Hard but Not Impossible: How to Recover Data From Your SSD

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The SSD (solid-state drive) is easily the coolest kid on the block – with several laptop and PC manufacturers housing SSD components. And it’s not surprising! We are looking at reducing size, efficient power consumption, and faster data transfer speeds. 

But as SSDs become commoner, more people experience data loss. Unfortunately, SSDs are built differently from regular hard drives, and standard data recovery tools don’t work. So let’s look at how you can retrieve data from a formatted or failed SSD.

Before diving into the actual data recovery process, there’s a critical element to SSD data deletion that you must understand.

Brief on the TRIM Command

The TRIM command “informs” the SSD which data blocks are unneeded and can be earmarked for deletion or overwriting. In other words, TRIM helps the operating system know precisely where the data that you want to move or delete is stored. That way, the SSD can access only the blocks holding data, making it faster.

Consider the analogy of an SSD to a library having many shelves – filled with books.
SSD trim

A word of caution though: Upon deleting data, the TRIM command instantly “zeroes” or wipes out all deleted data – unless you act promptly. In other words, the delete instruction on your computer triggers the TRIM command to clean out the pages or blocks containing the files.

However, if you quickly unplug your SSD right after deleting some files, the TRIM command wouldn’t have enough time to wipe out the paths. As a result, data recovery would still be possible (via a USB connection).

The good news is that the TRIM command can be disabled.

How to Disable TRIM on Your SSD

Disabling TRIM on an NTFS-formatted SSD can be done simply by entering one command in the Command Prompt. 

Step #1: Open the Start menu, type “command prompt,” and select the Run as Administrator option.

Step #2: Type the following command and hit Enter:

fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 1 

trim disabled

If you see the “NTFS DisableDeleteNotify = 1 (Enabled)” messages, then it means (rather confusingly) that TRIM is disabled. 

Step #3: You can always check the current TRIM status by entering the following command: 

fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify 
If you want to enable TRIM, replace 1 with 0 in the command fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify.

How to Recover Data from SSD

While SSD data recovery is slightly tricky, it’s very much possible. We will walk you through some steps to retrieve data from your corrupted SSD.

Bear in mind that this article focuses on SSD recovery. If you’re dealing with a conventional hard drive, you might need to know some things beforehand

Solution #1: Use data recovery software

When attempting data recovery from an SSD, there are certain significant shortcomings like the TRIM command. Nevertheless, you can try to scan the affected drive for file recovery.

There are several data recovery software available, such as EaseUS, Stellar, and Recuva. We have extensively tested all of these, but we consistently found that Disk Drill is a reliable, accurate, and fast service for data recovery. Moreover, it works wonders for all storage systems, including SSDs.

Here’s how to use Disk Drill to recover data from your corrupted SSD:

Step #1: Download and install Disk Drill on your computer.
disk drill setup

Step #2: Connect your SSD to the computer.

Step #3: Launch Disk Drill.

Step #4: Select the disk or partition for recovery from the list presented by Disk Drill. selecting the SSD from Disk drill

Step #5: Click the Search for lost data button to initiate Disk Drill’s scanning algorithms to identify recoverable files. disk drill main screen sd card selectedWe recommend selecting the default All recovery methods for optimum results.

Step #6: Choose the files for recovery. Also, select a storage location for the restored data. Do not select the same SSD as the target destination. selecting files for recovery in Disk Drill

Step #7: Click the Recover button to trigger the data recovery. SDHC Recovery - Step 4

Solution 2: Approach a Data Recovery Service

SSDs are not just extra storage these days, often acting as the primary storage in many modern computers, storing vital data: personal and professional. Unlike flash drives which store data that can be moved quickly, SSDs hold essential and irreplaceable information.

If an SSD failure stops your computer from booting, consult a professional recovery service.

data recovery services

Data recovery services can seem expensive, but they have teams of highly skilled professionals who work with data loss all the time. The best ones are the teams that help make data recovery software, such as Cleverfiles, the team behind Disk Drill.

All you need to do is get in touch with a service provider, who then schedules a free consultation with you and quotes a price. After this, you can ship your drive to them. The experts at the recovery service first clone your drive and then begin the recovery process.

If you approach a reliable service, they will try their best to recover your data. But in the rare case that they can’t, they will return the drive to you at no charge whatsoever.

If you are dealing with the conventional HDD, here’s a great article to get started on external hard drive data recovery.

Is it Possible to Recover Data from a Dead SSD?

Yes. Data can be recovered from dead SSD. 

There are two cases that qualify an SSD as “dead”:

  • When the SSD is detected as a RAW disk storage
  • When the SSD isn’t detected at all by your computer

Both of the above scenarios have different go-to approaches:

Solution #1: Use a Data Recovery Tool

When the SSD appears as a RAW partition on your computer, you can use data recovery tools to create a backup.

With Disk Drill, here’s how you can create a backup of your SSD.
disk drill drive backup

Now, once your backup is ready, follow the same steps (as mentioned earlier) to recover your files. Except – that you must select the new backup file as your primary data source for scanning.

However, note that the above procedure will not work if you try to unerase a file that you have previously deleted on a TRIM-enabled SSD. In such cases, it is advisable to contact a professional data recovery service. 

Solution #2: Contact a Data Recovery Service Center

On the off chance that your SSD isn’t detected, your only course of action is consulting a data recovery center.

A data recovery service center boasts of storage device experts. Here, the failed SSD will be fixed by implementing a manual data recovery service. However, the process is slow as the time taken here could be a week or more. 

Common Indicators of SSD Corruption

Unlike HDDs, there are no physical moving platters in SSDs, so it’s immune from traditional hard disk issues. However, other factors like power and speed fluctuations also indicate signs of corruption:

  • Power Failures – SSDs require a capacitor and power supplies, which are vulnerable to malfunctions: especially in the case of a power surge or a power failure. Furthermore, power failures cause SSDs to corrupt existing data, even if the drive itself hasn’t failed.
    SSD image
  • Limited read/write cycles – The other possible problem with SSDs is that they have limited read/write cycles: an issue with all kinds of flash memory.
    inside view of an SSD disk
  • Extremely slow read/write speeds – This is a pretty self-explanatory indicator for SSD corruption. If you witness unusually slow read/write speeds, chances are you are dealing with a corrupted or deteriorating SSD.

All that being said, SSDs should last many years on average, so you shouldn’t worry or be paranoid. If you bought an SSD in the last couple of years, research has shown that new SSDs are less susceptible to these read/write problems.

Either way, the read/write cycle will affect whether you can write to your SSD. Since you’ll still be able to read your data, it can all be retrieved. However, you’ll still want to know when it is nearing the end of its life so that you can upgrade.

Other indicators of SSD corruption

Here are some easy to spot tell-tale signs that your SSD might be corrupted:

Errors Involving Bad Blocks

Much like “bad sectors” on HDDs, there are “bad blocks” on SSDs. We are typically looking at a scenario where the computer attempts to read or save a file, but it takes an unusually long time and fails. The system eventually gives up with an error message.

The common symptoms of bad blocks are:

    1. 📚 A file cannot be read or written to the SSD.
    2. 🛠️ Your PC/file system needs repair.
    3. 🧊 Active applications often freeze up and crash.
    4. ❌Frequent errors while moving files.
    5. 🐢 SSD generally running slow, especially while accessing large files.

If you encounter any such alert, try out Disk Drill’s native smart monitoring tool – which also proactively notifies you of any possible disk failure.

If you notice SSD corruption, then back up your files right away and start shopping for a replacement SSD.


disk drill smart tool

Files Cannot Be Read or Written

There are two ways in which a bad block can affect your files:

  1. The system detects the bad block while writing data to the drive and thus refuses to write data.

    In such a scenario, your data was never written, so it isn’t corrupted. Usually, the system will resolve it automatically. If it doesn’t, you can fix this by attempting to save the file in a different location or by copying it to the cloud, restarting your computer, and then saving it back to your drive.

  2. The system detects the bad block after the data has been written and refuses to read that data.

    Unfortunately, you can’t easily retrieve your data if this happens. You can try some methods to recover data from a failed SSD, but don’t get your hopes up. Bad blocks usually mean that whatever data contained on those blocks is lost for good.

The File System Needs Repair

Ever seen an error message like this pop up on your screen, on either Windows or macOS? Sometimes this can happen simply because of not shutting down your computer correctly. However, other times, it can indicate that your SSD is developing bad blocks or a problem in the connector port.

Thankfully, the resolution is easy. Windows, macOS, and Linux come with built-in repair tools for a corrupt file system. Upon encountering such errors, each OS prompts you to run their respective native tool.

There is a chance of losing some data in this process, and recovering it might be not easy. It’s yet another good reason to back up all your files periodically.
File System Needs Repair

Frequent Crashes During Boot

If your PC crashes during the boot process but works fine after hitting the reset button a couple of times, then your drive is likely to blame. It might be a bad block or the sign of a dying drive, so it’s best to back up your data before you lose any of it.

To test whether it’s the drive that’s problematic, download and run one of the aforementioned diagnostic tools. If you have backed up your data, you can also try formatting your drive and reinstalling the OS.
windows restart alert message

Your Drive Becomes Read-Only

It’s not that common, but some users have experienced this one. Your SSD might refuse to let you perform any operations that require it to write data to disk. However, it can still work in read-only mode. The drive appears dead for all intents and purposes, but surprise, you can still recover your data!
SSD read only error

Before you throw away an SSD suspected of failure, try connecting it as an external hard drive or a secondary hard drive to another computer. Make sure you don’t boot the operating system from the SSD; you need to use the computer’s main drive for that.

If the SSD is still functioning in read-only mode, you can retrieve all your files before securely erasing the SSD.

FAQ

Conclusion

To sum it up, SSD data recovery is challenging but not impossible. The most important thing to remember is to stop using your device, which houses the affected SSD. After that, the only concern is whether your SSD has TRIM enabled and the type of data loss you have experienced. In most cases, data recovery software will be able to restore your lost files.

Jeff Cochin is a data management and recovery professional, who has been with 7datarecovery for nine years and has always been an essential part of the team. Jeff also works as a technical writer at Macgasm, being a first hand in testing, trying and writing about big and small tech software.
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Strong knowledge in data recovery, computer forensic and data litigation. 12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.