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I have a 16GB USB flash drive that has (mostly) stopped working. Whenever I plug it into a computer, the read/write LED comes on, but nothing else seems to happen. Under Linux, I can run lsusb and see it appear on the list of devices, and an block device appears for it under /dev and /sys/block, but I cannot mount it, nor will fdisk or gparted do anything with it. Similarly, my Windows 8 computer will recognize it as a USB device, but won't mount it and it does not appear under Disk Management. Basically, computers will recognize it as a USB device, but not as a disk.

Is this recoverable, or is it a lost cause?

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There is always a chance of recovery, but it depends how far you're willing to go (and pay). From your description it's hard to tell what part of the device is bad. There might be some software tools that allow you to analyze what is going on. There are hardware options, although these are can be expensive and time consuming:

If the data is critical to you, you can remove the NAND Flash IC and place it in a new equivalent thumb drive. It is likely to work. Otherwise, the data in the chip can be dumped raw and recovered.

  • There's no vital data on the stick, I basically just used it to transfer large amounts of data between computers. Mostly I was hoping this was a software error (because it was working perfectly until it didn't) that could be fixed with some magic utility I don't know about, so I don't need to buy a new stick. – BitLooter Dec 3 '12 at 5:59

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