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.
With in a few minutes of downloading Rufus one can determine the software does not make a USB CD-ROM flash drive.
We confirmed this with another article we found on the web from GetUSB.info and they explained how to burn ISO to USB. What they concluded, and so did we, is that Rufus will extract the content of an ISO file and copy those files to the USB flash drive, but the Rufus software doesn’t change the configuration of the device, to that of a CD-ROM.
What started this quest was not wanting to make a bootable Windows flash drive, but rather, find a way to make a USB read-only so the data on the flash drive would not be removed or deleted.
In addition to having the USB read-only for the content, it also makes things impossible for a virus to jump onto the flash drive and spread. Given (my day job) my company doesn’t want a flash drive with our content and logo to be able to spread a virus, so the only solution we found was making sure the USB stick was read-only in the first place.
GetUSB.info article explains what Rufus does and also how to make a USB CD-ROM flash drive, the right way.
Honeywell recently released a cybersecurity report claiming that 37% of threats were specifically designed to utilize removable media, such as USB flash drives, which almost doubled from 19% in 2020. This number could be drastically reduced when the proper media and solution are used.
The report by Honeywell is an attempt to redirect attention to their “Honeywell Forge” product which is a software based solution which monitors connected devices and reports back cyber-security risks detected. Ref:1
Isn’t there a difference between monitoring devices and actually preventing security breaches?
EverythingUSB.com posted an article today about a USB drive that is ideally suited for Industrial Control Systems and solves the problem which Honeywell reports.
Industrial Control Systems are (most often) air-gapped solutions. Meaning the computer systems which run them have never been on the internet. With that in mind, the only way to update such a system is through portable storage media, like a USB flash drive. Taking this a step further, if one can guarantee a USB drive which has system updates is clean and write protected (locked as a read-only drive) then malware is unlikely to be introduced to the control system through removeable media.
As the EverythingUSB article points out, there are “basic” ways to make a USB read-only, but don’t let that fool you because cyber-criminals can easily get around them. Basic methods such as changing read-only attribute with DISKPART through command utility as well as manually setting drive security rights from Windows registry values.
The Lock License flash drive by Nexcopy is a device which is always write protected. The write protection is controlled at the hardware level of the chip, so it’s more durable against hacking because machine code of a chip is way more difficult to hack than software running from an operating system.
The Lock License drive can become writable. The user enters some code to temporarily remove the write protection and allow the device to become writable. This gives the creator of the content 100% control on the computer environment to determine if things are safe before putting data on the drive. Said another way, it gives the content owner a guaranteed way to securely create a flash drive with data which is then locked as a read-only device so no further manipulation of the device can happen.
It’s like… why didn’t flash drives simply be created this way in the first place? Source link above in article.
Did you know Windows 10 has a speed test feature you can easily run from the CMD prompt?
This feature is what many USB flash drive speed test applications call upon during their operation. Rather than download some software utility off the internet, which only god knows what virus could be lurking inside, just use the Windows tool.
In addition to avoiding the possibility of a virus from a internet download, this tool is a standardized feature everyone has. In the event you are having performance issues you are trying to report to a flash drive manufacturer, this tool gives you both the same code to perform USB flash drive speed tests without having different applications giving varied results.
Every flash drive manufacturer claims a particular read and write speed of their flash drive and this is a great tool to verify what you purchased is what you received. It’s been said manufacturers will manipulate their computer environment to optimize the performance and use those optimized results as their marketing material. This could be true when a manufacturer is trying to determine the maximum performance, so let’s take a look now at benchmarking a standard environment.
The read and write speed of a flash drive will depend on the USB port one is using during the test. You will see a performance difference between a USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 device that is connected to a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 socket on your computer. So take note about what you are doing!
After you’ve connected the USB drive to your USB port, take note of which technology they are, and be sure no data is on your drive. Although this Windows utility did not remove our data during testing, one can never be too sure.
In Windows type CMD into the search field.
Please be sure to use the Ctrl + Shift keys when you click the Enter key. This will run the command prompt at the Administrator level. You want to run this at the Admin level because if you don’t, a separate window will pop up during the testing process and immediately disappear with the process is done… taking the speed test results with it!
Once you’ve opened the command prompt at the Admin level, type the following:
winsat disk -drive d (where d is drive letter)
Windows will perform it’s task and should take about one minute to complete. The results will be printed out in the console window once everything is complete. Take note from our example below. This is a 64GB drive which we connected to both a USB 2.0 socket and a USB 3.0 socket. You can see the performance difference.
The information you want are:
- > Disk Sequential 64.0 Read
- > Disk Sequential 64.0 Write
Nice feature, right? Free and immediately available.
For those who don’t want to go this far, you could always take a large file, say 100MBs or larger and drag-and-drop this to your USB flash drive for speed testing. Just look at the copy process window and you’ll get a fairly good idea of device speed.
It’s important to remember flash drive media does not copy at sustained transfer speeds. The speed process does move around during the copy process; however, the read process is more stable and should happen at a more sustained transfer speed. We’ve seen drives drop down to 1MB/second for a short bit, before jumping back up to 30+MB/second write speed.
With my Windows 10 computer whenever a USB flash drive is connected the Windows Explorer / My Computer displays the wrong drive label for my device. The name is correct in Disk Management, but Explorer is incorrect, as well any program which uses Explorer to parse the device and read the volume name.
I’ve also seen where any USB device connected displays a specific label name, but not the correct label name as seen in Disk Management.
When the above situation occurs there are three possible reasons why the USB drive name displays the incorrect label. Starting with the most common and easiest to fix, let us take a look at the three solutions to resolve this problem:
Check the device connected for an .inf file. An .info file is a Setup Information file and tells the host computer what to do [Wikipedia]. Many times this is a hidden file, so you may need to turn on “Show hidden files, folders and drives.” If you don’t know how to do this, jump to the bottom of this article and GetUSB.info shows you how.
In the screen shot below you can see the drive letter D, which is a flash drive, having a very long label (or Volume) name of “How To Make a CD ROM Partition” The image also shows the autorun.inf file open with the instructions to rename the drive label to be “How To Make a CD ROM Partition”
To resolve the problem of the label name being different than what you expect, or see is Disk Management, you will need to delete this file. Once the file is deleted you must power cycle, or reconnect, the USB drive to see the changed affects.
If you want to learn more about using inf files with USB drives, we did a post on this many moons ago, back in April of 2009. Here is the link on how to use inf files to rename your flash drive.
The second most common reason would be a rogue registry entry that is somehow sticking around. The registry of a computer system is like a huge log file, or registry, of things changed on your PC, connected to your PC, software installed on your PC and drives on your PC. It is very likely the Windows operating system has, some how, locked in the volume name to the drive letter… so whether one USB device or another is connected, the registry pitches out the locked volume name. A quick way to resolve this issue is clean out the rogue registry entries.
GetUSB.info wrote a blog post about this a long time ago, but in summary, a Windows registry will make over 200 entries or edits for each USB stick connected. That is a lot of information! Once the drive is disconnected, the registry information is still there. These “historical” entries are what must be cleaned out. It’s a good article if you have a few extra minutes [found here].
It seems the Microsoft updates are endless for Windows 10. Here is an update to how USB flash drives are ejected. The information isn’t new, but could be a method you hadn’t noticed from a past update and worth a quick read. Ejecting a USB flash drive from the Windows operating system is still a best-practice routine. By using a safe eject process, the possibility of the USB drive getting corrupt or loss of data is minimal.
The eject feature in the Windows toolbar for quickly unmounting USB flash drives is right there, ready to use and easy to access.
How to quickly eject a USB flash drive in Windows:
In the bottom right of your computer screen look for the tool bar and up arrow carrot. Click the access arrow in that tool bar to get started.
Hover over the USB icon and click the USB icon.
Your list of connected devices will show up. Now, hover over the USB flash drive device you want to Eject and click it.
That’s it. Your USB flash drive is now ejected.
Data protection and cyber-security: Harnessing the power of write protected USB drives, Greg Morris, CEO of Nexcopy Incorporated based in Southern California, looks at the opportunities for enterprises surrounding read-only USB technology.
November 18, 2020
The world is a global digital economy more than ever before and that move includes the digitization of intellectual property and assets which are shared between customers and clients. The cases of sophisticated data breaches, hacking and cyber crimes target individuals, government entities and private corporations. These attacks have grown by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. According to one report published from a securities website, an enterprise may suffer an average loss of $3.92 million as a result of data intrusion and hacking.
Cyber threats and risks are becoming more severe as IP is increasingly stored in digital format. As such, keeping the digital data, especially confidential data, away from cyber criminals is imperative and should be a primary concern for IT managers and professionals. Without a data protection strategy, an enterprise is unwittingly providing an entry point for cyber criminals to obtain valuable information, which could be worth millions of dollars.
Cyber-security and endpoint data loss protection are key strategies in keeping digital attacks at bay. Strategies which encompass all aspects of data entry points is critical, from the mass storage physical devices like USB flash drives, to network connectivity with cloud storage and network communications.
With this in mind, having efficient and easy to use storage and memory devices is key to enterprise employees adhering to security protocols and at the same time have an ease-of-use through execution of such protocols. Empowering employees on deciding for themselves when, where and which devices to work with is an underrated component of an overall security strategy, yet incredibly important. With the empowerment given to employees, a management team must still account for, and eliminate, user error or forgetfulness even in the most cautions of protocols and procedures.
The USB flash drive was first introduced to the United States via IBM in the year 2000. Today, twenty years later, the flash drive is still a primary storage device used when sharing information. This is true for government, healthcare, finance, automotive, telecommunication and manufacturing, who still rely heavily on USB storage devices, which, if not secure, can inadvertently lead to leaked personal and private information. Employees use USB drives for faster exchange of information and better collaboration between departments or job positions. Employers should be able to provide the needed data storage devices while also ensuring a no-fault security system is in place to protect the company’s intellectual property and the company’s network infrastructure.
For example, in the healthcare sector, it is common practice among doctors to use mobile data storage devices to transfer data easily from a doctor’s office to say that of a hospital. Each location holds sensitive data with patient records and it’s equally important those locations are safe from hacker intrusion. When transferring data between one location and another via a USB flash drive, it is important that device remains secure. The responsibility of digital security falls on the IT professional who manages these digital networks, but also responsibility is held by the user of those technologies.
In order for a virus to spread between locations via a storage device, like a USB flash drive, implys the USB must carry the virus or malicious code from one location to the next. However; these devices cannot get infected if the USB is a read-only device. Meaning the device cannot add new digital content, digital files or malicious code if the USB is not allowed to write data into memory. After the drive is connected and the network scans the device for malicious code the user has access to the drive, at which point a secure password can be entered to unlock the read-only flash drive and make it read/write. The USB drive is always write protected when first connected to any digital device, it is impossible for a virus to jump onto the drive without the user knowing. Only when the user knows the device and environment is safe from hacking, can the password be entered to access the USB drive as a read/write device to transfer files from one location to another.
This type of USB flash drive is called a Lock License drive.
The unique thing about this Lock License flash drive, is the write protection is always enabled whenever the USB is disconnected from the computer. Meaning, the default status of the drive is read-only when connected to any device. When the storage device is reconnected to any computer, it is read-only and files cannot get onto the drive until a password is entered. However, the user experience is very nice and easy because files can always be copied off the drive, without a password. The user gets the full benefit of ease-of-use which a USB flash drive is so well known for, without the hassle and worry of the storage device being exposed to malicious software for data breaches or hacking.
The same caution must be observed with systems-control applications. System Control products are hardware based products which use firmware to run the mechanical product. The hardware are things such as turbine controls for water and power facilities, large pumps for water work facilities or motors to capture wind generated energy. These products are the back-bone of American infrastructure and must be secure at all times. A typical encrypted flash drive doesn’t work to update the firmware of these types of products because the system-control products do not have a user interface to enter passwords. However; a read-only USB device is valuable because it is secure from spreading a virus to the system control units and at the same time the systems control unit can pull firmware or updates from the USB drive without fear of also getting malicious code. The device is not writable, so malicious software or hacking code cannot embed itself into memory on such update devices.
Investing in data protection and cyber security solutions is the primary function of IT professionals and multiple systems and layers of security steps are required to keep a corporation or enterprise safe and secure. By locking down the most common entry point, a USB port, with read-only USB flash memory products from Nexcopy is a key ingredient to the overall success of a cyber security strategy. When correctly combined with endpoint software management, hardware-based write protected USB storage devices can empower public and private sector enterprises and allow them to gain control of their organization’s devices
Learn more about Nexcopy’s USB write protection for flash memory.
Nexcopy turns the market on it’s head with the Lock License flash drive. A flash drive which is by default a read-only or write protected device. The device will accept a user password to unlock the drive through Nexcopy’s Lock License utility software. This new approach gives the power back to the user for when a USB is writable.
“The fundamental change towards how our flash drive works should draw attention for those looking for read-only USB flash drives” says Greg Morris, CEO of Nexcopy Inc. “What is unique about the Lock License approach is whenever power is cut to the device, for example disconnection, the USB is automatically write protected. This is the strongest first line defense against malicious software or virus jumping onto a flash drive without the user knowing. It is impossible to infect a USB drive if the device is write protected.”
Lock License flash drives require a password upon first use. This password is used to unlock the write protection and make the USB a read/write device. This feature provides a personalized solution for each business which uses the Lock License technology. There is no need to set the write protection after being unlocked because simply cutting power to the device will put the USB into its default state: A read-only device.
The Nexcopy Lock License write protect USB flash drive has the following features:
- Default state of drive is read-only, a.k.a write protected
- User assigned password to remove write protection
- No password is required to read from the drive, acts as normal WORM device
- Graphical User Interface (GUI) to set password and remove write protection
- Command line utility for custom integration to remove write protection
- No back door password or feature from Nexcopy to unlock the drive
- Available in USB 2.0 and 3.0 technology and ranging from 2GB through 128GB capacities
Stan McCrosky, head of Sales, comments, “System Control manufacturers for waterworks, electrical utility and petroleum companies need a solution like this. The ability to load software or firmware to a hardware based USB read-only device gives system control companies an incredible amount of security for in-field deployment via USB. More importantly, the command line utility gives the manufacturers a secure way to unlock the drive and update the content remotely without the worry of the drive remaining read/write. It’s simply impossible for the drive to remain writable.” McCrosky concludes.
The Lock License USB flash drive is simple to implement. Steps include:
- Connect USB to a Windows computer
- Open either GUI or command line utility to remove write protection
- Assign a password to be used when removing the write protection
- Data load the drive as needed
- Eject drive from computer once copy process is complete
- At this point the USB is write protected at the hardware controller level
- The Lock License drive can be read (used) by any device on any platform
- Password not required to read data from the drive
- Password is only used when removing write protection to make the USB read/write
Nexcopy Lock License media is available in USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 technology and range it capacity from 2GB through 128GB. Nexcopy offers six body styles for the Lock License media with a wide range of body colors available for each stye, all available for custom branding. The six body styles include Oxford; a capless swivel style drive. Newport; a classic rectangular shape with cap. Lexington; a classic rectangular style with rounded edges and cap. Augusta; a shorter style drive with large lanyard loop. Huntington and Geneva which uses an aluminum body for more durability and also better suited for laser etch branding.
The Oxford style swivel drive is the in stock media Nexcopy carries for same day printing and shipping. Nexcopy inventories USB 2.0 media of 2GB and 4GB capacity and in stock USB 3.0 media of 8GB, 16GB, 32Gb, 64GB and 128GB capacities. The in stock Oxford media is a black body with white swivel clip with full color printing via the Nexcopy Logo-EZ USB flash drive printer.
The Lock License utility is available for download off the Nexcopy support page. The utility requires a Nexcopy licensed USB flash drive. The Lock License USB write protection is not a universal solution for any thumb drive, a Nexcopy drive is required in order to take advantage of the increased security the technology offers.
You never know where a flash drive has been.
It’s always best to scan a USB flash drive.
Did you know Windows Defender can be setup to scan a USB stick automatically, when it’s plugged in? Below are the steps to make that configuration setup.
By default, Windows 10 does not have this setting configured. We are not sure why, as USB sticks and downloads from internet sites are probably the two most vunerable ways to get a computer infected. Our only guess, is the scan process of a USB stick can take some time, and for a user to have that step done with each connection, could reduce the user experience.
This tutorial will take about three minutes to setup. I would suggest read the rest of this article and when done, go back and perform the few steps required to make the Windows Defender scan for USB flash drives.
We are going to make a Group Policy to scan USB flash drives using Windows Defender.
Let us run the Group Policy editor.
Press the Windows Key + R
Type gpedit.msc and press Enter or OK.
Look for the Administrative Templates under the top Computer Configuration directory, expand this directory (folder)
Scroll down to Windows Components, expand it
In that directory scroll down more and look for Windows Defender Antivirus, expand it
You have a document, video or audio file with sensitive information on it and you need to send a copy to a third party. What options should you consider?
Three options come to mind: email, Dropbox or flash drive.
Sending an email is basically the same thing as sending a postcard. While there are efforts one can use to change this, email remains pretty wide open. This is true and scary; anyone who wants to read your email (not just the NSA) can read your email.
Most times you can send sensitive documents through email and nothing will happen. However; you are playing Russian roulette (almost literally, given the recent theft of 1.2 billion email account credentials by a Russian gang) with the security of that transmission. Remember, the topic of this post is about sharing sensitive data with a third party.
The next logical step would encrypting the email (or files) attached in the email. Encryption is a good option and certainly more secure than sending the email without encryption. You could run into a file size limitation though. Most videos will be larger than a 20MB, which is (generally) the maximum file size one could attached in an email. Encryption is a good next step, but there is a bigger issue at hand than file size. More about that in a few.
Dropbox is next on our list of most obvious options to share sensitive data with a third party. Dropbox is a great option when you have larger files. With Dropbox you could upload those big audio or video files and provide a download link for your recipient. Dropbox doesn’t encrypt your data by default so there is some exposure there. A quick and relatively safe method to encrypt your files using Windows would be compressing the video into a zip file and assigning it a password. Encrypting the data will provide that extra layer of security. As with an encrypted email, the encrypted Dropbox alternative also has a major flaw.
Ask yourself, “Do you trust the recipient?”