SD Card Data Recovery

Inside your phone, digital camera, GoPro, or other mobile device, you’re likely to find an SD card or a microSD card. These tiny packages can hold a deceptively large amount of data. As you use your phone or camera, your SD card can fill up with priceless pictures and videos. But SD cards can fail, just as any other storage device can. If you’ve lost data due to a failed flash memory, our data recovery engineers can recover files from SD cards.

Gillware: The Best Choice for SD Card Recovery

SD card data recovery can be a challenge worthy of only the most skilled data recovery engineers.

When you pull the SD card out of your camera and it asks you to initialize it, or it stops working altogether, or even if you just click the wrong button and delete all your files, data recovery from these tiny devices can demand enormous levels of skill and expertise. That's where we come in.

Whether you're an end user who's just lost a ton of family photos, or a professional photographer whose livelihood depends on getting the photos you've lost back, Gillware is the best choice to make things right.

No matter your situation, we can help you.

We offer:

  • Free consultation
  • Free in-lab evaluation
  • Free inbound shipping
  • World-class expertise
  • Groundbreaking tools and techniques
  • Financially risk-free services

What Is an SD Card?

In general, memory cards are thin, light data storage devices. Their particular form factor makes them ideal as removable storage for small devices. You can pop a memory card into your camera, take enough pictures to fill it up, and then pop the card out, empty out its contents, and slip it back in.

An SD card might just look like one giant chip to a layperson, but the outside is actually a shell. Crack open the shell, and you’ll see something very similar to the inside of a typical USB flash drive. You will find one or more flash memory chips, along with a controller chip soldered to a printed circuit board. The NAND flash memory chip stores all of your data. When you plug your SD card into your computer, camera, or another device, data flows to and from the memory chip, organized and regulated by the controller chip. The controller keeps track of any bad blocks on the NAND chip as one of its many duties.

Many SD cards, however, along with their teensier cousins microSD cards, have a "monolithic" construction. All of their components are soldered together and extremely challenging to access if the device no longer functions. Gillware's incredible R&D efforts have given us the tools and methods to recover data from even these devices.

How do SD Cards Fail?

Generally, SD cards and microSD cards are a bit less vulnerable to physical damage than USB flash drives. In many USB flash drives, the USB plug has a frail connection to the PCB that can easily be damaged. Since an SD card’s electrical contacts are built into the PCB, that is one less point of failure. Also, SD cards are usually tucked away very discretely in their devices, so it’s hard for them to be accidentally broken while in use.

But while an SD card can survive a fall that would kill a hard disk drive, it might not fare so well if it gets stepped on, driven over, etc. This could crack the PCB, or even the NAND chip itself. A cracked NAND chip is roughly equivalent to a hard drive platter with rotational scoring: It’s toast.

An SD card can also fail as a result of a power surge. It only takes a surge of three nanoseconds to short out a PCB. If an SD card is plugged into a device when power surge occurs, the PCB can be shorted out. This traps all of the data on the NAND chip with no way for anyone outside of an advanced data recovery lab to retrieve it.

Logical failures in SD cards are more common than physical failures. Like most removable storage media, SD cards aren’t supposed to be removed while in use, or without being safely ejected. Removing an SD card without warning can result in file corruption or corruption of the partition table or boot sector. A corrupted boot sector or partition table will make an SD card appear to be blank. Files can also be deleted from an SD card, or the card can be accidentally reformatted.

SD cards typically come out of the factory with FAT16 or FAT32 filesystems. Unlike proprietary Mac, Windows, and Linux systems, FAT filesystems play nicely with just about everyone. A user can reformat their SD card with any other filesystem. Different filesystems have different features, so messing with an SD card’s filesystem can provide some benefits. However, this can decrease the performance or lifespan of an SD card. Many of the controller chip’s error correction and wear leveling techniques are based on the assumption that the card is formatted with a FAT filesystem. Replacing the filesystem can lead an otherwise-healthy SD card to die before its time.

The SD Card Data Recovery Process

Since so many of the common ways SD cards fail are logical, SD card recovery tends to play by many of the same rules as logical recovery from other devices. Regardless of the differences between the underlying hardware, recovering data from an accidentally reformatted hard drive and SD card follows roughly the same process.

Whenever you delete data from, accidentally reformat, or corrupt the boot sector of something, you are only making a small change to its filesystem. Deleting a file doesn’t automatically erase it, but rather marks the space taken up by it as “unused”. Reformatting does this on a larger scale, but can also partially or completely erase the old filesystem architecture. And it only takes a single corrupt sector to make an SD card seem to be blank.

Even though these changes are small, they have big consequences. It is the job of our SD card recovery service technicians to use our specialized data recovery tools and techniques and go where you cannot. We use HOMBRE, a proprietary software designed for and by our data recovery experts, to investigate these changes to the filesystem and salvage the data from your failed SD or microSD card.

In the event that your SD card’s PCB is damaged, our engineers must gain direct access to the NAND chip and piece its contents back together, bypassing the failed PCB and controller. This can involve removing the NAND chip and connecting it to a chip reader, or in the case of microSD cards, soldering tiny wires to specific contact points on the device.

Why Choose Gillware for SD Card Data Recovery Services?

Our technicians are highly-skilled and well-trained in the fundamentals of the most cutting-edge flash memory technologies. Gillware’s suite of powerful proprietary tools for logical analysis and data recovery, combined with our skilled data recovery technicians, make us your best choice for failed SD card recovery services.

Furthermore, here at Gillware Data Recovery, our entire SD card recovery process is financially risk-free. We even offer to cover the cost of inbound shipping, and the only time we ever show you a bill is after we’ve recovered everything we can from your failed SD card. There are no evaluation fees, and you only pay for our efforts if the data you need has been recovered.

In short, Gillware’s data recovery services are affordably priced, technologically innovative and completely secure.

Learn More

If you're still not totally convinced Gillware's SD card data recovery services are up to snuff, check out some of our case studies on the Gillware blog:

SanDisk SD Card Recovery Case Study: Deleted Photos

The client in this data recovery case came to us for our SanDisk SD card recovery services. They had accidentally deleted the contents of their camera’s […]

SD Card File Recovery Case Study: SanDisk SDHC Memory Card

In this SanDisk SD card file recovery case, the client, a photographer, was unable to pull their photos off of the card. While they could access the […]

GoPro Video File Recovery Case Study: PNY microSD Card

The client in this case had a GoPro video camera full of recorded videos. Those videos were being stored on a tiny microSD card inside the […]

Flash Memory Amnesia – Resurrecting Data through Direct Read of NAND Memory

A deep dive into the incredible data recovery techniques our engineers use to recover data from particularly stubborn SD cards: