Flash Data Recovery

by Rod Dunne on August 4, 2010

in Data Recovery

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The arrival of flash memory now means we can store huge amounts of data on small portable devices. This also means there is more data to lose if the contents are deleted or formatted. But, just as with hard drives, it is still possible to recover lost data as deletion/formatting do not immediately wipe the documents from the flash card.

Here, we’ll look at how USB flash data recovery is technically possible using available recovery software, and when you may need to use data recovery services.

A key success factor for flash memory is its adoption of the FAT-32 file system. This is the same format used by Windows in hard drives and many external storage devices to administer how your documents are stored in memory. It explains why Windows will so easily recognize a USB flash card when it is put into a port and the memory format is the same as the native file system.

Recovery Software

The real benefit of FAT-32 for flash card data recovery is that the same data recovery software will work on disk drives as on flash.

Recommended Flash Data Recovery Software:

  • Remo Undelete: FAT/NTFS support, Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Server 2003; Free trial scan available.

All USB flash data recovery software operates the same way:

  • Your documents are stored as numerous data clusters on the flash memory and the file allocation table (FAT) keeps an association between a document and the related data clusters.
  • File deletion/formatting does not wipe the clusters clear. Instead, the FAT reference to your document will remove the directory attribute for your file (so it doesn’t appear in Windows explorer) and the data clusters are designated as available to be reused (so in time they will be over-written with newly saved documents).
  • Recovery software can find deleted files by reading the FAT for de-indexed documents and scans the memory for data clusters. If the FAT is corrupted/lost then many commercial tools can still piece together data clusters into recognizable documents
  • Found files are displayed back to you and you pick which ones to copy.

Data Recovery Services

If your USB device develops a mechanical fault that stops it from being read properly then no flash memory data recovery software will be of use. In this case a specialist PC repair shop or data recovery services are your only option. Data recovery experts use flash memory readers and specialist software to recover your data. They will also have specialist applications for formatted data recovery that can work when there are only fragments of data clusters left.

Flash Lifespan

One last thing to consider is that flash card data recovery becomes increasingly unsuccessful as the device reaches the end of its lifespan.

The memory switches in USB flash cards can be read and written to a set number of times, after which point they will fail to work. Thankfully, it will decades for regular users to experience this. However, if you are running applications/operating systems on flash (both read/write heavy processes) then the expected lifespan will decrease rapidly, so be sure to backup the drive regularly. Tools like Final Sync can easily be set up to synchronize and backup data between multiple devices.

In terms of data recovery flash drive data that is lost due to failing memory switches is completely irretrievable.

Related Posts: Data Recovery USB – Simple Guide To Using Software To Recover Lost Files

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