SSDs or solid-state drives are a type of data storage device that uses flash memory to store data. Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) that store data on spinning magnetic disks, SSDs have no moving parts and use microchips to store data. This makes SSDs faster, lighter, and less prone to physical damage than HDDs.
However, SSDs are still susceptible to data corruption and errors. When files get corrupted on an SSD, is it possible to repair and recover the data? Let’s find out.
What causes data corruption on an SSD?
There are several factors that can lead to data corruption on an SSD:
Power failure or sudden shutdown:
If power is lost while the drive is writing data, it can lead to partial writes and file system corruption. The files may become unreadable after this.
Like HDDs, SSDs can also develop bad sectors over time where data cannot be stored or read reliably. Attempting to read data from these sectors leads to errors.
Bugs in the SSD’s controller firmware can cause glitches resulting in corrupted data. Firmware updates may fix such issues.
File system errors:
Problems with the file system due to sudden loss of power, disconnecting the SSD improperly, bugs, or other issues can also lead to data corruption.
Viruses and other malware can sometimes intentionally overwrite or encrypt files leading to corruption.
Excessive write/erase cycles:
SSDs have a limited number of program-erase cycles. If this exceeds the drive’s endurance rating, it can cause errors resulting in data corruption.
Can you repair and recover corrupted data from an SSD?
In many cases, it is possible to recover corrupted data from an SSD. However, the chances of successful data recovery depend on the type and extent of the corruption. Here are some data recovery techniques for SSDs:
Use the TRIM command:
TRIM is a command supported by SSDs to mark deleted sectors as free space. If the file system corruption is not extensive, running the TRIM command can clear these errors and make data accessible again.
Update SSD firmware:
If the errors are caused by controller bugs, updating to the latest firmware version can potentially fix these issues and recover lost data.
Try data recovery software:
Data recovery software tools scan the drive and rebuild corrupted data using advanced algorithms. They can recover data even from formatted or repartitioned drives in many cases.
Repair the file system:
Tools like Chkdsk in Windows or fsck on Linux can scan the file system for errors and attempt to repair them. This may recover corrupted system files and folder structures.
If the SSD’s controller circuit board (PCB) is damaged, replacing it with one from an identical drive can help retrieve data.
Use a data recovery service:
As a last resort, you can get help from professional data recovery services. They have specialized tools and cleanroom facilities to repair drives and recover data at component level.
Factors affecting success of data recovery from corrupted SSDs
SSD data recovery depends on these key factors:
Cause and severity of corruption:
Logical corruption of files and file system is easier to repair than physical damage to the memory chips which requires chip-off recovery.
Encrypted SSDs make data recovery much harder if the encryption keys are lost. The data is unrecoverable without the keys.
Trim permanently erases deleted data by resetting cells to 0. This makes recovery difficult if Trim was enabled.
If corrupted data cells are overwritten by new data, the original data is unrecoverable.
|Impact on Data Recovery
|Cause of corruption
|Logical errors easier to repair than physical damage
|Much harder without encryption keys
|Permanently erases deleted data
|Original data is unrecoverable
Best practices to prevent SSD corruption
You can minimize data corruption on your SSD by following these best practices:
Avoid sudden power loss:
Use a UPS to prevent data loss from sudden power cuts while writing data. Also shut down the PC properly.
Update SSD firmware:
Keep the SSD firmware updated to the latest version to fix bugs and improve stability.
Monitor drive health:
Keep an eye on S.M.A.R.T parameters using tools like CrystalDiskInfo to detect impending drive failures.
Maintain adequate free space:
Having some free space allows the SSD controller to efficiently manage writes and remap bad sectors.
Indexing can interfere with the SSD’s garbage collection. Disable indexing if not needed.
Use surge protectors:
Electrical surges can damage SSD components leading to corruption. Use a surge protector.
Handle SSD carefully:
Avoid physical damage to the SSD which can break internal connections and components.
Can you recover data after formatting an SSD?
Formatting an SSD erases all user data on the drive by recreating the file system and partitioning layout. However, the original raw data may still remain intact on the SSD cells until it is overwritten by new data.
Data recovery software can scan the drive sectors and reconstruct the formatted data as long as it hasn’t been trimmed or overwritten. The chances of recovery depend on the SSD controller and the depth of the formatting process.
For example, a full format which checks for bad sectors makes recovery difficult compared to a quick format. Overall, avoiding further write operations to the SSD gives the best chance to recover data after accidental formatting.
Should you initialize an SSD before recovering data?
Initializing or reformatting an SSD is generally not recommended when trying to recover corrupted data from it. Initialization erases the existing file system and rebuilds a new one without the original data.
Initialization may even write zeroes across the entire SSD, making data recovery impossible. The best approach is to create a sector-level clone image of the corrupted SSD first using specialized tools.
This clone can then be mounted as a virtual drive and scanned for lost data without making any changes to the actual drive. So initialize an SSD only if absolutely essential, after cloning it for recovery.
Can lost files be recovered after reinstalling OS on an SSD?
Reinstalling the operating system on an SSD will format the drive and delete existing files as part of the process. However, as long as the original data cells have not been overwritten, data recovery is still possible.
SSD data recovery software can locate and restore deleted files from an SSD even after OS reinstallation as long as the trimmed space hasn’t been reused. The free space needs to be cloned quickly before it gets overwritten by new data.
Stop using the SSD immediately after reinstalling OS and make a full clone copy of the drive before attempting recovery. The more you use the drive, the higher the chances of permanent data loss.
While SSDs are less prone to physical damage, data corruption can still occur due to a range of logical errors. In many cases, the corrupted data can be repaired and recovered using the right tools and techniques.
However, it is important to act quickly before the corrupted cells get trimmed or overwritten with new data. Following best practices to avoid corruption also helps safeguard your precious data on the SSD.
If you do experience massive corruption or accidental formatting, immediately clone the drive and contact a professional recovery service as a last resort before initialization or OS reinstallation.