The first thing to understand is that image files are a messy business. There is plenty of cross-over information and functionality between image file extension types – it is easy to get confused!
Don’t be surprised if you can’t mount an .img file in Windows 10 with their default utility – it’s a common problem and this article will help.
It is important to understand not all image files are the same. Heck, not all .img files are the same. Some basics: For the term “image files” you typically see .img files and .iso file extensions and they have similar functionality and conceptually accomplish the same goal. The goal is for an image file to hold digital content, in a single file, of a file system and a its set of data. If that sentence is confusing, then maybe think of an image file this way: a zip file (but without compression).
A very quick summary explaining the difference of .img and .iso image files. An optical disc holding data is configured differently than hard drive storage space. The optical disc has data written in a linear configuration and is a digital binary copy of the ISO 9660 standard or derivative UDF standard. The ISO file extension is a single file which contains all the digital information just described.
An .img file is a digital copy of the contents of a hard drive or flash drive. Technically you can have an .img of a CD or DVD as well, but most should associate the image of a disc as ISO. An .img file is a disk image which begins with a FAT sector which is used to identify the file system and files contained inside the image file. The image file of a disc (ISO) begins with a descriptor file which describes the layout of the disc.
That last sentence is important:
This how to tutorial describes a simple way to check for bad sectors on a USB flash drive. The instructions below will also fix any bad sectors, if possible, during the scanning process.
A bad sector on a flash drive is a portion of memory on the flash drive which cannot be accessed, written to, or read from and therefore cannot be used. A bad sector on a flash drive sounds easy enough to diagnose, but it’s important to know there are two types of bad sectors: hard and soft.
Physical damage to a USB flash drive will create a hard bad sector. A hard bad sector cannot be repaired or fixed and is typically induced from physical abuse. A good example: leaving a flash drive in your pocket and it went through the wash, or the device was dropped and hit the ground is such a way, physical damage happened to the memory.
A soft bad sector on a flash drive are memory logic problems. A soft bad sector can occur from a software or data error during the write process. In lower quality flash drives, it is possible the incorrect firmware was written into the USB controller ROM and thus creates instability via soft bad sectors.
Bad sectors cannot be repaired; however soft bad sectors can be repaired.
The soft bad sectors can be fixed by using the CHKDSK utility in the Windows operating system. This same utility will also flag any hard bad sectors not to be used again, and of course not repaired.
Some signs of a bad sector on a flash drive include:
- Cannot read a file on the flash drive
- A file location is no longer available
- Unable to format the USB flash drive
- A disk read error occurs during operation
In our opinion, run the check disk one time to see if your issue is resolved, but if subsequent scans are required, we recommend discarding the flash drive to avoid further issues.
Running the chkdsk scan is really easy:
Insert flash drive to computer
Using Windows Explorer navigate to the drive letter
In the Explorer window type cmd and press enter
Once inside the command line utility type chkdsk d: /f /r /x and click Enter. NOTE: *The letter d represents the drive letter of the flash drive.
- The /f parameter tells CHKDSK to fix any errors it finds.
- The /r parameter tells Windows to repair/restore bad sectors (if possible).
- The /x parameter unmounts any “handles” to the drive or said another way, this step will not allow any other resource to access the flash drive during the scan.
Using the command prompt (cmd) you can quickly and easily get the USB volume serial number and the USB device serial number. There is no computer experienced needed to perform these functions, simply type a couple letters and you will get the information!
To get the USB Volume Serial Number do the following:
Insert USB flash drive into the computer
Double click the drive letter associated with the USB flash drive (remember the drive letter as you will need this in a moment)
In File Explorer type: cmd
From the command prompt type: vol d: and click Enter ( where “d” is the drive letter of the USB flash drive)
The command prompt window will return the results and look something like this:
The Volume in drive D is named “Nexcopy”
The Volume serial number is 3AAB-AA16
After we explain how to get the USB device serial number we will explain the difference between the two.
To get the USB Device Serial Number do the following:
Turning off Windows Updates permanently isn’t difficult. All you do is this:
In the search box of Windows type: services.msc
From the list shown, select: Windows Update
After you double click to open the Windows Update settings, use the drop down menu and select: Disable
Click Apply and then OK and you are done!
If you like pictures more… here they are:
Roll Play Scenario:
- Windows: Sound of connected a USB flash drive to Windows…
- User: Ah yes… let’s get to work!
- Windows: The Windows sound of a disconnected USB device…
- User: Oh no, what’s happening?
A quick Google search and here we are… let’s take a look:
Here are five legitimate reasons your USB drive might be disconnecting from your Windows computer.
1. Running on Battery
Windows OS is set at default to power down USB ports when running from a battery. The power down process usually doesn’t happen until 10-15 into a stalled USB port, but maybe your setting is different. So worth checking… but first… plug in your laptop and see if the problem is resolved.
To check your USB power setting do this:
Search for Control Panel and click Enter
In the Control Panel click the Hardware and Sound link
From here (might be slightly different for everyone) click the Change battery settings and further click Change plan settings and then you’ll see an Change advanced power settings option. Click the Change advanced power settings you can scroll around to find the USB devices and adjust your power there.
2. Faulty USB Port
The number one reason for why a USB device doesn’t work is the physical USB port on the host computer. A laptop generally has only 3 or 4 ports and those ports get a lot of action. With a tower PC, the front USB ports on the bezel also get most the action. Question: When you insert the USB device can you wiggle it around? Was there very little tension or pressure when connecting the USB device? If the device wiggles, or extremely easy to insert… you might have a physically bad USB socket.
This article will help you view Linux files on a flash drive when connected to a Windows 10 computer. This is a more common problem than you might think. In 2020, the percentage of computer users who use Linux is just above 25% of all computer users? This implies you will eventually receive a USB flash drive which was formatted and used in Linux to save files. If you are a Windows user and currently in this situation, here is your help.
Linux may use FAT32 or exFAT to format a flash drive, but the default would be either ext2, ext3 or ext4.
In Windows, when a USB is formatted as the ext type, Windows will ask to format the drive. Do not do this if there is data on the drive you are trying to access. (Previous article on best way to format USB drives)
The solution to resolve the Windows request to format the drive, and see the Linux files on the drive is do the following:
This first tip might not be “required” but it is highly recommended.
In the Search field of Windows type Control Panel and click Enter
This will take you to the Control Panel.
Click Programs and then click Turn Windows features on and off
In the dialog box which pops up, you’ll need to scroll down most of the way when locking for
The following article will explain how to check your USB flash drive for if it’s bootable. There is no software needed, no download, just a couple of simple commands in your Windows 10 operating system.
A master boot record (MBR) is a special type of boot sector at the very beginning of a partition storage device like a fixed disk (hard drive) or removable drive (USB thumb drive). The MBR contains executable code to function as a loader for the installed operating system. This loader turns over the functions of the hardware (mother board bios) and passes that loading responsibility off to the operating system (Windows).
This is how you check if your USB is bootable, or not:
First, please have only the one USB stick connected which you want to check if it’s bootable. It’s not required to do this, but will my the instructions below a bit easier to follow, that’s all.
Using the Windows search function copy and paste this into the search field and click Enter
The screen shot below will pop up after you click Enter. Using the image as a reference, select “Disk Management” under the “Storage” folder“. In the middle of the dialogue box you will see the drive letter associated with your USB flash drive. In the middle of the box you will probably see the USB listed two different times. The top portion of the box, the USB will be listed along with other devices, like your hard drive and optical drive. The bottom portion of the box, the USB will be shown as “Removable“
Once you’ve determined which drive letter is your USB drive, you may Right Click on the drive letter and select Properties.
A Properties dialogue box appears giving you the option to select any one of the devices show in the previous window (the Disk Management window). From this dialogue box, click the Hardware tab and select the “Mass Storage USB Device” by a single click. Then click the Properties button at the bottom.
The last dialogue box are the Properties of your specific flash drive.
Click the Volumes tab at the top, you then must click “Populate” to get the device information. . The “Partition Style” will read either Master Boot Record (MBR) or the field will be empty.
If the above information isn’t detailed enough for the information you are looking for, the next step is to use a hex editor and check if the boot strap code is actually in the Master Boot Record. This is a bit more detail and the guys at Hakzone did a really good job of summarizing how this would be done using a hex editor program.
The lifespan of a USB flash drive relates to three factors. In general terms, a flash drive will last much longer than you think and here are some details to help you understand the answer.
The three factors related to the life span of a USB flash drive are:
- How the drive is made
- Wear leveling technology
- How the drive is treated
Flash drives are a commodity product and (generally) driven by lowest price. With that in mind there are plenty of shortcuts a manufacturer can use to save time and money. What is important to understand, is knowing the quality of product you are going to use.
How the drive is made
A flash drive is made up of five primary components: The PCB (printed circuit board) the flash memory, the USB controller, the components and the soldering which holds everything together.
Printed Circuit Board (PCB)
Most promotional memory products (flash drives given away at trade shows) will use a two layer printed circuit board. Two layer boards are bad for use with any USB device, including a flash drive. The USB specification requires four layers for a product to be made to specification. A four layer board will include the, much needed, grounding plane of the PCB to insure transmission without interference from the trace lines. A two layer board is at a much greater risk of not performing as it should. If you received a USB at a trade show, don’t consider that device for “long term” or “important” storage options.
This is an image of a four layer USB flash drive by Nexcopy with Micron memory with write speeds of 12MB/s
Flash memory used in the production of USB drives stems from a sea of unknown factors. Flash drives are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to NAND memory as part of the BOM (bill of material). All the good quality NAND memory is used for more expensive products like phones, set-top boxes, communications hardware, etc… and the manufacturer of USB flash drives, is typically, the last tier of manufacturing consumption. With that in mind, one trick the flash manufacturers use, is down-sizing the memory wafer (NAND chip). Let us provide an example: Toshiba is the world’s largest memory manufacturer, and after production of say a 64GB chip, they test it. If the quality of the silicon cells in the chip are below a certain percentage, the chip gets downgraded to a 32GB chip. They test it. If the memory is still failing QC, it gets downgraded again. The process continues. So if you are dealing with a 512MB USB stick, you are dealing with the worst part of NAND memory chip. Very unreliable. The quickest way to test the quality of flash memory is test the write speed. For USB 2.0 product, if you see a write speed of 9-10MB/second or better… its’ good quality. For USB 3.0 if you see a write speed of 18-20MB/second or better you are dealing with good quality. A slow write speed means the silicon of the chip is having a harder time making the phase change (positive or negative) to save data to the memory chip.
The USB controller is the chip on the flash drive with all the brains. The USB controller is the gate keeper between the host computer and the USB stick. The chip allows the host computer to read or write data to and from the flash memory on the flash drive. Because the USB controller is the brain of the flash drive, it’s important to have a controller that performs well and is reliable. One of the most important features of the USB controller is wear leveling. This is also one of the most important aspects for defining the lifespan of a USB flash drive. More about wear leveling in a bit. For now, the important point is understanding the compatibility of the USB controller to that of the flash memory. The NAND memory market is very fast pasted. New technology is always developing. For this reason, the firmware inside the USB controller is very important. The firmware “marries” the flash memory to the device and creates a usable flash drive. There are many flavors of firmware for a single controller and it all boils down to how often the USB manufacturer updates those firmware tools. It is very possible to load firmware that is not optimized for the NAND memory used in the production of the flash drive. It’s also very possible the firmware is set for a different objective, for example, the firmware was set to be optimized for capacity rather than read/write speeds. The amount of control the USB factory has with these firmware tools is mind-blowing. The firmware tools are used to configure the USB stick to exactly what they want. In summary, there is no real way to test the quality of the USB controller and it’s firmware other than having an intimate knowledge and relationship with the actual manufacturer of the USB flash drive. The point to explaining the function of a USB controller is to show what a large impact it has on the overall performance of the drive.
When trying to format a flash drive in Windows (7 or 10) you will see the file system options best suited for the device. The proper file systems for a flash drive would be: FAT, FAT32 or exFAT. Windows will also list NTFS for a flash drive, but not the best for a USB stick, as mentioned before. The file system types listed by the Windows GUI (Graphical User Interface) will depend on the GB capacity of the flash drive connected.
So why no UDF file system on the list?
First, let me say it IS possible for Windows to format a flash drive as UDF (Universal Disk Format). Microsoft just doesn’t want you to do it; and there are good reasons why.
Before the reasons given for not using UDF as a format on flash drives, let’s clear one thing up: If you think formatting a flash drive as UDF will make the thumb drive appear as an optical drive in the computer – you are mistaken!
From the Wikipedia page about Universal Disk Format, UDF, the specification is governed by the Optical Storage Technology Association and because of that, many believe a UDF anything will work like a disc. It, UDF, is most widely used for DVDs and newer optical disc formats, can be used on flash drives, but does make it operate like one.
If we take out the hope of formatting a USB with a UDF file system, some may feel the Universal Disk Format means the flash drive will work in anything, such as from Windows, to Mac, to Linux, Symbian and/or to proprietary system. The truth here is exFAT will do just the same. Please keep that in mind.
So why not format a USB as UDF in Windows? Here is a list:
- The lack of fully-functional filesystem check tools.
- 64GB limit with Windows & Linux, a bug, not a limit of UDF
- SD and USB mass storage devices are exposed to quick wear-leveling failure
- UDF is read-only for Windows XP
Without bogging down this post with ultra-technical information, from the above list, the most important to consider is the first, lack of filesystem check tools.
This means if the USB is pulled out while in operation and a bit is affected by the action, there are no tools to check the file system for errors. You are flying the dark as to why the USB no longer works and there are no tools available to help you figure it out. Given the flash drive was specifically designed to be portable and quick access, the above action is most certainly going to happen sooner or later, which makes UDF a high risk file system.
How to format a flash drive as UDF:
Connect the USB to your computer and note the assigned drive letter
We all spend so much time on our computer, its worth customizing sounds and events we experience while using the computer. Today, we will cover the topic of changing the USB sound when a USB device is connected. You can really have some fun with this, especially if you consider some of the USB jokes mention before, and how those jokes could apply when a USB is shoved into a USB port.
While your mind wonders, I’ll move along to the tutorial part of this post:
In the search field, type in Control Panel and select the Control Panel.
From with in the Control Panel click Hardware and Sound
From the Sounds category, select Change system sounds
The window will pop up on the “Sound” tab and you’ll need to scroll down through the list of “Program Events” to find Device Connect and you will click on that time to highlight it.
You’ve connected a USB flash drive, heard the familiar Windows sound of connection, yet no drive letter shows up. You then go into Disk Management for Windows and you can see the device and memory, but no drive letter.
What should you do?
Most times this process is automatic and Windows will asign a drive letter to any storage device connected to your PC, whether it be a USB stick or a USB hard drive, or any other mass storage device.
However; in the event a drive letter isn’t assigned there is a very quick way to get your computer back to working the way it should.
- Open Command Prompt as Administrator
(search for CMD and right click to open as Admin)
- Type ‘diskpart’ and hit Enter.
- Once in the DISKPART type automount enable and click Enter.
If the above doesn’t do the trick, another issue may be at hand. Maybe some conflicting registry entries from past USB devices connected to the PC and for this reason the automount was disable, or no longer working properly.
Nexcopy has a registry cleaning tool specifically design for USB devices connected to your computer. This utility is an exe file that does not require installation and does not have spyware, malware or anything else. It’s from a company you may
We’ve seen these terms floating around in forums and How To’s for years when someone is explaining what to do with USB flash drives. I think most people glaze over the definitions of Clean, Erase and Format simply because they believe the terms are interchangeable, or they aren’t planning on doing the task mentioned in the post.
I hope the following information will clear up some terms and definitions so we can all better understand what people are talking about when passing along information about flash drives and the Clean, Erase and Format function.
All of these functions can be performed in your Windows 10 computer, or higher. I will start with the least complicated definition and task, and move along from there.
This function is what 98% of Windows computer operators will use. This is the graphical interface inside Windows when you right click a drive letter and ask the operating system to format the drive. What is this function really doing?
Format is the least complicated of the tasks, and this function is removing the File Allocation Table of the USB and creating a new one. Said a simpler way… this function takes away the list of files sitting on the drive so it then appears blank with no data.
It’s important to note, the files are still on the drive, just not listed in an easy, organized manor which you can see through windows explorer (clicking on the drive letter to see the list of files).
Using the most basic file recovery software tools, like the one we wrote about several months back, you can recover all the files sitting on the drive.
Maybe a picture will help. Looking at the image below you can see the “data” is light grey. Meaning the data is still there, just not easily accessible. This data is what recovery software will look for, find, and list back on your drive. Also notice the boot code of the USB (if you want to load an operating system on your USB stick) isn’t touched either.
You might have questions if a USB flash drive should be formatted as FAT, FAT32, exFAT or NTFS and we did a great post about that a bit earlier as well.
The Clean function is a bit more in-depth than the format function. This function applies directly to the Master Boot Record (MBR) or boot code mentioned just above.
The Clean function will clear out boot code and will remove any partition on the flash drive. The partition of a flash drive is the information which tells a host computer how big the drive is, and if the partition should be bootable in the event you are trying to start the computer from a flash drive.
The Clean function is not accessible through the GUI of Windows, for example you cannot right click on a drive letter and find the Clean function. The Clean function is only accessible through the Windows utility called DiskPart.