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Author Topic: I need to recover data from this USB stick and the case is made of steel, help!  (Read 1013 times)
mc_lovin
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May 01, 2012, 02:02:41 AM
 #1

hey hey!  it looks like my sister should have made backups of her data.  she bought a stainless steel RetailPlus+ 16GB USB stick, I assume she thought the stainless steel casing would protect her data, but actually now it is more like a prison for her data.

she has like 10 years of financial records (for her work) on here without any backup and it's extremely important that we manage to recover it.  apparently someone stepped on it while it was plugged in (which is a great way to break a usb stick!) and it looks like it's broken pretty good.

now, when I plug it into the computer, it shows up as a generic usb device under "My Computer" and it even shows up in Disk Management without any partition tables or anything.  I used like 10 different data recovery programs, none of them are able to do anything with the USB.  When you click on the device in "My Computer" it says "please insert a disk into _____".  My guess right now is that the USB functionality of the device is still present it's just the actual memory module itself is detached from the rest of the stick.  The PCB itself is slightly damaged, but not terribly so.

I could probably solder any broken connection, but I can't get the damned thing open!!

There was a little keyloop thing on the end, I cut it off, it sort of allows me to put a screwdriver in the back and push the PCB forward but I don't want to push too hard and damage it, it moves like a 1/4" and then won't go any further.

I've uploaded pictures of the device here --> http://imgur.com/a/JUHTx

ANY advice on the subject is greatly appreciated, thanks in advance!!

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smendrich
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May 01, 2012, 10:47:58 AM
 #2

The only thing I can think of is to use a very fine hacksaw. Push the PCB as far forward as it will go and slowly cut the end away keeping fingers and toes crossed!
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May 01, 2012, 10:53:51 AM
 #3

You could:

1) push the PCB out as far as you can
2) hold it out with some blutack
3) put it in a little table top vice or clamp it to a table using a g-clamp.
4) use a fine hacksaw to saw off the far end of the stainless steel enclosure. You could just saw through the metal on one side, turn the USB and saw the second side, turn it and saw the third etc and then you avoid sawing the PCB.
If it is too small to saw you could use a metal file and file the far edge of the enclosure at a 45 degree angle to open it up. That might be easier.

Hopefully then you will be able to get it out the far end.

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May 01, 2012, 11:59:19 AM
 #4

Similar to what jim618 already suggested:

- file down the 4 edges of the back (opposite site of the plug) to remove the backside
- file down one of the long edges
- now you should be able to carefully pry the cover open since it doesn't seem to be glued in

If all goes well, you'll have the PCB now. Guessing from the pictures, the USB plug-angle suggests the PCB there is broken. I'd use a very fine saw to cut it off completely (after making detailed pics).
Fortunately, USB itself is pretty forgiving and it shouldn't be much trouble to solder a few thin wires in to act as a bridge between the plug and the PCB tracks. Worked fine for me when someone I know did exactly the same (he had a plastic case that was easy to open though).
Plug it back in and hope for the best. In case of success, teach your sister about the importance of backups. In case of failure, she learned her lesson the hard way.
Depending on how important the data is, it might also be a case for a professional data rescue service.
Also, before throwing the leftovers away, destroy it physically ("Hammer, meet PCB") since it contains financal data.

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May 01, 2012, 12:11:14 PM
 #5

IMHO, I think you should clamp it to a table and ensure it is secure.
Than you could use a dremel with a cutter disk on the side, there is plenty of space on it, but be gentle.
Draw a straight line along the side without much penetration.
It's a patience job.
Cut in many passes, since this must be steel, and weaken the material, but don't perforate it (yet).
Turn around the other side and repeat, many passes but now, let it perforate the material in a last pass.
Take it out and bend the case outside.
It should break in the other weakened side.
If you don't have that much space on the sides, try alongside the corners.
Good luck!

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May 01, 2012, 01:18:13 PM
 #6

You should evaluate the total damage first before attempting anything. If the loss of the contents would cost you over $1k+ in time and/or money, you should send it to professional data retrievers before you inadvertently break it yourself. Else, continue with the advice above.

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May 02, 2012, 06:57:15 PM
 #7

This may be in the "longshot" category, but have you tried it on a linux computer? I had a USB exhibiting similar behavior. I could only access it using Ubuntu.

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May 02, 2012, 11:13:49 PM
 #8

I don't know how to get the data out, but I hope she keeps backups in the future.

I can't believe people are still walking around in 2012 without backups of important data.

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May 03, 2012, 01:49:14 AM
 #9

I don't know how to get the data out, but I hope she keeps backups in the future.

I can't believe people are still walking around in 2012 without backups of important data.
I know, right?  It's a horrible thought losing data, but I can't imagine what goes through someones mind when they hold a huge amount of irreplaceable data in their hand like this, and they must be thinking, "wow, imagine how screwed I would be if I lost this!!" without the thought of duplicating it to another medium...  There is like, no excuse for lost data.

Speaking of lost data, you guys have got to hear this song!! --> Freefire - Dataloss (Darth & Vader Remix)  It's like, one of my favorite songs Smiley

OK, I LOVE all the suggestions, but I'm not sure if my sister can afford the zillions of dollars to get it professionally recovered so we might have to lean towards the hacksaw option.  What do you guys think about this hacksaw?  -> http://i.imgur.com/MgoaV.jpg

I linked my sister to this thread and she hasn't responded in a couple days so I'll probably want to wait for her reply before I hack this thing to pieces...

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May 03, 2012, 09:06:13 PM
 #10

plasma cutter.

or if your a weenie..

dremel tool   (far more precise and much less pressure required then a hacksaw.)
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May 03, 2012, 09:39:23 PM
 #11

Rather than a hacksaw you could try the metal file on a multitool (Leathermen) on the far corners.

Might take you a bit longer but a bit more controllable.

That said, the hacksaw pic looks about right.

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