Flash drives are great for transferring data, but they’re notorious for breaking (or even getting lost). Ideally, you always have a back-up of your file in your PC or laptop—so if your USB snaps in the middle, you won’t completely freak out.
But what if you don’t have a back-up, and you need to recover data from a broken flash drive? Take a deep breath and read this article—it may help.
Damaged flash drives
A physically damaged flash drive can have a connector that is bent or loose. Or, you can hear something rattling inside when you shake it. Other potential problems are that it’s quick to overheat or it registers a message of ‘USB device not recognized’ whenever it’s inserted into the USB port.
Can I use data recovery software on a physically damaged drive?
No. Data recovery software will only work on corrupted or deleted files, not on damaged hardware. Only try this if you think the damage is not physical. (Try a free data recovery program first—so you don’t have to spend any money on something that may not work.)
Are there companies that specialize in damaged flash drives?
Yes. However, services aren’t cheap. You can expect to spend as much as $300, so it’s best to use this option only if you have very important files.
How can I recover the damaged data myself?
Yes, but attempt this only if you’re handy with tools and if the problem is limited to a broken connector. . Get a soldering iron that has a flux and solder, wire cutters, a flat head screwdriver, a magnifying glass, and an old USB cable.
Pry off the outer casing with a flat head screwdriver. Then, look at the circuit board and solder pads (a magnifying glass will help you get a better view). Check if the solder pads have become dislodged or the circuit board is broken. If yes, then stop right there: it’s best to leave it to a professional. But if the connector has broken off and the circuit board and solder pads are intact, then you have hope.
Place the flash drive on a table, the connector facing you and the solder pads facing up. Cut off the end of the USB cable (female end) with sharp wire cutters. Then, with a twist of the wire strippers, expose a quarter of an inch long of the four wires. Solder to the solder pads, using the colors to guide you: black, green, white then red.
Now to see if it works: plug the USB. If it doesn’t work, consider going to a data recovery company.