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Deleting Corrupted Files from a Flash Drive


Every now and again, for any number of possible reasons, a file can become corrupt, unreadable and, occasionally, seemingly impossible to delete from your USB flash drive. When these types of files appear, it can be frustrating attempting to rid your drive of the corrupt file(s) with no immediate success. However, with the exception of flash drives which have undergone extreme, usually physical, damage to its internal components, a corrupt file which seemingly cannot be deleted, can typically be removed via a variety of methods; it’s just a matter of finding the right one. So how do you find a method that successfully deletes your corrupt file(s)? Start by following these simple steps:

1. Think of your flash drive like your C: drive, only smaller


USB flash drives are recognized by Windows in much the same way as your built in C: drive or external USB hard drive. As such, not only will you find most flash drives listed under the My Computer section with the rest of your hard drives, but you will also find many of the same tools used to check, fix, and format standard hard drives work with your USB flash drive just as well.

2. Use any file management software included with your flash drive.

Some flash drives come preloaded with tools to help you manage the files on your drive. If your flash drive comes with this type of software installed, see if it has a file delete utility; if so, see if using it will remove the corrupt file from your flash drive.

3. Empty the Recycle Bin


If you are still unable to delete your file(s) from your flash drive, right click and empty the Recycle Bin on your desktop. Occasionally, a flash drive will not fully delete a file on your flash drive until the Recycle Bin has been emptied. This is due to some flash drives sending files to the Recycle Bin on the desktop, even though they appear to be completely deleted off of your flash drive; creating a sort of temporary file access situation between Windows and your flash drive. Clearing the Recycle Bin should fix any errors arising from this type of situation.

4. Turn off your computer


Sometimes the solution to deleting a “stuck” file is as simple as turning your computer off then back on again. Why would it be so simple? Occasionally programs continue to run in the background and access our files even when we think they have been shut off. If such a program is running and accessing the file you are trying to delete off your flash drive, you will usually get a Windows system error saying that your file can not be deleted due to another program accessing it, or sometimes an obscure “Access is Denied” error message on screen. Shutting off your computer and turning it back on will shut off any errant programs running in the background, and free the file from being accessed; at which point you should be able to freely delete the file(s) on your flash drive without any further issues.

5. Check your drive

Another option to help you delete a corrupt file from your flash drive is to run Windows built in drive error checking utility. Running an error check on your flash drive will help identify file system errors and possibly corrupt portions of your flash drive (known as bad sectors) which could be causing your file(s) to become corrupt.

To start the error checking utility, open the drive and devices listing under Computer (or My Computer in some versions of Windows,) right click your flash drive, and select Properties from the menu that pops up.


In the Properties menu, select the Tools tab and under the Error-checking option, click the Check now . . . button


Prior to starting the error checking process, you will be presented with two options: Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors. When dealing with corrupt files, it would be advisable to check both of these option boxes as they will attempt to find and fix problems on your flash drive which may be causing your files to become corrupt.


After selecting the desired check boxes, click the start button and the error check will begin. Once completed, a dialog will appear with your scan results. Close the results box and now try to delete the corrupt file(s.)

6. Format

If, after trying all of these options you are still unable to delete the corrupt file(s) on your flash drive, you may have no choice but to completely re-format your drive to bring it back to it’s original factory state; prior to any files or software, including any programs that came with the flash drive, being loaded onto it. This operation will delete every bit of data on your flash drive, so if you have any files which you wish to save, back them up on your computer or cd/dvd prior before attempting a format.

Once your data has been backed up, open the drive and devices listing under Computer (or My Computer under some versions of Windows,) right click your flash drive, and select Format from the menu that pops up.


The format options box will appear. Click the Restore device defaults button, uncheck the Quick Format check box, and click the Start button.


A warning box reminding you that all data will be lost will appear.


Click OK and the format process will begin. A full format may take a few minutes, depending on the size of your flash drive. Be sure not to remove your flash drive from the computer until the process has been completed.

Once the format is complete, Windows will notify you of either a successful, or an incomplete, format. If successful, your corrupt file(s) (along with any other files) should no longer be stored on your flash drive, and any space the file(s) took up should be reclaimed. However, if the format was unable to be completed, your flash drive may be defective or damaged. You will need to take it to a professional computer repair shop if you wish to reclaim any lost and/or corrupt data on the drive, or simply go out and buy a new flash drive to replace your old damaged one.

Very rarely is a flash drive damaged in such a way that it is rendered useless; therefore performing the above tips should remove your corrupt file(s) and get your flash drive running like new once again without much hassle at all.

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