How to Fix a USB or Flash Drive not showing files and folders

Sometime pen drives misbehave when you copy data into them. A relatively common misbehavior that occurs is that the data you have worked on and are quite sure has been copied to the drive, goes missing. This might sent you into a state of panic if you had not backed up your hours and hours of work.

In this article we are going to explain to you why this sudden loss of data occurs in your pen drive. We will also give step by step methods on how to solve this issue whenever it occurs.

Reasons why you cannot see files and folders in your pen drive

There are several reasons that might have led to the disappearance of your files and folders. Below are some of the known main reasons.

Your pen drive might be damaged

Unfortunately, this happens relatively often. In other cases, the drive is usually inaccessible. If the pen drive is damaged, but the firmware is still okay, it will display on your computer and even show you the storage space used and the space that is free. Copying into this pen drive will function okay and display your files when you open your pen drive. However, when you unplug your drive and plug it back again, the files and folders are no longer available. This is because the drive will save your files and folders as long as there is an electric current/voltage through the USB. It will however not hold the copied data when the USB electric current/voltage is lost. It now begins to act like a RAM instead of a ROM. This might mean you will need a new pen drive.

You did not copy the files and folders to that pen drive

This is pretty straight forward. Perhaps you accidentally copied your data to a similar drive. It happens to me quite often.

Your files and folders were deleted

This is the worst thing that could have happened. Your files and folders were accidentally deleted, or they were deleted as a result of a virus/malware. There are several viruses that embed themselves in your file, and when you try to open that file, the virus wipes your drive. If you see a mysterious file that ends with the extension .exe (application type) or .lnk (link or shortcut type), there is a good probability that it has an embedded virus; especially if it contains the name and icon of your files or folders. Do not open this file before scanning it. Many shareware and freeware can be malicious too.

Your files are hidden

Hidden files and folders are inaccessible to users unless you know their exact path. Whenever you change the option of a folder or file to hidden, it will invisible from the explorer window. Also, if you save a file or folder as a ‘Protected System File or Folder,’ then this folder or file will automatically be hidden from being viewed in the explorer window.

Virus/Malware attack

As we have said before, viruses can alter or delete your files. Another very common virus is the virus that hides your folders or sets them as ‘Protected System Files and Folders.’ Links and application files of the virus might be left visible for you to click on and spread the virus to other pen drives. An autorun.inf file might automatically launch the virus if the autorun property for your USB drive is on.

If you are sure your pen drive is not damage and you are sure that those files and folders exist, the methods below will surely solve your problem. These methods are applicable to data disappearance occurring from virus/malware attacks or hidden files.

Method 1: Use AutorunExterminator

Autorun.inf files might be launching viruses that hide your files. Follow these steps to clean and reveal you files.

  1. Download the “AutorunExterminatorhere
  2. Extract it and double click AutorunExterminator.exe to run it
  3. Plug in your pen drive. AutorunExterminator will delete all the .inf files in your pen drive.
  4. Press start key + R
  5. In the ‘run’ window, type cmd in the box and hit enter
  6. Assuming you pen drive is drive E:  enter this line into the command window

attrib -h -r -s /s /d e:\*.*

NB: Replace e: with the drive letter of your pen drive.

  1. Download the MalwareBytes anti-malware from here
  2. Install and update it
  3. Run a ‘full scan’ (quick scan is default)
  4. Open your pen drive. Your files and folders should be visible.

Method 2: Use Winrar

Winrar is an archiver that will show all your files and folders regardless of whether they are hidden. If you can’t see them on winrar, they are probably not in your pen drive,

  1. Download winrar archiver from here
  2. Install winrar archiver
  3. Open winrar archiver and navigate to your pen drive. You should be able to see your files and folders.

Method 3: Unhide your folders

Try this option for a quick solution. This is going to make hidden folders and files visible, and then you can remove their hidden property

  1. Open your pen driver in a new explorer window
  2. On the top left, click organize and then click  folder and search options
  3. On the folder options window that appears, go to the view tab.
  4. Navigate to hidden files and folders. Double click on it
  5. Select the ‘Show hidden files, folders and drives’ radio button. This should display your files and folders.
  6. Right click your files or folders and go to options
  7. Uncheck the ‘Hidden’ checkbox and apply changes
  8. You can now revert back the folder options to keep other hidden folders and files hidden.

Alternatively

  1. Go to control panel, and view the panel by “small icons”
  2. Click on folder options and then follow the above instructions from #3 to #5
  3. Go and open your pen drive and follow instructions #6 to #8 above.

Method 4: View hidden system folders and files

If method 2 does not show your folders and files, then they we probably saved as hidden system files and folders. To reveal them:

  1. Open your pen driver in a new explorer window
  2. On the top left, click organize and then click  folder and search options
  3. On the folder options window that appears, go to the view tab.
  4. Navigate to hide protected system files (recommended).
  5. Uncheck the ‘hide protected system files’ checkbox and apply changes. This should display your files and folders.

Alternatively

  1. Go to control panel, and view the panel by “small icons”
  2. Click on folder options and then follow the above instructions from #3

Method 5: Use SmadAV

This is the quickest and best tool you could get online to solve your problem. It will also solve other future occurrences. There are similar tools, but I prefer this one.

  1. Download SmadAV from here
  2. Install SmadAV
  3. Run SmadAV
  4. Unplug your pen drive from the USB and then plug it back in
  5. SmadAV will automatically scan your pen drive and ask you to fix the found problems. Run a full scan on SmadAV for good measure.
  6. Click on fix all
  7. Open your pen drive. Your files and folders should be visible

Method 6: Type your folder path

If you know the name of your file or folder, this should be easy.

  1. Open your pen drive
  2. Click On the file path address bar at the top. This will highlight the path. Press the End key to go to the end of the file path.
  3. Type a backslash \ followed by the name of your file or folder and hit enter. This will open a folder or a file with this name.
  4. To open a specific file, type a dot (.) after the name. This will bring up all file names with this name and their extensions. Click or complete the extension and hit enter to launch/open your file.

NB: Do not open .exe or .lnk extension types. They might be viruses.

  1. Save the contents of your folder to a new folder or save your files to a new location.

Always keep your antivirus and SmadAV up to date. These utilities will only detected known viruses only. Their databases are updated regularly with new virus algorithms and how to combat them. You might want to turn off autorun for all your USB ports to avoid auto-running viruses.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

How to Fix a USB or Flash Drive not showing files and folders

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