What do to if the files copied to USB drive disappeared

Matthew Adams
by Matthew Adams
Windows & Software Expert
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  • We all use USB sticks to quickly move files from one computer to another. Or maybe to store some file for later use. But what happens when the files aren't there anymore?
  • Normally, this shouldn't happen. But if it does, this article will show you how to recover lost files and other settings you can do to fix this. 
  • Recovering lost files can be tricky. To increase your chances, follow the recommended articles from our Data Recovery section
  • Looking for more help with Windows? Visit the complete guides for Windows 10 Hub
recover files disappeared from usb

How to stop files copied to USB drive from disappearing

  1. Recover Lost Files on the USB Stick With File Recovery Software
  2. Select the Show Hidden Files Option
  3. Deselect the Hide Protected Operating System Files Option
  4. Fix the USB Drive With AutoRunExterminator
  5. Turn Off AutoRun

It is not an entirely unusual scenario for files copied to USB drives to mysteriously disappear. Users have stated on forums that they can’t find files on USB drives that they’re sure they copied to them. So how can files on USB sticks mysteriously disappear?

Missing USB stick files can often be due to virus infections or File Explorer settings. This is how you can restore missing USB drive files in Windows.

How to restore missing USB drive files

Step 1: Recover Lost Files on the USB Stick With File Recovery Software

Stellar Data Recovery USB stick files

Even if you’re sure you haven’t deleted files on the USB drive, a virus might have erased them. Nevertheless, you can still restore deleted files with file recovery software.

Our recommended solution for this is called Stellar Data Recovery.

This tool is so powerful, that it can be used to recover files from a formatted or corrupted drive. It’s very useful for data recovery from all kinds of storage types: classic hard drives, SSDs, SD cards, and, of course, USB drives.

It can search and recover a number of different file types including music, videos, photos, PDFs, documents, and more. What we really like is the ability to preview any recoverable files found so that you can be sure it’s the right one you’ve been looking for.

In 3 easy steps you can solve the issue of the files that disappeared from the USB drive:

  1. Open Stellar Data Recovery and select the file types you are looking for (you can select all if you like).
  2. Make sure the USB drive is plugged-in, and select it from the Connected Drives section.
  3. Click the Scan button and wait. Select any or all files found and click on the Recover button to save the data.
Stellar Data Recovery

Stellar Data Recovery

Use this powerful tool to recover all the files that disappeared from your USB drive

 

Step 2: Select the Show Hidden Files Option

File Explorer doesn’t display all files when the Show hidden files option isn’t selected. So you might need to select the Show hidden files setting to reveal invisible files on your USB stick. You can select that option as follows.

  • Open File Explorer by clicking the folder icon on the Windows 10 taskbar.
  • Click the View tab shown directly below.

  • Then press the Options button to open the window shown directly below.

  • Select the View tab to open the settings in the snapshot below.

  • Select the Show hidden files, folders and drive option.
  • Press the Apply button.
  • Click the OK button to close the window.

Are files and folders randomly disappearing in Windows 10? Check this guide to bring them all back


Step 3: Deselect the Hide Protected Operating System Files Option

Some users have confirmed that deselecting the Hide protected operating system file option also helped them restore missing USB drive files. To do that, deselect the Hide protected operating system files option, which is on the same View tab as the Show hidden files option. Then press the Apply button to confirm the new settings.

Step 4: Fix the USB Drive With AutoRunExterminator

The autorun-virus is one that conceals files on USB sticks. That’s a virus which targets the autorun.inf file on USB drives. Consequently, erasing the autorun.inf file that triggers the virus might restore your missing files.

You can delete autorun.inf with the AutoRunExterminator software. Click the Download Now button on this page to save the program’s ZIP file to Windows. Open the ZIP in File Explorer, and press the Extract all button to extract the ZIP. Open AutoRunExterminator from its extracted folder. Then the software will erase the autorun.inf file when you insert your USB drive.

Step 5: Turn Off AutoRun

You can also disable AutoRun in Windows. Turning AutoRun off will have a similar effect to erasing the autorun.inf file. You can do that by editing the registry or adjusting Group Policy settings as covered in this post.

Those are a few resolutions that might restore missing USB files which have seemingly vanished. Note, however, that your USB stick might not be holding saved data. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get a replacement USB stick. You can return a USB drive that’s still within a warranty period to the manufacturer for repairs or a replacement.


FAQ: Learn more about files that disappeared from USB

  • How do I recover lost files on my USB?

Files can be recovered from a USB stick using data recovery software or by restoring a previous backup that contains those files.

  • Why do files disappear from USB?

Either the USB stick is faulty and degrading, or malware is removing files. Use a good antivirus to eliminate this possibility.

  • Where do deleted USB files go?

While files from your computer go to Recycle Bin, the ones from your USB stick will bypass the bin and be cleared instantly.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been since revamped and updated in July 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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