data Recovery