Data recovery from inaccessible Sandisk Cruzer USB memory stick

Data recovery from inaccessible Sandisk Cruzer USB memory stick Data Recovery Ireland

The SanDisk Cruzer Blade is a popular model of USB 2.0 memory stick on the Irish market. It uses a monolith NAND (usually TSOP48) TLC chip and an in-house controller designed by SanDisk. The Cruzer Blade range comes in capacities of 8GB (SDCZ50-008G),16GB (SDCZ50-016G), 32GB (sdcz50-032g) ,64GB (sdcz50-064g) and 128GB (sdcz50-128g).

However, like with any USB memory device, it is liable to corruption and events where your data is rendered inaccessible. For example, when you connect your Cruzer USB disk to your computer, you may receive an error message such as:

  • “You need to format the disk in drive E: before you can use it”.
  • “USB device not recognised”
  • The “parameter is incorrect”

Alternatively, your SanDisk Cruzer memory stick may appear to be totally dead when connected to your laptop or desktop computer.

Reasons why SanDisk Cruzer Blade USB devices fail.
There are several reasons why your memory stick may fail to be recognised in Windows or on MacOS
These include:

  • Its bootloader has failed. The bootloader is the microcode code needed for your memory stick to initialize. When this fails to load, your disk becomes unrecognisable.
  • There are two main components of a USB flash drive – the NAND chip (where your data is stored) and the controller chip. The controller chip is like the brain of your memory stick. It controls the read, write and erase processes. It also controls processes such as Error Correction Control (ECC) and wear-levelling. If your controller goes corrupt, the data on your stick may become inaccessible.
  • The NAND cells on your SanDisk Cruzer Blade may have degraded or have developed uncorrectable bit errors.
    The partition table (FAT32, NTFS, exFAT or HFS) on your Cruzer Blade USB stick may have gone corrupt.
    Your SanDisk USB device might have been subject to an over-voltage event. This can occur if a USB port such as on your computer, smart TV or NVR delivered too much voltage to your disk and caused damage to a component such as a diode or resistor.

Recovering Data from your SanDisk Cruzer USB memory stick.

Make sure your Cruzer USB memory stick is assigned a drive letter in Windows. You can check this by going into Disk Management (Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk Management)

Try using another computer. It is always possible that a glitch on your Windows or MacOS computer is preventing your Cruzer USB stick from being read.

Connect your memory stick directly to your computer. Do not use a USB hub as an interface between your computer and your USB memory stick. This is because a USB hub can sometimes create device recognition issues.

Data recovery from inaccessible Sandisk Cruzer USB memory stick Data Recovery Ireland

Mini SanDisk Cruzer Blade Data Recovery Case Study

We recently had a case where an employee of a Dublin-based investment company had a problem with their 8GB SanDisk USB Cruzer drive (SDCZ50C-008G). When they connected it to their Windows computer system, it would not appear in Windows Explorer. They had an extensive collection of research reports (PDF) and financial projections (Excel) stored on it which they badly needed to retrieve. The device was encrypted with McAfee Endpoint Encryption for Removable Media. They had assumed this encryption software was causing the issue. However, their IT support department examined their Cruzer USB disk and discovered that the device was not being recognised by any of their systems. They recommended Drive Rescue.  

Data recovery from inaccessible Sandisk Cruzer USB memory stick Data Recovery Ireland

We connected the inaccessible disk to one of our data recovery systems designed to read flash-based storage at a very low-level. We performed a test read. However, after being connected for less than five minutes, we discovered that the USB drive had already disconnected! This was not looking good. A look at our system’s log files showed that the device had disconnected (virtually) from our systems after only 3.49 minutes. We surmised that, even though the disk was being read at a very low level, our recovery system was dropping the disk because of too many read instability issues. In order to circumvent this problem, we would have to use a second tool in our armoury to maintain the connection between our recovery system and the failing Cruzer disk. This specialised USB reader is designed especially for reading data from failing USB devices. It uses an Arm processor, which acts as an intermediary between the recovery system and problem disk. When the disk, is no longer interfacing directly with the operating system, we can control read-timeouts and disk-reinitialise parameters. In this particular case, the Cruzer USB had multiple unreadable NAND cells. So, we changed the read time-out to 10000 milliseconds and then controlled the disk initialisation rate when our equipment encountered bad cells. Our data recovery systems were now able to read the data in a much more stable and predictable way.

Successful Recovery: All files recovered.

After about seven hours on our bench, the 8GB Cruzer disk finally imaged to an SSD. Connecting the SSD to a standard Windows 10 workstation system presented us with a dialogue box requesting an encryption key. A very welcome sight! The client provided us with their McAfee Encryption key. This granted us access to the drive’s data immediately. Our client could now be reunited with their data again. The prospect of having to re-do hours and hours of painstaking work was now over!