Oh, no….so you plugged your USB flash drive into a computer and tried to open the files inside, only to find all the files became shortcuts, leaving all your data inaccessible?
You might be wondering — what’s wrong? Is there a way to open the shortcut files?
Well, the answer is: it’s very likely that your USB has been infected with viruses or malware. But don’t worry! You can fix the problem in a few steps, and restore the hidden files or folders.
Just follow the step-by-step guide, and you should be all set.
The Culprit: Virus or Malware
More precisely, it can be a virus, trojan, or worm, e.g. the notorious ones like BUOUFO, QWERT, AUTORUN, etc. Chances are the virus has sneaked into either your PC or the USB drive.
What the virus often does is hide your files and folders by turning them into shortcuts – usually a few kilobytes (KBs) in size, while the actual file size is several megabytes (MBs) or gigabytes (GBs).
In rare cases, your items could be deleted by the virus and thus disappear, unfortunately. But most of the time, it’s often a quick fix.
Keep reading for the solution!
What You Need to Prepare
- A Windows PC.
- The infected USB drive.
- An antivirus program or malware removal software.
- A data recovery software.
How to Recover and Open Shortcut Files in USB
Step 1: Check If Your Files Are Hidden
First, open the Command Prompt app. For Windows 11/10/8.1, search “cmd” in the taskbar and click the best match (see the screenshot).
Next, copy this command attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.* with Control + C, right-click and select to paste it.
Important: here we assume your USB drive shows as F: under My Computer or This PC. Don’t forget to replace “f” if the drive letter is different.
Now, press the “Enter” key and check if the files and folders on your disk are now visible.
If yes, great. If not, go to Step 2.
Step 2: Scan And Remove Malicious Threats
- Launch your security software for a scan. We recommend Bitdefender Antivirus Plus because it’s one of the most powerful antivirus solutions on the market.
- Open the program and run a thorough scan of your PC hard drive, as well as your external disk.
- After the scan, remove any malicious threats your security software might find.
Now check the items on your device, and see if the shortcut is now gone. If yes, that’s great. Otherwise, the virus/malware may have deleted your files. Go to Step 3.
Step 3: Recover Data and Format The Disk Drive
First, get a Windows data recovery software and install the program on your PC. Connect your USB drive and then launch the recovery program to scan the disk drive your USB represents.
Once the scan is complete, navigate through the found list to see if your lost files are there. If yes, recover them as per instructions.
Next, re-format your USB on your PC (use Windows internal “quick format” or “complete format” option), this guide has more.
This way, your USB drive will be wiped out, and the virus and shortcut issues will be fixed accordingly as well.
It’s not over yet! Now you can re-use the data recovery software above to re-scan your device just in case more files can be found and recovered.
Normal disk re-formatting won’t erase the data saved in a storage device right away, learn the reasons why from this post we wrote.
Also, a third-party file recovery program is safe to use as it performs read-only operations and thus won’t write additional data to your disk.
That wraps up this article. I hope the step-step-step guide has helped you remove the annoying file shortcut issue. Let us know if you have any questions during the process. Leave a comment below.