Data Recovery from Samsung T5 and T7 portable SSD drives

Samsung’s exit from the electro-mechanical hard disk market in 2011 shocked a lot of people in the data storage world. Among OEMs, professional users and prosumers, their Spinpoint line-up of disks had developed an enviable reputation for performance and reliability. And while Samsung might not have enjoyed the market share of Seagate or Western Digital – their exit showed that nothing is predictable in the land of hard drives.  

Samsung would continue to churn out disks, but only of the solid-state variety. One year preceding their exit from the mechanical disk market the Korean electronics giant launched their 830 series of SSD shortly followed by the 840 series a year later. The latter series of disks was trail blazing because it allowed Samsung to prove to the mainstream market that 3-bit MLC NAND could offer reliability, stability and high-performance in solid state disks.

The pioneering spirit of Samsung did not stop with the type of NAND they used. In 2015, they introduced their T1 credit-card sized external SSDs. They were one of the first large scale disk manufacturers to offer a miniature SSD portable storage offering. The sleek T1 (using an MGX controller) could be easily slipped in a pocket and proved that not all external disks had to be mechanical and could even be quite elegant devices.

A Samsung T5 SSD

In 2017, Samsung launched their T5 external disk (models such as MU-PA250B, MU-PA500B, MU-PA1T0B and MU-PA2T0B) in capacities of 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB. These disks used 64-layer V-NAND, a USB 3.1 type-C port and used metal casing which doubled as a heat-sink. Not only that, but unusually for an external SSD, it supported TRIM. (This was enabled by a UASP compatible bridge board). In 2020, we saw the introduction of their T7 portable disk such as MU-PC500R, Mu-PC1TOR and MU-PC2TOT. This 128-layer 3D TLC NAND disk (using a “lite” version of their Pablo controller) would be their first NVMe-based external disk and offered blistering sequential read and write speeds of over 1000 Mbps.

As innovative as the Samsung T-series external SSDs are. They are not without their issues. Their MGX and Pablo controllers can lock-up, their firmware can degrade, the bootloader can fail and their NAND cells can develop unrecoverable bit-errors. And, like with any disk, partition tables (exFAT, HFS+) can go corrupt or disappear.

Common symptoms of a failed Samsung T5 or T7 external SSD.

  • When you connect your Samsung T5 or T7 to a Windows system, you receive a message that “the parameter is incorrect”
  • You receive a message in Samsung Magician that “No Samsung portable SSD is connected”
  • Your Samsung T5 or T7 appears as “unformatted” in Windows.
  • Your Samsung T5 or T7 do not appear in Finder.
  • Your Samsung T5 or T7 do not appear in Windows Explorer.
  • The blue light of your T5 or T7 is flashing or blinking, but no data appears.
  • The light of your T5 or T7 is solid blue, but the disk is not recognised by your computer.

Why your Samsung T5 or T7 is no longer recognised by your computer…

  • The bootloader in your Samsung SSD might have gone corrupt. The bootloader is a set of instructional microcode used to load firmware when your disk initialises.  
  • Your external disk might have been subject to an over-voltage event. For example, the host computer might have experienced a power surge and your Samsung T5 or T7 got subjected to too much voltage via one of its USB ports. The voltage rating for your Samsung disk is 5V. Any voltage in excess of this can damage it.
  • That partition table of your disk might have become corrupt. ExFat is the factory default partitioning scheme of the T5 and T7. However, some users will reformat this partition type to NTFS, APFS or HFS+. These file systems can go corrupt due to firmware problems or if your disk has been filled to capacity. These events can result in your drive not being recognised by your computer.  
  • It’s possible that the Flash Translation Layer (or translator) of your T5 or T7 disk has failed. The FTL performs the crucial task of translating the logical sectors on your disk to physical addresses. It acts like the index of a book for your disk, but when it fails your data will be inaccessible.  
A Samsung T7 – James Joyce is quoted as saying “Dublin will be written in my heart”, Samsung can claim Dublin is written on their portable SSDs…

There are several possible reasons why your Samsung T5 or T7 portable disk is no longer recognised by Windows 10/11 or MacOS.

How to recover data from your Samsung T5 or T7 portable SSD.

Important note: You might see a message in Windows such as “You need to format the disk in drive E: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?”. Under no circumstances should you click on “format disk” as this can result in irreversible data loss”

Try a Different Cable

Sometimes cables or their connectors can get damaged. Try using a different USB Type-C to C, cable or a USB Type-C to A cable.

Try a Different USB Port

Try using a different USB host port on your computer. Better still, try accessing the data of your T5 or T7 using another computer. It is important to connect your disk directly to your computer. Do not connect your T5 or T7 disk using a USB hub can add another layer of abstraction and can sometimes thwart any data recovery efforts.

Make sure your T5 or T7 disk has been assigned a drive letter

If you’re a Windows user, check Disk Management (Control Panel>Computer Management>Disk Management) to verify that your disk has been assigned a drive letter. If not, assign a letter to your disk.

Mac Users – try running First aid on your T5 or T7 disk.

If your Samsung T5 or T7 SSD drive does not appear in Finder, try running First Aid on your disk. This feature can be found in the Disk Utility settings of your Mac and can sometimes repair small issues with your disk’s file system. If this does not work, you can try using a “fsck” command via Terminal.  

Advanced Samsung T5 and T7 data recovery strategies

 If you suspect your T5 or T7 disk has a locked controller, a professional data recovery firm should be able to put your disk into “technological mode” to read its data.

If your disk’s Flash Translation Layer has failed or gone corrupt, a data recovery professional will have to use a firmware emulator to read the disk’s data.

Drive Rescue, Dublin is based in Dublin, Ireland. We offer a complete data recovery service for Samsung SSDs such as the T5 and T7. We also recover from mechanical Samsung disks such as the Samsung M3, Samsung ST1000LM024 and ST2000LM003.