HELP! My Memory Stick Has Died

USB memory sticks, also know as Flash drives, Pen drives and USB flash drives have in recent years become the most common form of low capacity-low cost portable storage.

Developments in flash storage technology over the last 5 or so years have seen prices plummet while capacities have risen sharply. Their portability and low price has seen them become even more popular. However, when they fail what do you do?

How to identify that your device has failed

With the exception of physical breaks, it is likely that there will be no obvious indication that the device has failed until you attempt to use it. These types of devices fail in several different ways; either the device will be completely unresponsive when you insert it into a USB port or the operating system will recognize that the device has been plugged in but will not know what to do with it.

When the latter happens the OS will think the device needs initializing which basically means prepare the device so it can be used. You will see a message like:

Can I do anything to recover my failed USB?

Unfortunately no. There are some unfounded beliefs in some circles that plugging the device into another computer will give access to the data but the fact of the matter is when these devices fail in this manner the only course of action barring writing off the data is to seek the assistance of data recovery professionals.

How do you get my data back?

These devices are made up of many electronic components attached to a Printed Circuit Board (PCB). Whilst all of these components are critical to the operation of the device the 2 of most concern in the recovery process are the nand chip(s) and the controller chip. The nand chip(s) are where the data is stored and the controller chip, among others tasks dictates how the data is stored by use of embedded algorithms.

Recovery of these devices involves dismountingthe flash memory chips from the PCB and reading them directly using some in-house specialist hardware.

After this we reverse engineer the algorithms on the controller and piece together the data and rebuild it to its former useable state whether that be Images, office documents, music, video, emails, programs, web sites, payroll data or anything else that can be stored electronically.

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