USB Flash Drive Data Recovery Blog

Providing expert advice on broken flash drive repair and flash drive data recovery.


A Superior Strategy

Ryan Stutzman - Friday, June 17, 2016


At FlashDrivePros we developed a superior strategy to recover data from your USB flash drive. We always attempt to restore the drive to a working condition. This is the most likely to succeed method, and most other companies don’t even bother trying it. It requires expert knowledge of flash drives and many years of experience to recognize and fix faults.


In contrast, other companies immediately remove the memory chip to read it directly. While we have the tools and expertise to do direct memory reads, we only do them as a last resort. The success rate of memory reads is only 50-75% and, even if successful, may result in a partial recovery of the files.


Once the memory is removed it is difficult to put it back on the drive to try other methods. Companies that immediately try a memory read give up if it doesn’t work. Our method of troubleshooting the drive and fixing it is more often successful, and when it isn’t, we can then try a direct memory read.


In the photo below, our engineers found that two power filtering capacitors, standard components on all flash drives, had failed and replaced them. You can see them sticking off the end of the circuit board. This recovery was 100% successful.


Broken connector or stem on your USB flash drive?

Ryan Stutzman - Friday, April 08, 2016

We see it happen every day. Your USB flash drive is in a laptop that falls to the floor bending or breaking the connector. Fortunately, we can help recover your important data, even in cases where part of the circuit board came off with the connector like this drive.

BadUSB-Safe Flash Drives?

Ryan Stutzman - Wednesday, October 15, 2014



As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the BadUSB virus poses an unprecedented threat to our digital security. Because it lives in a USB device's firmware instead of in its memory, it can't be detected with anti-malware software. What's worse, it is designed to mimic other internal USB devices like your keyboard, network card and web cam allowing the virus to do malicious things like send keystrokes, redirect internet traffic and spy on you. The only way to remove BadUSB from an infected computer to physically replace every on-board and external USB device, and in many cases just buying a new PC is probably going to be the more cost-effective option. 

Last week I suggested a temporary solution would be to identify and avoid any USB device that use a Phison controller since Phison is currently the only vendor vulnerable to the virus. However, in discussing the matter with a computer scientist friend of mine and then with the lead researcher who invented BadUSB, I was informed the virus could simply change the vendor ID to that of another manufacturer. 

At this point the only viable option (other than never using a flash drive again and sealing off your USB ports) is two-fold: First, immediately replace your existing flash drive with a NIST compliant flash drive that uses digitally signed firmware. Replacing the custom firmware on these devices with BadUSB or other versions of malicious firmware isn't possible. Second, never allow someone to plug a non-NIST compliant flash drive into your computer. 

We are researching the possibility of gaining NIST compliance for the flash drives we sell at FlashDrivePros. In the meantime, I highly recommend you order a Kanguru Defender or similar flash drive that is insusceptible to the BadUSB virus. 

Flash Drives and The Cloud

Ryan Stutzman - Monday, October 13, 2014


Cloud Storage VS Flash Drives


Cloud storage platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive have some genuine advantages over USB flash drives: You obviously don't have to remember to bring your flash drive with you in order to access your files, and the risk of losing your files is relatively small compared to flash drives that can break, malfunction, be misplaced or get stolen. On the other hand, cloud storage also has its drawbacks. For many of us the issue of security is a deal breaker. Just today it would appear that Dropbox user accounts have once again been hacked. Even if you go in a change your password right away, in reality it may be too late. You won't know if hackers have accessed your private files until unknown charges appear on your bank statement, private pictures are posted online, etc. 

One solution is to keep your sensitive files off of cloud storage and on a flash drive instead. If you tend to leave your flash drive at home, you might want to consider a flash drive that attaches to your key chain. Encrypting your flash drive with TrueCrypt or BitLocker adds an additional layer of security. 

So the question of whether cloud storage or flash drives are better is really a false dichotomy. Both are useful tools that must be used correctly and for the right purpose. 


BadUSB: What You Need to Know

Ryan Stutzman - Sunday, October 05, 2014


A few months ago two security researchers named Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell developed a new and insidious breed of malware called BadUSB. While malware designed to infect flash drives has been around for more than a decade, it has been relatively easy to detect and remove. A good antivirus program was all that was required to detect it and simply formatting the drive would remove it.

How BadUSB is Different?

Unlike other viruses that reside in the flash drive's NAND memory, BadUSB and its recent clone live in the flash drive’s controller--basically a smaller version of a computer's CPU. This makes the malware both undetectable to antivirus programs and impervious to formatting. In Nohl’s words, “These problems can’t be patched."

Exactly How Bad is BadUSB?

In addition to being nearly impossible to detect and remove, BadUSB gives hackers the ability to completely take over a user’s computer including sending keystrokes, transferring files and redirecting internet traffic. Bottom line, it’s about as bad as it gets. There may, however, be some hope. A representative at Symantec recently pointed out that while the BadUSB may be able to cloak its nefarious purpose, as soon as it tries installing or running malware on a protected system, resident security software should detect and block it.

How does BadUSB spread?

Like most flash drive malware, BadUSB can move from flash drive to computer and computer to flash drive. To prevent infection, your only option is to use your flash drive only on trusted computers.

How to Minimize the Risk of BadUSB?

Since the BadUSB vulnerability is only associated with one vendor, Phison, you can minimize your risk of infection by avoiding any USB device that uses a Phison controller. A Windows app called ChipGenius will tell if your flash drive uses a Phison controller. The screenshot below shows a flash drive that uses a "safe" SMI controller.




You can download ChipGenius here.

Self-Destructing Flash Drives Anyone?

Ryan Stutzman - Thursday, October 02, 2014

Self Destructing SSD

Everyone who has ever had a computer, mobile phone or flash drive get stolen knows that replacing the hardware is often the least of their worries. People store tons of unencrypted data on all these devices that if compromised could lead to identity theft, stolen passwords, or the sheer terror of knowing that their “intimate” pictures and videos could wind up online at any moment.

A small UK-based company called SecureDrives has come up with a simply smashing solution. GSM-equipped, these drives respond to a pre-defined text message by exploding into tiny pieces making data recovery impossible.

While such a feature on a USB flash drive might be overkill, I happen to know for a fact that some of you kind of like overkill.

Overkill Flash Drive

Flash Drive Recovery - How It's Done

Ryan Stutzman - Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ever since we started recovering flash drives in June 2009, our business model has stayed pretty much the same: 

1. Offer fixed and affordable pricing 
2. Provide instant download of recovered files
3. Only charge for successful flash drive data recovery
4. Make the whole process as fast and as simple as possible

The minor changes we have made over the years have always been based on our desire to better meet the needs of our clients. Things like offering flash drive for returning recovered files, creating flash drive backup software, and the addition of our express and student flash drive recovery services are a few of the changes we have made.

Order Online

Order Flash Drive Data Recovery Service

The first step in the data recovery process is filling out the online data recovery service request. This allows us to get the information about your flash drive that will help us troubleshoot your flash drive in order to get your files recovered quickly and efficiently. It also let's us know how to return your files after recovery and how to get ahold of you for updates and any questions we might have about your case. Lastly, we collect payment information. However, you will not be charged until after your files are recovered.

Send your Flash Drive
flat rate box

The second step in getting your flash drive fixed and your files recovered is sending it to one of our data recovery labs. We currently have labs in the U.S. (Seattle), Germany, and Thailand. Just put your flash drive in a small box or padded envelope and ship it to us. Getting a tracking number for your shipment is highly recommended.

Notify the Client of Receipt

update

Once we receive your flash drive, we will send you and email or give you a call letting you know it arrived and requesting any additional information we might need.

Recover the Flash Drive Files

flash drive recovery specialist

A flash drive data recovery technician will be assigned to your case and begin working to recover your files. Recovering a flash drive might involve things like repairing a damaged circuit board, rebuilding corrupted files, or using a memory chip reader to extract the files. No matter what method we use or how difficult it is to recover your flash drive, your original price will remain the same.

Deliver Recovered Files and Bill
download your files

We'll let you know as soon as your flash drive has been recovered and deliver your files either by secure download or on another flash drive. (Depending on which delivery method you chose when you ordered) Then and only then will you be billed. In the rare case that we were not able to recover the files from your flash drive, there is no charge and we will send your flash drive back at no cost to you. 

So that's the process. If you have any questions or suggestion on how we can do it better, please feel free to give us a call at 888-806-6567 or send an email to support@flashdrivepros.com.



We Recover Flash Drives... LOTS of Flash Drives

Ryan Stutzman - Monday, July 22, 2013
Big Pile of Flash Drives

Of all the questions people call and ask us, the most common is "do you guys recover flash drives?"

Do we ever! 

For fun, we decided to keep all the discarded parts from the flash drives we've recovered data from and then take a picture of the pile after 12 months.

And here it is!

The picture above represents about 3,000 GB of recovered files from about 1,000 flash drives of all makes and sizes for clients across the globe.

We love what we do! 

Over the last 4+ years, FlashDrivePros have become experts at recovering data from flash drives of all makes, sizes, ages, and technologies. Rarely do we encounter a case too hard for our engineers.

This allows us to offer a flat-rate, no data, no fee policy on all flash drive data recovery jobs. In addition to specializing in recovering data from broken, bent, erased, or corrupted flash drives, we also do our best to provide such amazing customer service that our clients are sure to recommend us to their friends and colleagues.

Have a broken flash drive in need of data recovery and wondering if we can help?

The simple answer: yes!

Place an order online or give us a call.

Still not convinced? Read a few hundred customer reviews on our Facebook Page.

888-806-6567
support@flashdrivepros.com

Ryan Stutzman is President and Founder of FlashDrivePros LLC and has been working in electronics and data recovery for the last 13 years. 

 

Flash Drive Sizes - How Big Should I Buy?

Ryan Stutzman - Monday, June 17, 2013
Flash Drive Size Matters

In case you hadn't noticed, the price of USB flash drives is pretty much in a continual free fall. 

Today you can get a 32GB flash flash for about the same price of a 4GB flash drive just 6 years ago. 

There are two main reasons for this steady price drop:

1. Moore's Law, which implies the price of the same size flash drive will drop by 50% every two years.

So an 8GB flash drive that costs $8 today should only cost $6 next year, $4 the year after that, and so on. 

2. Over supply of flash drive manufacturers.

There are hundreds if not thousands of companies in China making flash drives. All that competition keeps prices just above the cost of parts and labor needed to make them. 

So flash drive prices are always getting better. That's great, right? 

For the most part, yes. But the one catch is that you will always be able to get a much better deal next year. 

The solution? Buy a flash drive that is just as big as you actually need it to be.

If all you have is a few gigabytes of work documents and photos on your flash drive, then it probably doesn't make sense to spend $200 on a 128GB flash drive. Especially when it will be a lot cheaper next year!

Besides, since flash drives can easily become damaged or lost, they are much better for transferring files from one place to another than as a primary storage device. 

If you do insist on using your flash drive as a primary storage device, you may find yourself in need of flash drive recovery, in which case the Flash Drive Pros are always happy to help. Trouble can also be avoided by using flash drive backup software

So how big is your flash drive and what do you use it for? 

P.S. If you liked it, please share it!

How Flash Drives Work

Ryan Stutzman - Saturday, May 18, 2013

Parts of a flash drive


You plug it in, grab an important file, and yank it out. It all seems so simple. But have you ever wondered what is going on inside your flash drive as your files are moving to and fro?

Perhaps you’re like most people: perfectly content to enjoy the usefulness of your flash drive without ever considering the mysterious flow of electrons between the myriad tiny components that make it up. And that’s okay. But sometimes, even for the blissfully ignorant, curiosity can be peeked when a device stops doing the thing it's supposed to do, like when a flash drive breaks or stops being recognized by your computer.

For the electronics lay person who wants a general idea of how flash drives work, the following info is for you.

Flash Drives vs. Hard Drives


NAND memory chips

A key difference between flash drives and other types of memory devices is the lack of moving parts. Flash drives are solid state, which means they store data on a piece of silicon with zillions of tiny transistors, as opposed to traditional hard drives which use magnetic spinning disks.

Each transistor on the silicon chip holds a single bit of binary digital information: either 1 or 0. In flash drives, the transistor is set to 1 by default. To change one of these transistors' states to 0, an electric charge resulting in a crazy little process called Fowler-Nordheim tunneling is required.

One cool thing about flash memory is that it doesn't require a power source to remember what is on it. In fact, if you bury your flash drive in your back yard and dig it up a thousand years from now, the data will still be on the memory chip just as you left it.

The Brain of a Flash Drive


Flash drive microcontroller

Basically, the data on a memory chip is nothing more than a bunch of tiny ones and zeros. Making sense of those ones and zeros-telling them where to go and keeping track of where they are-is accomplished by the flash drive’s microcontroller. A flash drive’s microcontroller is roughly analogous to a computer’s CPU, or a human’s brain, but somewhat simpler, in most cases.

There is a vast array of brands and varieties of microcontrollers used by flash drive manufacturers. Some are better than others in terms of speed and durability. Second only to broken connectors, bad microcontrollers are the leading cause of flash drive failure.

How Flash Drives Communicate with Computers

USB flash drive connectors

USB flash drives talk with computers by means of either a standard USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 interface. At present, flash drives using the USB 3.0 interface are backwards compatible with the USB 2.0 plug.

USB 2.0 interfaces have four connections: a +5VDC power source, one positive and one negative data line, and a ground. USB 3.0 connectors have four additional data lines and a drain, creating a 10X increase in theoretical transfer speed.

In addition to the essential parts mentioned above, flash drive circuit boards are covered in lots of little surface mounted components like resistors, capacitors, diodes, oscillators, LEDs, and other parts, the primary purpose of which is to divide and direct electricity to the right places.

I hope that helps unravel a little bit of the mystery behind the flash drive. Don’t forget to back up your flash drive and let us know if we can help you recover lost photos or other data.

P.S. If you liked it, please share it!