Recovering flash disk data

Flash disks became omnipresent media for everything from digital cameras and mp3 players to computer data. Due to its capacity floppy disks were replaced as a way of carrying data. Flash disks have no moving parts as they are solid-state. It only requires plugging into the USB drive to be connected with the computer and automatically recognized by it, which means it does not require any additional software to be installed. Flash drives have a lifetime of millions of write-erase cycles and may be used for as long as 10 years, which is more than twice longer than in case of hard disks.

But due to its portability and some environmental factors flash disks have more chances to be damaged. For example, it may be accidentally dropped and shattered, get wet in the rain or even get damaged during its work inside the camera.
The main difference between floppy, hard and flash drives is the way of how data is being resided on a chip. In case of flash disks data may be randomly accessed across the whole media. Moreover, the algorithm of the data access allows information to be evenly spread amongst data sectors that use “wear leveling algorithm”. The number of write and erase cycles isn’t infinite in flash disks. If one particular sector will be in use too frequently it can just become literally worn out much earlier than other sectors. The wear leveling algorithm allows sectors to become worn out evenly. It also ensures that in case if some data sector will suddenly become worn out the rest of the sectors will quickly follow.
In some cases the digital camera cannot find the difference between the file systems on the current flash disk and so it forces a format. As you may know, earlier flash disks were using FAT12 or FAT16 file system. Nowadays the most popular file system is FAT32 as it used in current generation of flash disks with a large capacity. So when the camera cannot detect the capacity of the flash drive it sometimes wraps around data when writes the photo and over-writes system areas.
In other cases flash disk cannot be read by the computer as it seems to be damaged, but in fact the error was caused by the operational system of MP3 player or by the camera. Flash drive can also become corrupted if it will be unplugged from the computer while the data was being written on it.
Recovering flash data in vast majority of cases is similar to the way of recovering data from any other media that uses FAT. It only differs by the media files location. To recover the data you’ll need those data recovery tools that can read FAT. The file structure is usually fixed, as it is typical for cameras and MP3 players. The camera has limited operating system so it writes photos only to a specific folder. MP3 players have pretty much the same situation – in order to play the file the latter must be located in some specific directory. Specialized data recovery tools sometimes can look for those folders where the media files should be.
Disk recovery utilities and programs treat the data on the disks as data files which allows them to correct any errors. Built-in Windows utility CHKDSK treats the flash disk as a usual drive.
If the data on the flash disk is lost, the recovering in this case is pretty much the same as recovering from any other media, except some slight differences. As the data is differently stored many tools can make data flash recovery based on the tasks that are needed to be done. Some utilities and tools can better recover mp3 music files or picture files. Other utilities specifically recover data that was being kept on FAT drives. So if the pictures in the camera were erased accidentally, they can be recovered by these utilities.
Sometimes data recovery is even simpler. If the flash drive got wet under the rain or fell into the lake, it can be still usable but before you must make sure that its fillings are completely dry. Even if the case of flash disk became suddenly broken it can be still usable. Anyway it is good to test the damaged drive by plugging it into the computer. If it is still readable it is recommended to copy all important files from it and then decide what to do with it.