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How To Recover Data From Memory Cards

Technology has changed the ways we store data such as photos and videos. We can now use storage devices such as memory cards and SD cards to store flash media. These small devices make saving photos and videos easy and efficient. However, as reliable as these devices are, they are still prone to data loss. Whether you spill your morning cup of coffee on your SD card or accidentally damage your memory card, you could be left without important photos or videos. 

Memory cards can be used with just about any device you can find, including smartphones, digital cameras, tablets, and laptops. This is a large part of their widespread appeal. But while convenient, memory cards can rarely, if ever, be repaired once they’ve become damaged.

So the question becomes, what happens if you damage, corrupt, or even delete data? Can you recover it? Are there tools that can be used to help?

Well, the answer is yes. Using the right tools, you can. These tools are specifically designed to help you recover data from damaged or corrupted memory cards. This article will explain the steps you need to take in order to help you recover your deleted data.

Step 1 – Choose the right software

After installing the third party software and reviewing the relevant features, you will want to insert the memory card with the deleted data into your computer. Each program will be different, however, I will try to cover the general method across all platforms. 

Note that while installing, make sure you follow an installation guide to make sure everything is installed correctly. I would also recommend reading the FAQ and making sure the software you’re using covers the file types you are trying to recover.

Once you have done this, you want to connect your memory card to your laptop. If you are testing the functionality of the software, delete files manually from your device. However, if you are seeking to recover specific deleted files, you will want to quit all devices that are attempting to access the memory card you are using looking to recover data from (i.e. photo editing applications or backup software). It’s also important to note that while this kind of data recovery might not work with ostensibly free cloud-based storage platforms, you will need to double-check with the platform and your provider.

Step 2 – Select your device and set it as read-only

Second, you want to select the storage you want to scan. This could be your internal or external hard drive, but in this case, it will be your memory card. If your device is not shown on the list, there is typically an option to show hidden items. Alternatively, you can safely eject your memory card then reinsert it. Or, if necessary, restart your computer.

Step 3 – Begin the recovery process

Third, you want you to start the recovery section of your data recovery process. There will typically be a button saying “recover.” Click this and wait for the program to complete the scan. This process can usually be paused at any time and you can check results. 

If nothing is appearing, try troubleshooting the device and software. Once the scan is finished you should be presented with a list of data files that can be filtered by name, type, size, and creation date.

Step 4 – Check your files

If you made it this far you should have access to your recovered files. Depending on whether you have a paid or free service this may or may not be a preview that depends on upgrading to the paid version to be released.

Here you can take a look at the files and check to see whether they have been successfully recovered to their original state. It is essential that you check over the files to check they’ve been fully recovered. Just seeing the file name on the list isn’t enough to be sure it will be recovered to the level of quality you want.

Generally, there are three different kinds of results you can get here:

A full recovery. The file is in great shape and looks exactly how it was before it was corrupted or deleted.

A partial recovery. The file has been somewhat recovered but is missing certain elements or is modified in some way. An example of this would be an audio file where some parts are scratchy or garbled.

A failed recovery. You try to open the file but it fails. In this case, the recovery wasn’t possible. In this instance, it’s recommended you try again, and if that fails, attempt it with another recovery tool.

If your memory card is completely dead and/or none of the steps above work for you, it may be time to consider sending your device to a professional data recovery lab, such as Gillware

Step 5 – Backups and Cybersecurity

To prevent data loss in the future, ensure that you are backing up all your data to the cloud or dedicated external hard drives. While, in theory, this data could be corrupted as well, and could need recovery, having two copies of data makes it twice as safe and gives you a much simpler recovery option in the future.

Likewise, having solid data protection strategies, in particular, great cybersecurity will prevent your data from being stolen or corrupted. While this may seem unlikely, more and more businesses of all sizes are being targeted by cybercriminals so this may be another way your data becomes lost.

Investing in an encrypted virtual private network (VPN) and cybersecurity software will be a strong first step in doing this. While not quite as robust as enterprise security solutions, the best VPN services for consumers will help to obscure your information from hackers and work fine 99% of the time for the average Internet user.

Understanding How TRIM-Enabled SD and SSD Work

TRIM isn’t an acronym, it’s a command which enables the operating system to tell the solid-state drive (SSD) or secure digital (SD) to delete data that isn’t required anymore, or are marked as free for rewriting. 

In other words, the TRIM command helps the operating system to know where the data you want to move or delete is stored. 

Moreover, whenever you or the OS issues a delete command, the TRIM command will immediately block the area where the files are stored or wipe out unnecessary pages. This lets the operating system write new data in that area without having to delete it first.

SSD TRIM Data Recovery

Coming to the point of data recovery, things get a little different in this case.

Typically, whenever data is deleted from a hard drive, although it isn’t accessible, it remains present on the physical drive. But when you use TRIM-enabled SD and SSD, the data block is cleared instantly upon deletion. As there is no need to wait to rewrite data on a previously used block, this helps to improve performance.

The deleted files are permanently gone. Hence, for data recovery, in general, TRIM is bad news.

But, there are some exceptional cases where you can still recover the deleted data on an SSD. 

Here are a few examples of these cases:

  1. You‘re running your SSD on an older version of macOS (before 10.6.8), or Windows (before Vista) – both of which don’t support TRIM.
  2. Your SSD has been formatted with the FAT32 file system.
  3. You‘re using an encrypted SSD, and since TRIM cannot run on encrypted volumes, data recovery might be possible.
  4. The file system of your SSD is compromised, and its volumes are inaccessible.

How to Check Whether Your SSD Card is TRIM-Enabled or Not

Follow these instructions to find out whether your SSD is TRIM-enabled or not.

For PC:

Go to Command Prompt. and enter “fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify”

If DisableDeleteNotify = 0, TRIM is enabled.

If DisableDeleteNotify = 1, TRIM is disabled.

In case you want to disable TRIM, execute “fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify NTFS 0” and restart the computer.

For Mac:

On the top-left of the screen, click on the Apple logo. 

Click on ‘About This Mac’, followed by ‘System Report.’

Select ‘Hardware,’ and then click on ‘SATA/SATA Express’. Look for TRIM Support.

If you see “TRIM Support: Yes” then TRIM is enabled.

Conclusion

By using data recovery tools you can potentially recover any deleted files from your memory cards. This is especially useful if you accidentally delete files, or for some reason, they are corrupted.

When coupled with good data management and backup practices, having a tool like this on hand means you’ll be at much less risk of losing your important data and can stay on top of any data loss or corruption.

About the Author:

Samuel Bocetta is a former defense contractor for the US Navy. He turned to freelance journalism in retirement, focusing his writing on US diplomacy and national security, as well as technology trends in cyber warfare, cyber-defense, and cryptography.

Much of his career focus was spent penetration testing ballistics computer systems for a variety of spacecraft, aircraft, and some marine vessels. The cat-and-mouse game of finding security vulnerabilities and figuring out how to strengthen/eradicate them remains a fascination that Sam explores via the written word these days.