So you want to destroy a USB flash drive? Or perhaps you think you already have. Either way, there’s something you need to know…
Even if a USB flash drive is destroyed, the data on the flash drive might still be accessible. Well, at least to a data recovery expert. (More on that later.)
First, we’ll cover a couple ways to destroy a flash drive that actually will destroy the data. Then, we’ll share 4 ways to destroy a flash drive that won’t necessarily destroy the data.
How to Destroy a USB Flash Drive (and its Data, too)
If missing, loose, or damaged components are not enough to kill data on a USB flash drive, then what is?
There are a few ways to do it. But first, you need to open the USB casing to access the memory chip. The memory chip should be the largest square component. To kill the data on the USB flash drive, you have to kill the memory chip where the data is stored.
1. Physically Damage the Memory Chip
If the memory chip is physically damaged beyond repair, it will be impossible to salvage data from it. Some suggest beating it with a hammer to pulverize it. Others suggest using multiple drill bits to drill into the memory chip, essentially turning it into a powder.
2. Electronically Damage the Memory Chip
If the memory chip experiences an electrical short circuit, it can be fried and the data will be lost. Some think that putting a memory chip or flash drive in a microwave will do the trick, but it is more likely that you will damage your microwave.
There are some who recommend electrolysis to fry a memory chip. Electrolysis involves submerging the memory chip or flash drive in liquid and sending an electrical current through it.
How to Destroy a USB Flash Drive (but Not the Data)
Destroying a flash drive is more difficult than you would expect. Why? It’s the same reason why destroying a smartphone is harder than you think it is. If the memory chip is still intact, it’s very possible that the data is too.
Take a look at the following scenarios. All of them can “destroy” a USB flash drive by making it unusable in 30 seconds or less. But none of them will necessarily destroy the data on the drive.
1. Drop Your USB Flash Drive
Even something as common as dropping your flash drive can render it useless. When it hits a hard surface, connector legs and pads can loosen or break apart. This ruins the connection between the USB connector and the printed circuit board (PCB). When this happens, it is impossible to access your data from a computer or other USB port.
However, a data recovery expert can use a high-powered magnifying glass or microscope to spot broken or loose connections. He can also use a soldering iron to replace or repair missing or broken components, and regain access to the data.
2. Step on It
Accidentally stepping on a USB flash drive is more common than you’d think, and it’s one of the most damaging things you can do to a drive. With so much force coming down on the printed circuit board (PCB) and connectors, it’s a surefire way to make your data inaccessible.
Inaccessible to a computer, that is. But perhaps not to a data recovery expert! The connector legs and pads are not the only USB components that can be damaged and repaired. The PCB can also be damaged, causing a poor electrical connection. If the electrical connection is not working, the data can’t be readily accessed. But that does not mean the data is not there.
3. Drop It In Water
Dropping your device in water has the same effect as it does with phones – it wreaks the hardware of your flash drive. When liquids evaporate, they leave behind residue. This residue is often filled with contaminants that can cause corrosion. And corrosion can lead to failed components, electronics, or circuitry.
Thirty seconds in a toilet, sink, puddle, or even a spill from your water bottle can totally cripple any data on your device. But it might not.
How is that possible? The effects of corrosion can be lessened with spot cleaning, rubbing alcohol, and an ultrasonic bath for the device. Don’t believe it? Check out this related post.
4. Put Your USB Drive in Your Purse or Backpack
One of the easiest ways to damage your storage device is to drop it into your backpack or purse. By doing this and letting it float around, it could easily get jostled or even punctured by something else, which can cause the soldering connections to break.
But you know that bad connections, missing components, and corrosion aren’t enough to kill data. And neither is a printed circuit board (PCB) that is damaged beyond repair. How is this possible? On the PCB is a memory chip, where all the data is stored. The memory chip can be removed from the USB flash drive and read on an separate memory chip reader. It’s a delicate process involving un-soldering the memory chip from the circuit board, but it can be done.
Need Data Recovery for a USB Flash Drive?
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Let’s face it- you put a lot of confidence in your USB flash drive. It’s your go-to for storing important documents, and you can even get them in fun shapes and sizes. But what happens when something happens to your flash drive? Your files, which could include page long research papers, group projects, class notes, and even pictures, could be lost and gone forever without a reliable way to get your USB flash drive repaired.
The flexibility and security of having your files with you all the time makes your USB flash drive seem sturdy and indestructible. In reality, however, they’re remarkably easy to damage. It’s important to remember that, should an accident occur, USB flash drive repair is a great option for restoring your files and getting back hours of class work.
Sometimes, when you haven’t experienced the panic of lost files, being careful with your flash drive is the last thing on your mind.
Now if only there were an indestructible USB flash drive…