Problems With Flash Memory Data Recovery

by Rod Dunne on August 12, 2010

in Articles, Data Recovery

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Flash memory data recovery is an increasingly important subject as we continue to store massive amounts of data on these devices, and rarely if ever make backup copies. Luckily it is possible to find deleted files and even recover documents after formatting the device by using the right software.

Here, we’ll look at some of the problems with memory card recovery.

If there is one good piece of news with flash memory data recovery, it is that any file recovery application that supports the FAT-32 format can effectively read the flash memory. This format is used by the Windows operating system too so most tools (e.g. Remo Undelete) support it.

Data Recovery Tools And Formatted Data

The problem with file recovery of formatted data is that the data recovery tools can not depend on the presence of a complete file allocation table (FAT). This system file keeps an index of all files in the flash device and the location of its associated data clusters (one file can be stored as many clusters in memory).

Formatting will clear the FAT of file references, but does not wipe the data clusters from memory. So Flash or SD card data recovery tools need to be able to reassemble the clusters into files without knowing which clusters are meant to go together.

Each tool uses different algorithms to piece together the clusters so the list of files found can vary from program to program.

Deleted File Recovery And Device Usage

File recovery is possible for the simple reason that deleted and formatted documents are not instantly cleared from memory. The data clusters are simply labeled as free to use for saving any new documents. Therefore, if you continue to use the device for saving files then your original data clusters will gradually begin to get overwritten.

Moreover, if you are running applications or an operating system from the flash drive then these save large amounts of cached/temp files to operate properly and will more rapidly overwrite the formatted data.

Damaged Memory Card Recovery

In spite of what data recovery tools are capable of doing, they still need a mechanically healthy flash device to do any sort or memory card recovery.

Data recovery experts can use reading devices to directly clone damaged memory but the results can be patchy (dependent on the level of damage) and costly.

Worn Out Flash Memory Data Recovery

Finally, it is worth noting that flash memory data recovery becomes impossible once the flash memory switches reach the end of their lifespan.

All flash media has a set lifespan based on the number of read/write operations that their memory switches can process. Thankfully, for regular users saving files back and forth from a USB drive or flash memory card this lifespan could be decades.

However, if the flash memory is used as a thumb drive to run programs or an operating system, then you should note that these are read/write intensive operations that produce a lot of file caching and will wear out the flash switches quicker than normal operations.

This makes it all the more critical to backup the flash data to another source and ensure you use USB flash security or password protection to safeguard the device’s contents.

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

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