USB Flash Drive Recovery

By: Philip Buttifant

USB Flash Drive Recovery
Intro: USB Flash Drives are commonly being used to store ever increasing amounts of often critical data. Though outwardly straightforward devices, they can fail for a wide variety of reasons, each of which will require different specialist techniques from USB Flash Data Recovery providers if they are to retrieve users’ valuable data.

USB flash drives have proliferated at an astonishing rate since their introduction in 2000. With their increasing capacity and rapidly falling ‘price per gig’ they have become the standard solution for easily portable data storage and transfer.
Despite their low cost, they are often used to hold data of high value and/or critical importance to their users and sadly they are far from indestructible and prone to failure from a number of causes. Perhaps their greatest advantage is their small size and portability, but this can often be the cause of their downfall due to them being dropped, stood on, broken or immersed in liquids. They can fail in a variety of other ways including:
• Logical failure arising from inadvertent deletion or erasure etc.
• Failure of the USB connection so that the device fails to be detected by the host PC or laptop etc.
• Failure of the onboard electronics that supply power and control signals to the data storage components
• Failure of the microcontroller chip responsible for all data flow to and from the device
• Failure of the crystal oscillator used to ‘clock’ data in and out of the device
Though these and other similar faults can be rectified by suitably skilled and experienced USB Flash Data Recovery providers, a shortage of compatible parts is often a problem. This stems from the fact that manufacturers regularly source the internal components from different suppliers with no change to the specification and external appearance. As a result, even obtaining an ostensibly identical flash drive as a donor for spares is no guarantee that the internal components, especially the microcontroller, will match the original.
Where such problems occur, the only recourse is to recover the data directly from the flash memory chip or chips themselves. This requires highly specialist equipment and techniques that can reconstruct the original user data from the ‘raw’ content extracted from the chips. When the data is originally stored on the chips, manufacturers can employ a bewildering array of ‘algorithms’ to split the data into segments of varying sizes and distribute these in numerous ways across various areas within a single chip or multiple chips. Without the ability to determine what algorithm was originally used, it is impossible to re-assemble the segments of raw data back into the users files, folders etc. The fact that certain drives can encode or encrypt the data stored, only further complicates the recovery process.
All of this results in the need to choose only those organisations with the requisite resources, capabilities and experience to successfully carry out USB Flash Data Recovery.

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