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The Definition of USB MSC

A USB mass storage class device is any physical device that can store data and connect to the computer via the Universal Serial Bus (USB). Such devices use the Mass Storage Class protocol, which makes them appear as standard storage devices for the computer, and, as such, they're used for storing data, transferring files, and backups.

Types of USB Mass Storage Class Devices

A USB flash drive is only one type of USB MSC device. By definition, any device that has storage abilities and connects to the computer via USB is considered a USB MSC class. Therefore, many device types exist, including the following:

  • External Hard Disk Drives – Like internal HDDs, external ones function similarly – they use magnetic needles and rotating disks to store data. However, they sit outside the computer, often in an enclosure to protect the internal parts and connect to the PC via the USB interface.
  • Portable Media Players – Depending on your age, you likely remember either Sony Walkmans or iPods, which fall into the PMP category. They're usually connected over USB and have smaller music libraries, often containing a few hundred songs.
  • Card Readers – As most desktop PCs don't have an SD card reader like many older laptops, they require an additional USB device to put an SD card, connect it via USB to the PC, and browse your SD card files.

Other USB MSC devices also exist. Along with the abovementioned device types, smartphones, digital cameras, video recorders, and external optical drives can also be considered USB MSC devices. For example, older Android phones used to require you to choose "MSC mode" each time you connected the phone.

Supported Operating System of USB Mass Storage Class Devices

Theoretically, the USB interface, which stands for Universal Serial Bus, was supposed to unite all operating systems and connect any two file systems. However, USB MSC support came much later when different operating systems started including it. Today, it's available on all OSs that can power these storage devices, including the following:

  • Microsoft Windows – Since Windows 2000 came out, Windows has supported USB MSC, with previous versions requiring a device-specific driver for each USB storage device.
  • Linux-based Operating Systems – Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, and other Linux distributions that use the Linux kernel have supported USB MSC devices since kernel version 2.4 in 2001.
  • Mac OS – The ninth and final iteration of Mac OS from 1999, before Mac OS X followed, supported USB MSC. Before that, optional drivers were used for such devices.
  • Console OS – Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 only added USB MSC support in 2010, when such devices were first used for saved games and file transfers on consoles.

Although Apple uses HFS and APFS, Linux and Android use ext2, 3, and 4, and Windows does NTFS, USB MSC class devices make it possible to connect all of these by heavily relying on the FAT file system, which is readable by all major operating systems.

Pros and Cons of USB Mass Storage Class Devices

Users worldwide rely on USB MSC devices, but they could be better. They're excellent at bridging the gap between systems and devices, as they use the Universal Serial Bus, which has become the norm in the computer industry. However, USB MSC devices also have disadvantages as they use an older communication protocol.

😊Pros 😟 Cons
Highest Access and Retrieval Rates Physical Security Risk
High Transfer Speeds and Low Power Consumption Limited Lifespan with Frequent Read/Write Cycles
Universally Compatible Loss of Data
Accessible Offline Lack of Encryption
Backup and Storage Capabilities Potential Malware and Viruses

What To Do if You Lose Essential Files from Mass Storage Class Devices?

Since USB MSC devices are prone to malfunctions due to constant use and thousands of read/write cycles, essential files can be lost in a heartbeat. However, you're not entirely helpless if that happens. Professional third-party applications from reputable software companies can still recover your data, even if everything seems lost. One such app is Wondershare Recoverit.

Sudden data loss due to an older USB MSC device is only one part of the equation with Recoverit. The app can also help in many other situations. Whether you've accidentally deleted vital data, formatted the drive, had a firmware update fail, or experienced a system crash, this application has your back.

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Here's what you should do if you lose vital files from a USB MSC device:

  • Step 1: Connect your USB MSC device and launch Recoverit on your PC.
  • Step 2: Select Hard Drives and Locations on the left side of the screen and locate the external device.
launch the wondershare recoverit app
  • Step 3: Choose the problematic USB, and the scan will begin automatically. You can also select the file types you want to look for to speed up the scan.
scan for lost files and data
  • Step 4: Preview the recovered data, select the files you wish to restore, and hit Recover to retrieve them.
recover usb msc device data

Wondershare Recoverit works wonders in over 500 situations, can restore over 1,000 file types, and supports over 2,000 devices.


USB MSC devices are tiny, cheap, universal, and can store massive amounts of data in a device the size of a finger, but they're far from ideal. The configuration of USB MSC devices means they're prone to data loss due to constant read/write cycles, which can instantly wipe your data. However, excellent third-party apps like Wondershare Recoverit can help in such cases and quickly recover your lost data.


  • 1. What should I do if the USB Mass Storage Device driver is not showing or working?
    If you suspect the USB MSC driver is giving you issues, you must update or reinstall it. To do that, follow these steps:
    1. Open your Start menu and search for Device Manager.
    2. Locate the problematic device, right-click it, and select Update Driver.
    3. Follow the instructions and restart your PC when you're done.
    You must reinstall the driver if that doesn't fix your issue. Repeat the steps above, but select Uninstall Device instead of Update Driver. Follow the instructions, restart your PC, and wait for it to reinstall the driver automatically.
  • 2. How do I troubleshoot a USB device?
    There are many ways a USB device can go, and thus, experts rely on the following troubleshooting steps to figure out what's at fault:
    1. Checking the cable connection
    2. Restarting the PC
    3. Updating or reinstalling USB drivers
    4. Updating the PC
    5. Scanning for malware and viruses;
    6. Checking for physical damage to the USB device
    7. Restoring the system to a previous point
    8. Reinstalling the operating system
    The first few steps are quick and easy while restoring or reinstalling your OS should only be done after you're sure the USB device works perfectly on other computers.
  • 3. How long do USB Mass Storage Class devices last?
    With proper use and some care, a high-quality USB MSC device can store essential files and backups for almost ten years. However, that number can significantly decrease as many factors affect the lifespan of your USB MSC device.
    For example, constant read/write cycles slow the flash storage and decrease the lifespan of the tiny chip inside. Moreover, removing the USB MSC device from a PC without stopping the read or write processes or not properly ejecting it can also decrease its lifespan.
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Alex Nappi
Alex Nappi May 14, 24
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