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Thumb Drive Data Recovery: Sometimes Files Aren’t Gone Forever

Portable data storage that can fit in a pocket or on a keychain is incredibly convenient, but its very convenience also makes it incredibly vulnerable to loss or damage. Despite this vulnerability, thumb drives have become a very popular way to store information in order to keep it on hand, have an extra backup lying around, share it easily with others, and a good many other reasons too. The problem comes when a thumb drive fails – which most all eventually will.

If the thumb drive was just one of a few different backup options that was convenient to have, then there’s no problem because the entirely of the drive’s contents will be stored in a few other places. The user can simply buy a new, sturdier flash drive if they want to continue using such technology, and recopy the files to it. However, if the thumb drive was the only location in which the files were stored, many users fall into despair and give their data up for lost. What many of these users don’t realize is that, depending on the circumstances of the file loss, data recovery may be possible.

A thumb drive is a mini, less reliable version of an SSD

The hard drive computers traditionally used for storage is the Hard Disk Drive (HDD), which consists of spinning metal platters with a magnetic coating that can store data for later access. HDDs are fairly reliable technology, though the moving parts make them vulnerable to damage and failure, especially if they are dropped. In an effort to create a drive without these vulnerable moving parts, the Solid State Drive (SSD) was born.

An SSD replaces the magnetic coated spinning platters with flash memory chips that are connected together on a circuit board. The data can be stored and accessed on these chips using electrical charges. This lack of moving parts makes an SSD more drop resistant and less prone to mechanical failure, though electronic failure and hardware problems can still occur.

A thumb drive works the same way as an SSD, though on a much smaller and less reliable scale. It’s not made to withstand nearly as much use, so it’s unwise to store data that needs frequent updating on one of these drives. It can withstand a little knocking about, which makes it a great travel storage option, but it is definitely prone to damage that makes files inaccessible without the help of file recovery.

It’s unfortunately easy to damage a thumb drive and lose files

There are a frustrating number of ways to hurt a thumb drive or lose access to the files, which is why they should not be relied upon as a sole source of storage or backup. Some of the most common reasons that thumb drives fail include:

  • Accidental file deletion
  • Improper removal from the computer
  • Downloading a virus
  • Frying it during a power surge
  • Formatting the thumb drive
  • Breaking the drive itself

Just like any other storage drive, a power surge can fry it or it can be attacked by a virus. It’s also possible to accidentally format the drive and lose everything on it, especially if the computer prompts the user to do so for some reason. Haste can also be a problem, because without properly ejecting a thumb drive before removing it a user can corrupt or delete files. There’s also the possibility of smashing the thumb drive accidentally while in transit, or losing it altogether.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent a lost, destroyed, or malfunctioning thumb drive from removing all access to the data. For example, the flash drive should never be the only place data is stored, because backups are the best way to prevent a failure. It’s also good to store flash drives carefully when not in use to prevent moisture, heat, or physical damage. However, accidents happen, and if files weren’t backed up to another location before the thumb drive gave out, file recovery may still be possible.

Data recovery is achievable for thumb drives with the right programs or help

Data is easy to lose access to, but it’s not quite as easy to completely destroy. A computer savvy user with the right programs can often track the lost data down themselves, provided the drive hasn’t been physically harmed by water or a power surge. Even so, it takes more than a fair amount of comfort working with technology to attempt data recovery without help, and oftentimes the free programs won’t cut it.

At that point it may be better – both for a user’s budget and the chances of file recovery – to seek professional data recovery services. A thumb drive is much smaller and simpler than a hard drive, SSD, or other storage device, so it’s usually not as expensive to attempt file recovery. However, a most users won’t know whether the data can be recovered or how much it will cost until they consult with a professional data recovery expert.


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