Dongle died: deeply desire data
May 6, 2006 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Anything I can do about my dead dongle?

I have a 256 MB Lexar JumpDrive that I took off my keychain a few months ago since I would probably get arrested if I brought it into my place of work. It's been on my desk since. Now, it worked last time I used it, but when I went to play with it last night, it was dead. I don't mean "the computer was having problems reading it consistently," I mean "I might as well have been stuffing chewing gum into my USB port."

I've seen little apps intended to make USB drives bootable, and all that good stuff, but that's not much good if I already have material on there I want to get off of it, not reformat and overwrite. I've googled around a fair bit at this point, and I'm not having a whit of luck with the "hey, try this" recommendations I've found thus far. Any other suggestions?
posted by Emperor SnooKloze to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
What operating system? If it's windows, does the drive even show up in the device manager when you plug it in? Do other devices work when plugged into the same USB port?
posted by Good Brain at 11:09 AM on May 6, 2006

Response by poster: Sorry. WinXP. No on the device manager (ref: chewing gum), and yes, the port is fine. Wife's laptop (also running XP) doesn't see it either.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:39 AM on May 6, 2006

I work for the IT department at Nazareth College. A professor brought in a jumpdrive that her husband had backed into with a chair. It was all cracked internally and really f&*ked up. I removed the circuitry from the plastic casing, and plugged it into a USB hub (the lights that go on when a device is plugged in really help for troubleshooting). Then, I wiggled and jiggled the circuitry and shorted out the memory chip with my wet finger. It sounds dangerous, but its only a few volts. Lo and behold, the drive started working. I'm not sure exactly what it was that I did that made it work again, but it worked. The downside is that the drive won't be usable afterward, but it will let you get the data off. Maybe another MeFiIte will have a better and safer idea, but I know this works as a last resort.
posted by fvox13 at 11:43 AM on May 6, 2006

Yeah, it's bricked.

So, now it's time to decide how much the data on that drive is worth to you. You can call Iomega Data Recovery services, and they'll recover it for an average of $600 or so.

Or, you can spend less money (but still some money) and do the following:

Buy a brand-new, still-in-the-packaging drive of the identical manufacturer and model. Better yet, buy three.

Open up one of the new ones, find the memory chip, and remove it from the PCB. You must practice removing a chip and putting that chip on a different board with the two spares you bought. (I hope you or your friend is really, really good with a soldering iron.)

Now open up your old one, and remove the memory chip in such a way that it will be possible to put that chip on a surrogate board.

Put the chip on one of the new surrogate boards with that board's chip already removed.

Plug it in to a USB port. Move the data off immediately.

I've done this successfully for a client who didn't care how much it would cost. My bill for parts and labor came to around $300.

All of his data was successfully retrieved.
posted by SlyBevel at 11:44 AM on May 6, 2006

Sorry, I wrote that in a hurry.

Anyway, if you use an extremely sharp razor blade, you can remove the new chip on the intended surrogate board as close to the chip itself as possible, leaving lots of wire to work with still attached to the board.

On the b0rked board, remove the chip cutting the wires as far away from the chip as possible, leaving as much wire still attached to the chip to work with as possible. DO THIS LAST, because this one you don't want to screw up.

I had my wife take tweezers, a very fine knife blade, and a magnifying glass to gently straighten each pin so that it would match the contacts on the board. I also had her bend each one down very slightly so that we could push the chip down on the board and have all wires make contact in a spring-like fashion.

She broke one lead in the positioning process, so we used conductive paint to make that connection after we got the chip properly positioned on the surrogate board and clamped down.

I had a USB 2.0 hub connected and standing by, so I plugged it right in, pulled the files off, and Bob's your uncle.

So technically, you don't need any soldering skills at all. But if I'd had a reflow oven, or any SMT gear at all, it would have been an easier process.

I think I've got a photo here somewhere...
posted by SlyBevel at 12:03 PM on May 6, 2006

Colloquially, my 256MB Lexar did the same thing. Three times. The first time, I was able to wipe it clean and keep using it; the second time, I sent it back to Lexar, which fixed and sent it back, but without the data, despite a promise that they'd try and preserve it; the third time I threw it in a drawer and switched to SanDisk.

Best answer I can give you is to send it back to them for repair.
posted by werty at 2:12 PM on May 6, 2006

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