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How Is Data Recovered from a USB Flash Drive

USB drives require professional recovery after experiencing physical or logical damage.


Though small in size, a USB flash drive can have a large impact on your digital life. These external storage devices can be the one place you keep all of your photos, videos, work documents, and other valuable data. When your USB fails, you may panic and assume that because of its size, the data is irretrievable. On the contrary, there are many data recovery providers who will work with your media and be able to recover your data. 

Flash drives are different from an average hard drive not only in size but in how they are designed and manufactured. There are a variety of intricate pieces that allow the device to run properly and store your information. It only takes one damaged component to put your USB at risk for data loss. Recovering information from a flash drive is not an easy task but can be done by a professional engineer.

What’s Inside of My USB?

While different in models and capacities, most flash drives have the same basic components that allow it to save and transfer files. Inside a USB drive, a user will find:

  • USB Mass Storage Controller–microcontroller with on-chip RAM and ROM that enables file transfers
  • NAND Flash Memory Chip–stores all of the data that is transferred
  • Crystal Oscillator–controls data output and coordinates all actions on the drive
  • Standard USB Plug–external portion of the drive that connects it to a host computer
  • Cover–outer coating or shell that protects the interior parts of the USB

Every USB will have these components, but a user may see some variation as far as a USB plug. There are different sizes of ports that are tailored to larger or smaller USB devices including Micro USB, USB-A, B, or C, and USBs 2.0 and 3.0.

Some other parts on a flash drive may include write and protect switches that safeguard data by enabling or disabling writing data to the device’s memory. Unpopulated space may also be included in your device that is left open for a user to add a second memory chip for added storage.

How Does a Flash Drive Fail?

Like most electronic devices, flash drives can experience both physical and logical damage. Physical damage can occur when the plug becomes bent or snaps off completely. A component within the covering may become loose or become damaged when the USB is dropped or accidentally stepped on. This external media is sensitive and can become damaged due to excessive heat, water, or too much pressure.

On the other hand, logical damage occurs when the USB is infected with malware from a host device. In some cases, the device itself may have corruption either due to software malfunctions or issues with the NAND memory chip. Other forms of logical damage can include a power surge or improper disconnection of the USB from the host device.

The engineers at Secure Data Recovery have experience dealing with locked firmware media, water-damaged monolith chips, and deleted data that was erased purposely. There are so many ways for your USB stick to become damaged and data to become lost and it is important to have a flash drive data recovery plan.

Process to Recover Data from a USB Drive

Many users may try to use file recovery software for their USBs, and in some cases will attempt to open the device using their own tools to make a repair. Software will not retrieve all the files you need and is useless if your device has physical damage. Opening up your device in an attempt to recover your USB drive will only cause further damage if done incorrectly outside of a cleanroom environment.

The engineers at Secure Data Recovery have years of experience working on flash media and have developed innovative recovery techniques. Some media have a NAND chip and a processor that are separate within the design. Encryption on a drive can prevent someone from accessing the NAND chip because the processor holds the encryption key. In this instance, we transplant both pieces to a working logic board and extract the user’s data through a computer. 

This type of recovery method respects the user’s privacy and allows for successful file retrieval. When this method isn’t necessary, our engineers will use soldering tools and other proprietary technology to work with the damaged USB whether it has experienced water damage or corruption. With a Class 10 Cleanroom and constant R&D on flash drives, Secure Data Recovery can recover your data from your USB drive. Call us at 1-800-388-1266 to start your case today. 

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