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?
What’s wrong? Is there a way to open the shortcut files? Or at least recover the data?
It’s very likely that your storage device has been infected with weird viruses or malware. But don’t worry! You can fix the problem in a few steps, and restore your hidden or lost data.
That’s what we are going to show you in this article. 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 storage device, or both. Note that the device we are talking about here can be a USB pen drive, a microSD card, an external drive, etc.
What the virus often does is hiding your files and folders, by turning them into shortcuts – usually a few kilobytes (KBs) in size, while the actual file size us 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 May Need:
- A Windows PC;
- The infected removable storage media, i.e., USB drive, memory card, etc.;
- An antivirus program or malware removal software (see more below);
- A file recovery program (see our data recovery software review).
How to Recover Shortcut Files?
Note: It is highly recommended that you DO NOT jump to the second or third step, without trying the first one.
Step 1: Check If Your Files Are Hidden
First, open the Command Prompt app. For Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, search “cmd” in the taskbar and click the best match (see the screenshot). For Windows XP/Vista/7, click Start > Run, type cmd and click OK.
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 external drive shows as F: under My Computer or This PC. Don’t forget to replace “f” if the drive letter is different.
Now, press “Enter” key and check if the files and folders in your disk are now visible.
If yes, congratulations. 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 this year.
- Open the program and run a thorough scan of your PC hard drive, as well as your external disk.
- We also suggest you use Malwarebytes to check if your PC has malware issues.
- After the scan, remove any malicious threats your security software might find.
Now check the items on your device, 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 Stellar Windows Data Recovery and install the program on your PC. Connect your USB drive (or memory card, external HDD, etc.), and then launch the Stellar Recovery program to scan the disk drive your device 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 storage device on your PC (use Windows internal “quick format” or “complete format” option), this guide has more. If you’re using an SD card or compact flash card, you can also use a third-party formatting tool called SD Memory Card Formatter. This way, your memory card will be wiped out, the virus and shortcut issues will be fixed accordingly as well.
But wait, 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 like the one we recommend above is safe to use as it performs read-only operations 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 hidden issue, or at least you have restored your precious data.
Let us know if you have any questions during the process. Leave a comment below. We’d be happy to help you out.
Thanks Megha for submitting this issue.
“All the files and folders became shortcuts in my 500GB external hard drive after it was connected to my Windows 7 computer and I attempted to view some items. This happened just all of a sudden. It’s really annoying to see that nearly 200GB data now became inaccessible with just about 1-2KB size. How could this happen? Please help me out. I am willing to destroy the drive as long as the data can be recovered.”
Jessica is the co-founder and content manager. She has been fascinated by the startup culture in Silicon Valley and she loves building things from zero to one. When she is not writing, she loves getting close to nature and shoot photos with her iPhone and Canon EOS 80D.