What to do if the files copied to USB become shortcuts

Aleksandar Ognjanovic
by Aleksandar Ognjanovic
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files copied to usb become shortcuts

USB flash drivers overtook CDs and DVDs a long time ago. They offer great reading and writing speeds, are quite compact, and these days you can find them in large sizes. But, there’s that one small advantage which disks have and that’s the fact USB drives are quite susceptible to malicious threats.

One distinctive virus will hide all files you stored on your USB flash drive and add their shortcuts only. This seems scary, as the first guess is that your data is gone. It isn’t. We’ll show you how to retrieve it below.

Are your USB files now shortcuts? Here’s how to retrieve them

  1. Disable Autostart temporarily and use Command Prompt to fix it
  2. Use USB Fix tool
  3. Scan for malware
  4. Format your USB drive

Solution 1 – Disable Autostart temporarily and use Command Prompt to fix it

Do not plug in the affected USB until all preparations are made and, obviously, don’t format it yet. Let’s start by enabling hidden files in a standard manner through the system UI.  After that, the next step is to completely shut down Autostart feature, as that might lead to virus infection spreading over to PC storage and that’s the last thing we want to happen.

After that, you can use the Command Prompt to retrieve all your files, or to be more particular, make them visible.

Here’s what you need to do:

    1. Download and extract Autorun Exterminator. You can find it here.
    2. Run Autorun Exterminator and plug in your USB flash drive. The utility will remove all autorun.ini files and protect you from possible malware spread.
    3. Now, right-click on Start and open Command Prompt (Admin).
    4. Copy-paste the following command in the command line and press Enter (don’t forget to replace “f” with your USB flash drive letter):
      • attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.* files copied to usb become shortcuts
    5. After you run this command, you should be able to see all files virus hid from you.

Solution 2 – Use USB Fix tool

As we already said during the introduction, this is most definitely a virus infection at hand. This is a specific virus which attacks external storage, hides all data, and creates shortcuts for all files instead. Scanning with the antivirus won’t help and will most likely delete all the data if it detects something. What you can do to avoid that is run a nifty third-party antimalware tool. It’s called UsbFix and it’s specialized in resolving virus-caused issues like the one we’re addressing here.

Follow these steps to use UsbFix and resolve the problem:

  1. Download the UsbFix tool, here. If antivirus blocks it, disable antivirus temporarily.
  2. Plug in your USB flash drive but don’t open it.
  3. Run the UsbFix.exe.
  4. Click on Deletion and wait until the tool finishes.
  5. Open your USB flash drive and, hopefully, your files will be there, untouched.

Solution 3 – Scan for malware

Now that you’ve finally managed to get your data out of the infected USB, we suggest an immediate full scan as a precaution measure. You can use any given third-party tool to scan for malware, but make sure you have the latest virus database. In addition, quick scans won’t be enough, so make sure to run a deep scan. Whatever your antimalware protection offers.

Here’s an example on how to run a deep scan on universal Windows Defender for Windows 10:

  1. Open Windows Defender from the taskbar notification area.
  2. Choose Virus & threat protection.files copied to usb become shortcuts
  3. Choose Scan options.files copied to usb become shortcuts
  4. Select Windows Defender Offline Scan.
  5. Save everything you’re doing as this mode will restart the PC.
  6. Click Scan now.

Solution 4 – Format your USB drive

Finally, once we’ve successfully transferred data and scanned for possible threats to your PC, we suggest formatting the USB and starting from a scratch. Only then you’ll be sure that USB is fully functional and usable. After that, you can use USB just like before, without fear that possible infection will hide data and create shortcuts again.

Here’s how to format a USB flash drive:

  1. Plug in your drive and backup all files.
  2. Right-click on the USB flash drive and choose Format from the contextual menu.
  3. Select Quick format and select Fat32 as the drive format.
  4. Wait until the device is formatted and voila, you can use it again without problems.

With that said, we can conclude this article. Hopefully, these steps were helpful and you’re finally able to retrieve your files while cleaning the malicious threat in the process. Make sure to tell us in the comments whether the above-mentioned steps helped you or not.