USB Flash Drive Data Recovery FAQ

USB Flash Drive Data Recovery FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) of a less technical nature.

  • Why is monolith flash data recovery so expensive? Monolith flash drive data recovery is a very technical discipline and requires a very advanced skill set in addition to tools that can be very expensive. To be successful in flash drive data recovery one needs knowledge of the following:Troubleshooting electronics to the component level with the use of a oscilloscope and other electronics test equipment under a microscope or large magnifier, An advanced skill set with usage of hot air soldering rework station and advanced SMT (surface mount technology) soldering techniques under a microscope or large magnifier, An advanced knowledge of computer file systems including FAT, FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, HFS, HFS+ and others, Advanced knowledge and usage of a HEX editor, Advanced tools and combined software and hardware suites used for data recovery. In comparison to hard drive data recovery, monolith USB flash data recovery is much more technical and the reverse engineering process is much more complicated in most circumstances to perform. In dealing with monolith usb flash drive data recovery, the tedious work of soldering individual wires under a microscope to a coupling jig and to the device itself takes many careful hours just to get the raw data dump. Many additional peculiarities add to the process. Manufacturers introduce new devices daily and devices use many variations with the same controllers on how the data is manipulated. Also, many devices use XOR encryption which needs to be taken into consideration in the reverse engineering process. As soon as one device is reverse engineered and the data is recovered, 3 to 5 more unrecognized devices appear in the industry. This makes for an extremely dynamic business and basically creates the situation where almost every monolith data recovery case is a unique one.
  • Where are you physically located? We do not hide behind the facade of a fancy address or misleading marketing tactics as found by many businesses on the internet today. We are a real business, with a real building, with real people. All our facilities are located right here in the good ole USA. Our main facility in San Antonio Texas is where all the USB flash drive data recoveries are performed and at one other location south of Austin in a town called Dripping Springs. Feel free to drop by our San Antonio location any time for a free quote!
  • How do I get my USB flash drive to you? Just send us what you have either in pieces or as one unit. Please send us everything no matter how insignificant you may feel it is. All the pieces help us with proper identification of the flash drive. You can send it in a padded envelope and send us an email telling us it’s on its way! We will be implementing an online submission form soon which you can utilize to send in your flash drive to us and start the data recovery process
  • How long does it take? In about 85% of our cases, we can turn around USB flash drive recoveries in less than 48 hours. For the remaining 15% of the cases the reverse engineering is what eats up the time. Monolith USB flash drive’s also represent a completely different set of challenges and always eat up a fair amount of time.
  • What is a monolith flash drive? A monolith flash drive contains all the components that a typical USB flash drive have but all the components are integrated directly into the substrate of the actual IC (Integrated Circuit) which essentially is an all on one self contained USB flash drive.
  • My USB Flash Drive was run over and crushed. Can you get the data off of it? Yes, in most cases! Since the NAND Memory chip is at the end of the chain in terms of its architecture, the PCB (printed circuit board), components and controller are what generally sustain the damage and usually the NAND memory IC stays intact with the possibility of recovering the original data.
  • What if I spilled a liquid on my USB flash drive or dropped it in water? In almost all of these cases we can get your data back. Generally the controller and other components would fail first and the NAND memory chip where all your data is stored will be in tact. We would proceed to do a Chip Off type of USB flash drive recovery.
  • Where is the work done? All of the work is done locally in our labs at our facilities in San Antonio, Austin and Houston. We never outsource as others do.
  • Can I attempt data recovery myself? Depending on the type of recovery there can be success in DIY (Do It Yourself) data recovery. It very much depends on the level of data recovery that is needed. Keep in mind with any level of data recovery, there is always the possibility of losing your data forever and that’s why we recommend using a professional.
  • How is USB flash recovery performed? Initially the device is taken out of its plastic enclosure and a visual inspection is done under a microscope unless it’s a monolith which requires a completely different process. We initially try to repair the PCB (printed circuit board) and replace faulty components as necessary.This is our preferred method of recovery since this type of data recovery is less expensive for the customer and results in a high yield of data usually very close to 100%. This process is done under a microscope at approximately 220X magnification with the use of an oscilloscope and / or spectrum analyzer to trouble shoot the failed drive. If components are found to be bad, we replace the faulty components and continue the process until we are able to recover the data. If we are not successful using the above methods, we will remove the actual NAND memory IC and attempt to dump the contents of the NAND memory IC(s) to a technicians workstation. The original controller algorithm has to be emulated to reverse engineer the manipulations of the data performed by the original controller. There are many different manipulations that are carried out by the original controller and a lot of trial and error is performed. We often equate the reverse engineering of the manipulated data to a Rubix Cube. There is a very basic starting point with a few known parameters but many tries of different combinations of data manipulations are performed until a recognizable pattern begins to unfold and the process continues until the data is recognizable as a known file system and its unique file system patterns. Many of the manufacturers program the same controllers differently and the same is true for how the manufacturers make use of a specific NAND memory chip. This can be a very time-consuming process and is more expensive than the Chip ON recovery.
  • What brands of USB flash drives can you recover? SanDisk Lexar Verbatim Kensington Store n Go Jump drive USB drive Flash Drive Iomega Samsung Transcend Kingston Adata Sony PNY Memorex HP Microsoft Patriot Corsair Centon Kanguru EP Memory MicroNet IronKey LaCie Dane-Elec Apricorn Imation Duracell Victorinox V7 Fantom Maxell Cisco and more…
  • What is a logical data recovery? A logical data recovery is when the data physically exists for the most part on the usb flash memory device but the data is lost to the end user because of accidental user actions, a crash by an application or the OS, partitioning,formatting of the USB flash drive by mistake, file corruption, accidental deletion and more. This is the least expensive of all recoveries.
  • Can you perform a a data recovery on a cell phone? Yes, under most circumstances. A cell phone including most smart phones uses NAND memory just as an SSD Drive and USB flash drive. We generally perform data recovery using software or a hardware software suite if the device is functional; however, if the device is non functional, under many circumstances we can perform a chip off data recovery after disassembling the device and carefully removing the NAND memory IC. Some of fthe difficulties are the reverse engineering of the raw data dump especially if the data is encrypted on the NAND memory IC. Even with the Iphone 5 A5 encryption chip, data recovery can still be performed using the chip off recovery procedure and break the encryption using the Iphone users cloud or itunes backup of the device.