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 card, our SD Card Recovery Service engineers can help.
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 other 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.
What Is a microSD Card?
The microSD card is the poster child for the huge strides data storage technology has taken over the decades. It is scarcely bigger than one of your fingernails, barely thicker than a sheet of paper, and yet it can store up to hundreds of gigabytes of data. If you could travel back in time to the 1950s and show the people at IBM the latest model of 256 GB microSD card, they’d probably laugh in your face.
A microSD card is similar in design to a monolithic USB flash drive. All the components it needs—the NAND chip, the controller, and the interface—are soldered together into a deceptively small package. Some of the microSD card’s larger siblings take advantage of monolithic technology as well (leaving you with a lot of empty space inside the SD card’s casing).
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.
This SD card has a monolithic design. There is a hairline fracture running across it due to physical trauma.
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 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.
The inside of a damaged SD card. There is a visible crack in the PCB. Our SD card recovery service engineers were able to remove the NAND chip and extract its contents.
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 My SD Card Recovery Services Needs?
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.
Ready to Have Gillware Assist You with Your SD Card Recovery Services Needs?
Best-in-class engineering and software development staff
Gillware employs a full time staff of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, computer scientists and software developers to handle the most complex data recovery situations and data solutions
Strategic partnerships with leading technology companies
Gillware is proud to be a recommended provider for Dell, Western Digital and other major hardware and software vendors. These partnerships allow us to gain unique insight into recovering from these devices.
RAID Array / NAS / SAN data recovery
Using advanced engineering techniques, we can recover data from large capacity, enterprise grade storage devices such as RAID arrays, network attached storage (NAS) devices and storage area network (SAN) devices.
Virtual machine data recovery
Thanks to special engineering and programming efforts, Gillware is able to recover data from virtualized environments with a high degree of success.
SOC 2 Type II audited
Gillware has been security audited to ensure data safety, meaning all our facilities, networks, policies and practices have been independently reviewed and determined as completely secure.
Facility and staff
Gillware’s facilities meet the SOC 2 Type II audit requirements for security to prevent entry by unauthorized personnel. All staff are pre-screened, background checked and fully instructed in the security protocol of the company.
We are a GSA contract holder.
We meet the criteria to be approved for use by government agencies
GSA Contract No.: GS-35F-0547W
Our entire data recovery process can be handled to meet HIPAA requirements for encryption, transfer and protection of e-PHI.
No obligation, no up-front fees, free inbound shipping and no-cost evaluations.
Gillware’s data recovery process is 100% financially risk free. We only charge if the data you want is successfully recovered.
Our pricing is 40-50% less than our competition.
By using cutting edge engineering techniques, we are able to control costs and keep data recovery prices low.
Instant online estimates.
By providing us with some basic information about your case, we can give you an idea of how much it will cost before you proceed with the recovery.
View a list of recoverable files before paying anything.
Using our online file list viewer, you can see a list of all the files our engineers are able to recover. We do not charge you unless you are satisfied with the recoverable data.
Gillware is trusted, reviewed and certified
Gillware has the seal of approval from a number of different independent review organizations, including SOC 2 Type II audit status, so our customers can be sure they’re getting the best data recovery service possible.
Gillware is a proud member of IDEMA and the Apple Consultants Network.