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Is it possible to recover data from a failed SSD?

Since their introduction, solid state drives have been the clear choice for consumers looking for reliability and speed.


Since their introduction, solid state drives have been marketed as the clear choice for consumers looking for reliability and speed. Much of the optimism surrounding the reliability of SSDs, when compared to the standard mechanical drives, revolves around the lack of moving parts, which removed any fear of wear and tear on the drive. The fewer the moving parts, the better the reliability... right?

Not really. While it is true that an SSD has fewer moving parts to wear down and fail over time, it is also true that reliability of an SSD is dependent upon its use as well. In fact, as of October 2013, statistics from a retailer pointed to SSD failure rates being statistically equal to that of mechanical storage drives.

Now that we know the SSDs can fail and do have a higher chance of failing over time, how do these drives fail and what can be done when they do?

SSD failure

SSDs do not have to contend with failure points dependent upon physical wear and tear, like a mechanical drive, but the components do degrade from use over time.

As with any manufactured product, material defects can affect the longevity and reliability of an SSD. Capacitors, controller chips, and power supplies each must function reliably for the SSD to continue operate and are common failure points.

A key statistic to most SSDs is the expected number of read/write cycles that the flash memory is rated for. This figure calculates the endurance of the storage components and gives an expected lifespan for the drive. In most cases, consumers should expect at least a decade of average use before the read/write endurance of a drive surpassed and in some cases many more years.

As with all computer components, wear and tear will eventually cause a failure. The best course of action is to have an adequate backup plan in place and follow the best practices when attempting to recover a failed drive.

Data recovery on a failed SSD

SSDs do not give warning signs as they near failure. There is no growing realization that the new buzz or grinding noise you hear is the slowly failing mechanical drive. When an SSD fails it simply no longer works and with no warning.

The biggest hurdle to recovering data from an SSD is the relatively newer technology that an SSD represents. Data recovery systems have had many years to perfect the recovery of files from older mechanical drives and those techniques will not work on an SSD. As the technology of SSDs matures further, expect more recovery solutions to become available.

As of now, consumer-grade recovery options are limited and can be dependent upon the type of SSD technology and failure type. If the drive uses TRIM, a system command protocol which indicates unused data blocks in solid state drives, then recovery might be impossible as TRIM aggressively deletes unused or system deleted files.

A first step to recovering data can be a data recovery program, such as Pandora Recovery or Wondershare Data Recovery. Both programs depend upon the drive still operating in some fashion but off the ability to recover data that may have been lost. These programs are not free and are not guaranteed to be successful.

The best option for SSD recovery is to use a data recovery service, like Secure Data Recovery. Data recovery companies employ recovery professionals trained and certified to recover and restore lost data on many brands and styles of storage devices. There will be a cost for recovery of your data, so be sure that the files you want recovered are worth the expenditure.

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