This is an example of a recent recovery we did at Blizzard Data Recovery. In this case the USB flash drive had been broken in half. Some cases are just a matter of replacing the broken connector, testing for shorts or open circuits, and then recovering the data. Although that doesn’t sound too difficult we see many cases where previous attempts to repair a broken flash drive have gone wrong, but that’s another story.
In this case we really have 2 choices, both involve removing the NAND chip. Sometimes we have a matching donor device and moving the NAND chip to the donor can be the quickest route to recovery. In this case we had to remove the NAND and read it in a special device designed to read the data from the chip. We then use software to “rebuild” the data image. This software emulates the controller that originally read and wrote your data.
Unfortunately there are so many different devices that this type of recovery is rarely just a repeat of the last chip-off recovery. After determining the proper read settings and dumping your NAND to a file, we have to look at the data using these software tools and determine the methods that were used to store your data on the chip. This can involve routines like inversion, rotate, XOR, block cut, join by page, reordering blocks, etc.
Chip-off recovery can be challenging and this is why you see other companies charge $400 – $1000 for recovery. At Blizzard we rely on volume to keep data recovery affordable. Currently about 3 in 10 USB flash recoveries require removing the NAND flash chip. As long as the percentage stays this way we can afford to provide flat rates so everyone has a chance to get their data back at an affordable price. How much is USB flash drive recovery?
If you are interested in some of the hardware/software combinations we use:
PC-3000 Flash by Ace Labs.
Visual NAND Reconstructor (VNR) by Rusolut.
Flash Extractor (FE) by Soft Center.