In this case, we received a 16GB PNY SD-HC camera card for photo recovery. The owner was not aware of any damage and thought the device had just stopped working. Unfortunately, there were still about 1,900 hi-res photos on the card that had not been copied yet. To start this case, we removed the plastic cover for inspection, and upon inspection under a microscope, we can see the micro controller unit (MCU) has been cracked. This is a common failure for this device. We also inspected the NAND for cracks, and if there are no cracks in the BGA132 chip then we can proceed. There are 2 options for data recovery in this case. Both options require that we carefully remove the BGA-132 NAND where the data is stored.
Option 1 involves reading the chip and reconstructing the data, which is often referred to as chip-off recovery. Reading the chip is not difficult with the correct tools – because it is an ONFI chip, the read parameters are easy enough to determine – the hard part is reconstructing the data. The data is stored using what we refer to as a mix; simply put, the data is scrambled by the controller. The pattern, or mix, the data is written in is different from one controller model to the next. Some are much more difficult than others to reconstruct, or as some put it, to remove the mix.
Option 2 involves moving the BGA-132 chip to a matching donor device. Typically, this will return perfect results if the original controller and the NAND were not failing. In this case, we went with option number 2.
Success! A perfect photo recovery case. We reballed the BGA-132 NAND, placed it on a matching donor (the controller has to be the same) and recovered over 1,900 photos. Needless to say, the customer was very excited.
Just remember, not every data recovery story turns out like this, the best thing you can do is make sure important data is stored in more than one location at all times. In this case, the card was so delicate it was probably damaged when removing it from the camera or placing it in a reader and the owner was not even aware. Many recovery cases could have been avoided simply by backing up important data before failure or accidents occur.
If you have a failed or broken camera memory card, your photos may still be recoverable!