Is it possible to recover a Shattered USB?

While many of us use cloud storage nowadays (Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox etc.), USB drives (or flash drives) are still popular. Small enough to fit in your pocket, cheap, and easy to use, these are a dependable form of storage. But what happens if you drop one from height, or accidentally sit or stand on it? Your shattered USB may be ruined. Does this mean all of your data is lost?

Damaged USB flash pen drive

Not necessarily. There may yet be hope.

Some people may make the mistake of assuming otherwise and toss the drive in the trash, eliminating any chance of recovering their files without every trying to check if it’s in working order. No matter what level of damage the shattered USB has taken, it’s always worth trying (at least) to investigate the chances of getting your data back.

There are two types of damage your USB drive may face: physical, and logical.

Physical

Physical damage is easy to spot: if your drive is shattered, or the metal connector itself is hanging off (or gone altogether), you’ll be unable to connect it to your computer to access your data that way. Instead, you’ll have to try another route. Depending on the level of technical prowess you have in your arsenal, you may be tempted to perform a little DIY operation on it, though this is best avoided if you really want to recover the data. Instead, you may want to take it to a professional data recovery firm, which will be able to recover the vital components and ensure your data lives on in another form

On the other hand, if the shattered USB drive has been broken so severely that the NAND memory chip (visible as a little black silicon wafer) is damaged, then you may need to face the sad fact that your data is lost. However, it’s still worth your time (and expense) to consult a professional group of data-recovery experts – they may still be able to work some magic.

Logical

If your flash drive is broken by such technical problems as file corruption, or it simply doesn’t work without you being able to know why, a recovery service may be able to access your data by reversing the controller. As an example, a USB drive which is physically fine but still not working may be fixed by removing some its capacitors (the outer casing should be taken off first) – each professional recovery expert will have their own preferred methods.

If your drive is encrypted, then recovering data may be a little more difficult. While your files may be recovered from a shattered USB, a technical failure may make it more difficult because of the way in which the data is stored.

USB data salvage is the most common type in the industry, and all being well, you should have access to your files once again in next to no time. Prevention is better than cure, however, so be sure to make sure your USB drives are safe and secure, wherever you are: if you carry them in a rucksack, slot them into any smaller pockets, or separate internal sections – avoid leaving them loose with various heavy items or drinks bottles (which may leak). If carrying them on your person, try to keep them in a zipped pocket (in a coat or your trousers) to stop them falling out should you need to run or be active. Also, embrace cloud storage – open an account with one of the reliable online providers (check around amongst likeminded people to find the best for you) and back-up your data on a regular basis, ideally whenever you make any changes to a document.