SD-SDHC Photo Recovery

SERT Data Recovery understands the value, and sensitive nature of your photos and videos stored on the SD and SDHC cards. This is why we have invested thousands of dollars into the technology and research in recovering data from these devices.

How SERT recovers photos from SD cards

There are two form factors of flash storage NAND chips SD/SDHC cards use: TSOP48 and Monolithic. We are able to recover your data from both types of chips. The card will be disassembled and the chip removed during what is called a chip off recovery.

If the NAND is a TSOP48 it will go into a special device that is capable of making a dump that is then processed in order to reverse engineer the manufacturer’s encryption algorithm, and then compile the data back into a form that is readable by a computer.

tsop48-chip-sd-card    tsop-48-chip-sd-sdhc-card

If the NAND is a monolithic design, the chip will then be sanded down to reveal the pinout scheme and many wires will be soldered to an adapter made specifically for the chip. And then the same process outlines above will take place to recover your data.

Monolithic form factor is much more difficult to work on, as the work surface is very small and the soldering techniques are very precise using  a microscope and special soldering tools for precision.

monolith-sd-card-recovery-close-up     monolith-sd-card-recovery

Using software to recover SD cards

As noted above, there are many software packages available to recover photos from SD card memory, restore SD cards, unformat SD cards, and perform other basic maintenance tasks. Remember software will not recover data from a card that is not recognized by your computer. Always use extreme caution when using software avoiding writing data to the card that you are recovering.

While some of these programs can be effective, users have to exercise extreme caution. Using free utilities are often vectors for installing malware and other unwanted software. Users need to research SD card restore programs carefully before installing them.

Damaged SD card recovery

SD photo recovery is a job that’s often best left up to professionals. In extreme cases, such as dealing with physical damage, it may require advanced electronics skills to salvage data from the card’s memory. Usable data can usually be recovered from severely damaged cards if they can be opened and successfully rewired.

Because the images stored on cards in digital cameras are often extremely important to their owners, it can be worth a fair amount of money to pay for professional photo recovery from SD card memory.

How SD/SDHC memory works

SD stands for “Secure Digital.” It’s a very widespread memory storage format, but not an open one. All SD and SDHC memory cards use licensed technology that comply with the standards managed by the SD Association. Thanks to their great reliability and small size, SD cards are heavily favoured for storing data in digital cameras, video recorders, and smartphones.

SD and SDHC are evolutions of the same technology. SD is the original form, first released in 1999. SD cards were originally formatted for storing up to 1 GB of data, although capacity could be pushed up to 4 GB through careful formatting.

SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards were introduced in 2006, bringing maximum storage space up to 32 GB. SDHC is backwards-compatible with standard SD; all devices capable of using SDHC cards can also read SD cards.

SD and SDHC memory cards use non-volatile flash memory, just like many other portable digital storage media. The actual storage on an SD card is provided by NAND flash chips, which are also used in USB-compatible flash drives. Unlike flash drives, though, SD/SDHC memory cards don’t have a built-in clock.

This allows them to pack a great deal of information into a very small space, but it does produce some limitations. SD cards are unsuitable for use as computer hard drives, for instance.

Common devices using SD/SDHC memory cards

As digital cameras and video recorders have grown more capable and started using higher and higher resolutions, the amount of data they captured began to strain the limits of the Compact Flash and SmartMedia cards which were the standard storage media prior to 1999.

The SDHC standard was developed to hold more data and provide faster transfer speeds, and manufacturers have been steadily refining and improving the format rather than switching to a different one.

Today SD and SDHC memory cards can be found in virtually all digital cameras. They’re heavily supported by industry leaders such as Panasonic, Casio, Samsung, and Toshiba. The SD/SDHC format has proven to be popular with long-standing camera manufacturers, including Canon, Nikon, Kodak, and Leica.

Some companies held out against the standard and used proprietary alternatives, such as Sony’s Memory Stick or the xD cards used by Olympus and Fujifilm. By 2010 the SD format was universally accepted, though, and today all three manufacturers use SD/SDHC cards in their cameras.

SD and SDHC cards carry a speed rating in addition to an overall storage capacity. These range from 2x to 10x in even-numbered increments. Higher speeds are required for more demanding applications, such as capturing High Definition video or taking many high-resolution photographs quickly.

Advantages and drawbacks of SD/SDHC cards

The primary advantages offered by the SD/SDHC format are the small size and reliability of the memory cards. The widespread adoption of the format is another major plus, making it easy to use SD and SDHC memory cards interchangeably in a wide variety of devices. SD/SDHC cards are also very affordable, with many different companies producing the cards.

There are some potential liabilities with SD/SDHC cards, though. The ever-increasing resolution of photo and video recorders strains the capacities of even the largest SDHC cards. This has led to the introduction of SDCX and SDIO cards that can pack terabytes of information into the same space. Higher-end cameras and video recorders also use multiple SD/SDHC cards to offer additional storage space.

Like all flash memory devices, SD and SDHC memory cards have a limited lifespan. Repeated rewrites will wear out the memory and eventually render it non-functional. SD/SDHC cards can also be corrupted when they’re used by devices with failing batteries. Despite the robustness of the SD card design, they’re still susceptible to physical damage, and a sufficient amount of force can render them inoperable. While SD and SDHC cards are water-resistant, extended exposure to water can damage them.

Finally, SD and SDHC memory cards are not as broadly interchangeable as they could be. The wide variety of formatting options makes it quite possible to “lock” data into a format that can only be read by a few devices. This can make SD card data recovery a tricky business.

The overall reliability of SD/SDHC cards

As noted above, SD/SDHC memory cards are reasonably reliable but by no means foolproof. Between their susceptibility to damage and the possibility of user error rendering the data stored on them inaccessible, SD card photo recovery is a thriving business.

While there are numerous free software programs available to assist with basic memory card maintenance tasks like recovering deleted photos from SD card memory, and undelete SD cards, professional expertise is required to salvage data in more difficult situations.

Companies which manufacture SD/SDHC cards

In the same way that thousands of different devices make use of SD and SDHC memory cards, there are hundreds of different brands of them on the global market today. Over the life of the format, different companies have taken the lead in refining the design. The original SD cards were developed by SanDisk together with Toshiba and Matsushita. SanDisk has continued to be the most recognized name in SD card production ever since.

SD and SDHC cards come in several different form factors. The original SD cards were joined by the smaller miniSD format in 2003. Once again, the innovator was SanDisk. MicroSD, an even smaller physical form, was introduced in 2006 at the same time as the SDHD format.

Today numerous reputable companies produce licensed SD and SDHC cards, from memory specialists like Kingston and Verbatim to hardware manufacturers like Samsung and Canon. There is also a thriving trade in counterfeit SD cards, which are often advertised at inflated storage sizes and memory speeds. Consumers need to exercise caution to ensure they purchase reliable memory cards.

While they’re certainly not perfect, SD and SDHC cards are extremely useful. They pack plenty of storage into extremely small spaces, and they’re generally quite reliable. Although they do have their limitations, most users should be able to get plenty of trouble-free use out of a well-crafted SD/SDHC memory card.