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How to Fix Flash Drive When Files Become Shortcuts (SOLUTIONS)

USBs are a great way to carry files with you and to transfer them without using a network. For larger files, a portable storage device like a USB is the easiest and quickest way to transfer them from one system to another. 

While flash drives are great and can be connected to practically any computer, they also tend to pose a risk to the system they’re connected to. If a system is infected with malware, a flash drive is an easy way to transfer it from one system to another. 

A robust antivirus app may be able to block the flash drive and the malware on it but you will also be blocked from accessing the files on it. If an antivirus doesn’t block the flash drive and you access the storage of the drive, and copy files from it, you will likely end up infecting your own system.

Flash drive files become shortcuts

If you’ve connected a flash drive to your system, and the files in it are all shortcuts, you are dealing with an infected flash drive. The bad news is that by accessing the flash drive you’ve exposed your system to the infection. The good news is that you will probably be able to recover files from the drive.

Flash drive files become shortcuts

This sort of virus used to be common about a decade ago but it’s still around and is known as the shortcut virus. Essentially, it hides the files, and creates shortcuts of them all. The files may also be infected but the shortcuts definitely are. Here’s what you can do.

How to Fix Flash Drive (4 WORKING Solutions)

1. Scan the flash drive

The first thing you need to do is get rid of the virus. If you do not get rid of it, the files on the flash drive will end up hidden again and it will spread to the rest of your system.

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Go to This PC.
  3. Right-click the flash drive.
  4. Select Scan with Windows Defender.
  5. Quarantine and remove any infected files that are found.
  6. Next, download and install Malwarebytes (the free version).
  7. Open File Explorer and go to This PC again.
  8. Right-click the flash drive and select Scan with Malware Bytes.
  9. Remove all infections that are found.
  10. Open the flash drive and your files should be there.

Note: It’s a good idea to run a full system scan with both Windows Defender and Malware Bytes.

2. Remove autorun files

A virus runs itself when you access a flash drive. In some cases, the autorun file will open the USB drive and the virus will propagate throughout your system. Autorun files may not be flagged by an antivirus so it’s a good idea to remove the file manually.

  1. Connect the USB drive to your system.
  2. Open Command Prompt with admin rights.
  3. Use this command to move to the USB drive.
Flash drive letter:


  1. Enter this command to list all the files in the drive.
dir /w /a
  1. Run this command to delete any autorun files that are on the drive.
del autorun.inf

3. Unhide hidden files

The files on your USB drive are hidden and need to be unhidden. Make sure you’ve already cleaned the drive out i.e., scanned and removed the malware on it.

  1. Open Command Prompt with admin rights.
  2. Run the following command to unhide hidden files. Change the drive letter to the letter assigned to the flash drive.
attrib -h -r -s /s /d Drive-Letter:*.*


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

4. Format flash drive

A virus that creates shortcuts of your files, and hides the original ones can be difficult to remove. If you’ve managed to remove it with a scan, and you’ve backed up your files, you should format the flash drive.

  1. Connect the drive to your system.
  2. Open File Explorer.
  3. Go to This PC.
  4. Right-click the flash drive and select Format from the context menu.
  5. Uncheck the Quick Format option.
  6. Format the drive.

Note: formatting the drive will erase all data from it.


USBs are portable, so much so that many people tend to keep one on their keychains. Unfortunately, they do end up spreading infections. To avoid this, always make sure you’re connecting a flash drive that isn’t coming from an infected system. Normally, it’s publically available systems e.g. at libraries, that tend to carry infections. Trusted home computers generally do not have this problem however, you should still be careful. If you connect a flash drive given to you by someone who is likely to install malicious apps (by accident), you will end up infecting your own system.

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