How to Open Shortcut Files or Folders in USB

Oh, noโ€ฆ.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

  1. 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.
  2. Open the program and run a thorough scan of your PC hard drive, as well as your external disk.
  3. 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.

Final Tips

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.

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  • June Sy

    Hi! Currently experiencing this issue –> previously transferred files, but on the next boot, files are now in shortcuts except for the recently transferred folder. Tried 2 CMD tricks but then all those files disappeared except for the recently transferred folder ( the attr one —> ACCESS DENIED and also Del*Ink)

    Please help me. Can i still recover my files even though they have disappeared? I’m really distressed by this as my files hold sentimental value for me.

    Reply
  • g. harish

    Thank u so much

    Reply
  • Kiran

    Method 1 worked for me
    Thank you very much

    Reply
  • moataz

    excuse me i have the same issue but when i click on files it opens in a new window what i mean is that it’s accessible

    Reply
  • Marian

    Oh wow thanks, though it did not work as said access denied recycle bin, but after I ran the virus scan all back to normal, so relieved!

    Reply
  • Yundra

    Wow thx girl! ?
    It really helped me!

    Reply
  • Chuks Onu

    thanks method 1 worked perfect so happy

    Reply
  • simcha

    amazing genius idea!!

    Reply
  • Mika

    Thank you so much the first method worked very well!! now i don’t need to travel two hours just to get the data back ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  • Pawan

    Well Sir,
    CMD is not working in my laptop. I have windows 8.1 os.Please help!!

    Reply
  • aj

    Hi. I hope you can help me with this script. It keeps on creating shortcuts of files in my flashdrive. After I scanned the drive it deletes the virus. But it keeps on creating shortcuts whenever I save new file to the flash drive. A batch file containing the script below is also added to the flash drive.

    cd Files\851\
    set “a=wscript”
    %comspec% /c start %a% bugfg.js
    exit

    Reply
  • Neri

    It really works! Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Sibusiso

    wow it worked thanks

    Reply
  • SUMIT KUMAR GUPTA

    Thanks a lot, It saved my time and data. Again thanks for this post

    Reply
  • Tonny

    I faced the same problem. But when I switched to Kali Linux all my files and folders were intact and very very readable.
    seems the Malware or virus was meant for windows platforms.
    But, thanks it worked for me.

    Reply
  • Jibrill

    the first step worked for me…thanks

    Reply
  • Mariamawit

    Thank you ? thank you ? thank you. I was about to cry ? but with your help I got my files back.

    Reply
  • Earnest

    Am getting access denied from my cmd when i try to use the attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.*.

    Reply
  • Sanju Dabas

    Hii my all pics from computer suddenly went to shortcut I don’t know how this happened… Bt these are my memories of last 10 years…… Plzzzzzz plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz help me to get them again how can I repair them

    Reply
  • Hamza

    Hey there..!
    Recently a thing happened to my external hard drive, my shitty laptop had virus and it also transmitted to my Hard drive as well (thats what i believe) and to clean it i scanned it form my Computer using Avast and after that all of my main folders became shortcuts and when i try to open them they won’t. but when i try to search a sub_folder from search option from inside the Hard drive with . (dot) entension it show everything which i know or remember, but its almost 500Gbs full and i dont remember the sub folders of every main folder except for few.
    i shall be very thank full if anyone can help me out through this.

    Reply
  • sonam

    my pc homescreen get empty all the apps documents are showing in files but every time im trying to create shortcut its not showing in windows homescreen. what to do?

    Reply
  • kadri

    it work out, thanks

    Reply
  • Isaac

    my files in the usb are perfectly fine, just lately im getting 3 extra fake shortcuts to “my music” “my videos” and “my downloads”. it doesn’t open and i cant delete them. the file location is to CMD in windows 32 folder. any solution?

    Reply
  • rylan

    I TRIED STEP 1 BUT MY VIDEOS ARE STILL SHORTCUTS (.LNK FILES)

    Reply
  • Kwizera Philadelphie

    Helo my computer Local disk D all folders well shortcuts, i tried step 2, and i replace removable f with d my infected local disk and i get my folders back. THANK YOU VERY MUCH jessica carrell you made my new year of 2018 start wonderful, step 2 works very much. wish you succcess, im very satisfied, your become important to me,i thank you again.

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      Glad that it worked out for you. Happy 2018! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Reply
  • Hamid

    Thank you so much for your help. It really did work out!

    Reply
  • Yns

    I only tried step 1 and THANK YOU ! it worked

    Reply
  • Gladiator

    I also tried Step 1 only and it worked. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Bryan

    Yeah it works on my usb. But when i inserted the usb back again. It creates another shortcut file. How do I remove this malware on my laptop? Help pls.

    Thanks..

    Reply
  • jz

    Thanks very much..
    First method worked for me

    Reply
  • Mohit

    Hi,
    The above code is showing Invalid switch. May be cause the problem is in my PC not in any external drives. Can you please help me out, cause all my files, images, pdf have converted into shortcut.

    Reply
  • aarush

    my laptop is infected with .exe. virus .i installed k7 antivirus he removed all my .exe virus and my all photos also gone who was converted to .exe.now i tried with data recovery software but they recover .exe files ..
    please help me.

    Reply
    • June

      Hi! Currently experiencing this issue –> transferred files, but on the next boot, files are now in shortcuts except for the recently transferred folder. Tried the CMD trick but then all those files disappeared (except for the one working folder)

      Just wondering if you were able to fix your issue and how did you fix it?

      Reply
  • Andres

    Thanks for the instructions. The files/icons that changed to shortcuts are all in my desktop. I don’t know what (or if) there is an external source (USD card, external hardrive, etc…) that is corrupt. For step 1, what should I type in if the problem is on my C: drive, on my desktop specifically, should I just change the “F” to “C”?

    Reply
  • Jack

    i type this

    attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.*

    but its not work.. show out : access denied – F:\system volume information

    what can i do now??

    pls help..

    Reply
  • Joy

    I only tried Step 1 and it really worked. Thank you so much! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      That’s great. Thanks for letting us know!

      Reply
  • GRACY

    hi . i would like to ask . the attrib-h-r-s is not working on my window 7 laptop . its said not be founded . can you please help me solve this problem . i hate it everytime i insert my pendrive all the data bcome shortcut

    Reply
  • Hosaina

    Nyce one it works well tnx alot =)

    Reply
  • javier

    i tried with the cmd and it said afterward “access denied: E:\autorun.inf”, what can i do?

    Reply
    • Jason

      Have you tried running cmd as an administrator? Right-click cmd and click “Run as administrator”.
      Then try:
      attrib -h -r -s /s /d E:*.*

      Reply
  • Wlat

    Thanks a lot, it works.

    Reply
  • Ann michelle lee

    Hi. I have awe pasport and all my folders suddelny becamenshortcut and when intried opening it i cannot see the files. I closed it again and when I reopened suddenly all files went missing… but i keep on checking the storage data gb it still has my files its just that i cannot see or view it. May inask of i can still recover all the files? Thank u

    Reply
  • Alexander

    how long should I wait. for the original files to be recovered.

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      It depends on the volume of your storage device. The bigger it is, the longer you’ll have to wait for the scan process to complete.

      Reply
      • jay

        my computer is infected with virus and all data is converted into .exe shortcut how can i recover it i wanted to recover only photos please help

        Reply
  • shamala

    My hardisk shows shorcut after i inserted it.I thought it was because of virus after scan any virus is not detected.i even try to format it but after i reinsert other folders it still shows shorcut…pleaseee im working on it for hours..the above method also didnt work..it shows access denied..any suggestions plssssss?

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      If you have tried all the fixes above and still it doesn’t work, contact your hard drive manufacturer support for help. Alternatively, bring your device to a local computer shop for diagnosis.

      Reply
  • Billy

    My flash drive’s files became shortcut, i transferred the files to another laptop and format my flash drive. When I plugged in the flash drive to my laptop, it turned to shortcut again. The catch is that, even if it is a shortcut, I can still access the folders and its contents. It just opens another window. My worry is that, all flash drives that I am plugging in to my laptop turns into the same problem. What can be the remedy?

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      Looks like the problem has something to do with your PC. It’s recommended that you scan your PC for virus or malware and remove all threats. Then re-plugin your flash drive and see if the issue persists.

      Reply
  • Jesse

    I used this command code about a week ago on one of my usb drives, however, now it won’t work on another usb drive with only of the folders turn as shortcuts. I have about 12 other folders that work fine. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      If step #1 didn’t work out, go to the next step. Every case can be different.

      Reply
  • khaled Ben Zayed

    thank you very much , i am very happy to solve the problem by using first step.

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      You’re welcome!

      Reply
  • Hudson

    I am glad it has worked after backing up my files/folders and formatting the flash disk then transfer them back. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      That’s great! You are welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Hudson

    Thanks for this method. However I found a problem: When I use it, my files become normal but immediately close my flash disk and reopen it,I find that the shortcuts have come back. What might be causing this?

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      Have you done a virus/malware scan? If the shortcuts still keep coming back, try this: backup your files and folders to a safe place first, then reformat your flash disk. After that transfer the files and folders back to the disk.

      Reply
  • Hussein

    Great method, attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.* , it worked fine and smoothly…..
    Thank you Jessica, I do appreciate your help.

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      You’re very welcome, Hussein.

      Reply
  • ravi

    wow …..
    attrib -h -r -s /s /d f:*.* it worked i m impressed with ur idea

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      Thank you Ravi. Glad it worked for you.

      Reply
    • Nabeel

      how you do that?please tell me

      Reply
  • KRISHNAVENI

    HAI,

    RECENTLY I GAVE MY LAPTOP TO FORMAT AND CHANGED IT TO WINDOWS 7 AM TO AND I ASK THEM BACK UP FEW FOLDERS. THEY GOT DO BACKUP BUT FOLDERS BECOMES SHORTCUTS AND TRIED THE METHOD YOU HAVE STATED ABOVE I COULD’T BE ABLE TO RECOVER IT. IS THERE HAVE ANY TO OTHER WAY TO RECOVER MY FILES

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools

      Sorry to hear that. Based on your description, the folder shortcut issue you are experiencing is probably not caused by virus. Therefore, the above methods are unlikely going to work for you. We’d suggest you take your computer to a local repair shop and let a geek to examine your situation. Good luck!

      Reply