File corruption via USB key
Thread poster: Tony M

Tony M
Local time: 14:22
French to English
+ ...
Jun 29, 2008

I am using Office 2003 under XP, and just recently noticed an occasional (not permanent) problem with files transferred between different PCs using my (unbranded) USB key (2 GB).

Sometimes, it seems to corrupt files — but not always!

So far, I have had corrupted Word .DOC and .RTF and Excel .XLS; the same file seems to get corrupted consistently, but other similar ones don't. On one occasion, a short letter containing a not-particularly-high-res image (original file size c. 200 k) seemed to get blown up to a staggering 19 M! (but wouldn't open anyway!)

The problem seems to arise even between different pairs of PCs, the only common factor (possibly) being my Toshiba notebook as the source of the data.

I have to assume it's a problem with the USB key, but am wondering what on earth the error mechanism might be, and whether there is any solution, or if I'd simply do better just to throw it away!

(I should perhaps add that I haven't used it a great deal, and I don't think it has ever been filled right up, or anywhere near it.)


Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Possible solution Jun 29, 2008


First in order to verify that this is not sue to a corrupt or damaged file system I would recommend you to transfer all the data from the USB flash drive to your computer, and then format the USB drive. Afterwards give it another try and check if the error still occurs.

I am also assuming that you don't just unplug the USB drive from the computer, and always stop it before you unplug it.


Jerzy Czopik  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:22
Member (2003)
Polish to German
+ ...
How do you copy data? Jun 29, 2008

Are you using the function "Save as..." in Office or rather moving the data using a file explorer?
In both cases the time might be the crucial factor. If you disconnect the stick while the file is being accessed, than this may be the cause.
Other cause might be, if you leave the USB key in the PC while closing the OS.
Of course also a slight damage of your USB stick is possible, where some memorey cells may have an error. If this phnenomenon is occuring only with this particular stick, I wouls simply throw the stick away (damaging it physically, so no data access is possible anymore, even if you erased all dara from it) and buy me another one. They don't cost a fortune anymore. Recently I bought a 4 GB USB stick from Sony for 18 Euros.
These are of course wild speculations, as I never ever heard about such problems.



PRen (X)
Local time: 09:22
French to English
+ ...
Remove safely Jun 29, 2008

I had the same problem, and was told to click on an icon in the icon tray in the lower right hand corner of the screen: remove storage device safely (or something like that), before taking the stick out.


Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Local time: 07:22
English to Spanish
Not always in good shape Jun 29, 2008

Here, at home, we bought three of them. One came with the same problem as Tony's, or it showed inexistent virus when placed into the USB slot. The other two memory sticks have been working properly.

Throw it away, or request a change to the store where you bought it. It seems these devices are not always in good shape.


Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:22
German to English
+ ...
further comment Jun 29, 2008

To be on the safe side, you should always use the Eject command (in the pop-up menu when you click on the device icon) to properly close the device (delete it from the operating system) before unplugging it. This may not be the source of your problem, but it is good housekeeping.

If the USB stick is corrupting files, they should appear corrupted on the source computer as well as on other computers. You can check this easily.

Unexplained growth in the size of an Office file, and failure to open, are typical signs of corrupted formatting data.

There are numerous possible fault mecanisms, and there's not much point in speculating on the specific mechanism. USB sticks have become mass-produced commodity items, and manufacturers only perform random sample testing on the memory chips used in them (and some manufacturers may interpret 'random sample' rather liberally).

[Edited at 2008-06-29 12:56]


tectranslate ITS GmbH
Local time: 14:22
+ ...
Fake? Jun 30, 2008

Unfortunately, USB sticks do not normally support the transaction-based NTFS file system where you can be sure if a file is intact once it has been written, and on top of that and the possibility that your stick may simply be defective, it may actually be a fake.

There was a scandal uncovered by the German computer magazine c't a while back where product pirates had brought USB memory sticks into circulation that claimed to have 2 GB of space when in fact their flash memory chips only had a capacity of 1 GB.

This was achieved with a manipulated memory controller that would report the wrong size to the operating system. Any data written above the 1 GB border would be lost and since on USB sticks, the memory is not allocated linearly (they distribute usage among the flash cells to increase their service life), the results of saving a file to such a drive are just unpredictable.

So maybe you could try to get a replacement from the vendor - even if your stick is in fact a fake, they are often willing to help out people that have been scammed. After all, they've got a reputation to uphold.



Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:22
Japanese to English
+ ...
Fles corrupt to begin with? Jun 30, 2008

If certain files exhibit this problem all the time while others don't, could it be that the files are corrupt to begin with? They could easily start to manifest problems on your original computer at any point. Normally, I try saving as an RTF file, but you said that the RTF does the same thing. The only other thing I know to do is to load it in Open Office and resave. This can work. The drastic warkarounds are copy the document into a fresh Word document (sometimes, doing it a page at a time works better), retyping the document, and copying the text into Notepad, saving and opening/reformatting in Word.

Does anyone know any other ways?


tectranslate ITS GmbH
Local time: 14:22
+ ...
Open and Repair Jun 30, 2008

Can Altinbay wrote:

Does anyone know any other ways?

Yes. You can "Open and Repair" the files in the MS Word File|Open dialog to check them for corruption. Use the little dropdown arrow on the Open button to get to that function.



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File corruption via USB key

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