This repair guide is NOT intended for DIY USB flash drive recovery. It is simply to share the proper procedures our engineers follow in recovering flash drive damage, including broken stems, or USB connectors.
This type of damage can sometimes result in a dead pen drive because it is not getting proper power, the light is not coming on, and/or the computer will not recognize the drive.
View our BEST DIY Hall of Shame pictures here: found here!
This type of recovery demands above average (not handyman), precision micro soldering skills. It also requires a high power microscope for easy long term inspections, and accurate viewing when the heat is on the chip.
In most broken stem and/or PCB board conditions, FULL RECOVERY is possible and likely. Unless of course, something has happened to the drive in between the time it broke, and our shipping department received it.
Fixing Dead or Physically Broken Flash Drives
Because of the size of the circuitry and parts, how the device receives power, as well as the difficulty of soldering, unexpected damage is a frequent issue. Inexperienced home end users to IT professionals with decades of support time, often make things worse and more expensive when they attempt to solder on these drives.
Soldering irons have the potential to burn the chip, or melt the printed circuit board, both which cause the recovery to become much more difficult for a professional, and even cause the drive to be unrecoverable.
Solder can easily be crossed with points on the drive shorting out main components that are required for the drive to communicate with the computer.
Another common mistake SERT data recovery engineers notice is when a prong, or whatever contraption being used to connect the drive to a computer is improperly connected, the memory chips and/or other components can be damaged due to improper power being supplied.
If you have attempted to repair this yourself and the drive is not working, there is a high probability additional damage has been caused, which may prevent a full recovery of your data.
As with all data recovery situations, you may only have one chance at recovering your data.
Our engineers have seen many cases where failed DIY attempts have rendered the data lost forever.
Below are the “how to” steps for the DIY tech. Follow them very carefully.
How to Repair Broken USB Stems
Here’s what you need:
- Precision soldering iron/heating station
- High quality solder and flux
- Wire strippers
- Small flat head
- Reliable piece of USB cable
- High power microscope
- Steady hands
- Micro electrical component knowledge
- otherwise a lot of luck following YOUTUBE
Here are the steps to recovering from a USB drive that has physical damage to the stem, and is broken.
1. First you need to open the case of the USB device.
You have to be careful here so you don’t damage the PCB board with whatever you are using to pry apart the plastic casing. There are some tricky cases out there, don’t make the job worse for the next person.
An error during this step can ruin your chances of successful recovery. If you damage the NAND inside the casing, your data is lost forever.
Minimally, a 1 second mistake can turn a $249 job into a $349 – $1200 job depending on the storage size of your flash drive.
2. Next visually examine the damage to the circuit board.
You want to make sure there are breaks to the arms that are soldered to the PCB board. If there are not, you have TOTALLY DIFFERENT problem and need what is called a NAND Recovery.
Once you have observed there is indeed a broken connection between the stem and the PCB board, you need to make sure the pads are not lifted.
This can be deceiving sometimes, so if you are not sure, you can be totally wasting your time, and really need someone that understands the circuitry of the PCB to prevent this from requiring the chip to be removed for data recovery.
This happens when the force to the stem pulls the solder pad off the board (where the arm actually connects to the board) . You will see what looks like a foot on the PCB side of the arm. At this point you should not continue, you need the help of a professional data recovery company.
Look for damage on the PCB:
- Blown Resistors
- Blown Capacitors
- Cracks anywhere
- Lifted Pads
- Broken Crystal oscillator
- Burn Marks
- Damaged NANDs
- if you know what all this means please continue
You will not be able to continue with this repair if there is any damage other than broken arms.
3. If everything checks out after examination of the PCB and the pads are intact, take the scrap USB cable and prepare it following these steps:
- Cut the female end off
- Strip the cable down to the four wires
- Expose about ¼ inch of the wire on each one
- Apply some solder to each wire
- Again this is not a DIY step by step, this is our process, and we do not recommend you do this at home, or have anyone else that doesn’t do this every day SUCCESSFULLY. (if your data is worth $250 to you)
4. Carefully solder each one of the wires to the pads in the order they are supposed to go.
There is a distinct order for most USB drives, messing this step up and plugging it in can potentially short the chip, killing the cells where your data is stored.
If you have properly accomplished these steps, you should be able to plug the USB into a computer, get a blinking light, and copy your data over.
A failed attempt will result in your drive not getting power, or you may burn some of the components of your drive as described above.
**You will either get your data back, or find yourself in a potentially worse situation. (if this worked for you please leave a comment below, share this post, and/or link to it!)