06 Apr 2018
Severely damaged NAND chip

Data Analyzers received a heavily damaged USB drive this week in our lab. Our client hit the USB drive with their leg while it was plugged to their computer. This is actually a common occurrence with USB drives, since they protrude out when plugged in. Normally, this type of accident only damages the USB connector and the solder pads they are connect to, but this case was much more severe.

Severely damaged USB drive

Instead of damaging the connector, the USB drive was bent in the middle where one side of the TSOP 48 NAND chip was connected. Multiple traces ripped up off the PCB, 2 of the TSOP’s pins were broken off of the chip, and almost every leg coming out of the NAND chip was bent. After reviewing the TSOP 48 schematic we determined one of the pins to be critical (Pin 32: Data IO3) and the other not connected (Pin 48).

Severely damaged NAND chip

The first step of recovery was to de-solder (remove) the NAND chip from the PCB without causing any further damage. There was excess solder and ripped up traces stuck to some of the legs that had to be cleaned and removed. Then we had to straighten the other 46 legs under a microscope without breaking any of them off. This took some time, but we were finally able to straighten the legs enough that they aligned with our NAND readers pins.

Severely damaged NAND chip with soldered wire

The only remaining issue to resolve at this point was the missing I03 leg, which was no easy feat! In order for us to tap into the missing leg, the top layers of the NAND chip were carefully removed above the broken leg. This exposed enough of the original leg that we were able to micro-solder a thin wire to connect to pin 36 on our NAND reader.

Severely damaged NAND chip - Results

The NAND chip correctly identified and fully dumped without a hiccup. Despite all the physical damage this USB drive and NAND chip had when it came in, fortunately none of it damaged the internal NAND die. The dumped data blocks pieced back together, mimicking the USB drives storage algorithm and a FAT32 file system was rebuilt. The client received a full recovery of their files.

Data Analyzers can recover data from USB thumb drives even when it seems unrecoverable.

David Edwards, Senior Engineer at Data Analyzers