Flash Data Recovery

Flash disks have become ubiquitous media for everything from computer data, mp3 players and digital cameras. It has replaced the floppy disk as means to carry data around. Flash disks are solid-state devices and, therefore, have no moving parts. Plugging it into the USB drive, the flash drive is automatically recognized by the computer without any need of installing additional software. With expected lifetime measured in hundreds of thousands of write-erase cycles, flash drives are expected to last up to 10 years. That's more than twice that of a hard disk.

Flash disk portability however leads to a higher probability of damage due to environmental factors. Aside from the regular causes of drive failure, flash drives could get wet in the rain, the casing could shatter when it is accidentally dropped, or it could be damaged while inside the camera.

The difference in data storage between a flash drive and a regular hard drive or a floppy is due to the data residing on a chip. This allows for a truly random access across the whole media. In fact, the disk access algorithm makes sure that the data is spread evenly among data sectors with the use of "wear leveling algorithm." The flash disk has a finite number of write or erase cycles. If it were to keep on writing to a particular sector, that sector would literally wear out from use much earlier than the other sectors. The wear leveling algorithm ensures that the sectors wear out evenly. And also because of the wear leveling algorithm, when a data sector wears out, the rest of the disk is sure to quickly follow.

In some instances, the camera cannot distinguish between the file system on the flash disk and force a format. Early flash disks used FAT12 or FAT16. FAT32 is used by current generation large capacity flash disks. If the digital camera fails to detect the flash drive's capacity it might wrap around data while writing the photo and over-write system areas.

There are times the flash disk could not be read by the computer. Though attributed to the computer, this is an error caused by the camera or MP3 player OS. Unplugging the drive while it's writing data may also cause a corrupted flash drive.

Flash data recovery in most ways is like recovery from any other media using FAT. The only difference is the location of the media files. The data can be recovered by using data recovery tools capable of reading FAT. Typically for cameras, the file structure is fixed. The camera's limited operating system will write to a specific folder on the directory. The same goes with MP3 players. The mp3 files have to be located in a specific directory for the mp3 player to locate and play them. Some specialized tools look for the specific folder where the media files should be.

Treating all the data on the disks as data files, disk recovery programs or other utilities are capable of correcting any errors. The Windows CHKDSK utility treats the disk like any other drive.

In case of lost data, flash data recovery is just like recovering data from any other medium but, again, with slight differences. Because the data is stored differently, there are more tools available for flash data recovery. Available tools and utilities include flash data recovery specializing in picture files or mp3 music files. Other specialized utilities which can be used for flash data recovery are those which specifically recover data from FAT drives. In case the pictures were accidentally erased from the camera, these utilities are also able to recover them and recover the picture.

In some cases, data recovery can be even simpler. A flash disk recovered from a lake or which got wet from the rain may still be usable after making sure that the circuitry is completely dry. And a flash disk with a broken case might even be usable. In both instances, it would be good to test first by plugging it in. If the drive is still readable, just copy the files before deciding what to do with the flash drive.

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