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Solid-State Drive (SSD) Data Recovery: Are My Files Lost Forever?

July 30, 2021

Several M.2 SSDs

Solid-state drives offer significantly faster read/write speeds than hard drives, and they’re less susceptible to physical damage. Dropping a hard drive can cause extensive damage to the read/write heads and other moving parts, but a solid-state drive has much fewer sensitive components (though we still wouldn’t recommend dropping an SSD).

However, flash-based SSDs aren’t perfect, and they’re not necessarily more reliable than hard drives. Electrical damage, file corruption, and firmware issues can prevent normal access — if you don’t have a backup, you’ll need a professional data recovery team to restore your files to a usable condition.

How SSD Data Recovery Differs from Hard Drive Data Recovery

The data recovery process for SSD is much different than the process for hard drives. Most hard drives fail due to physical damage; our engineers can repair and replace the damaged components in a Class 4 cleanroom, then regain access to the files. While that’s an oversimplification of the data recovery process, the vast majority of hard drive data recovery cases are successful.

SSD data recovery presents additional challenges. Our laboratory invests in research & development to address these issues, and we maintain industry-leading success rates for solid-state media. Even so, SSD cases have unique characteristics that need to be considered.

Some of the challenges of SSD data recovery:

  • When the drive’s firmware is significantly corrupted, it becomes inaccessible with standard tools. In other words, a computer owner can’t simply plug the SSD into another computer to access the data — the drive has lost that capability, and the firmware will need to be rewritten with specialized hardware. Most data recovery firms don’t have access to this hardware, and even with the appropriate tools, data recovery can be difficult and time-consuming.
  • SSDs use a “garbage collection” process, which we explain extensively on this page. Essentially, garbage collection allows the SSD to identify blocks of data that are not in use; in normal conditions, this significantly improves read/write speeds and makes the drive more reliable. However, when a drive has extensive corruption, the garbage collection process may overwrite data.
  • File deletion is different for solid-state drives and hard drives. SSDs that use a TRIM command (the aforementioned garbage collection process) immediately overwrite deleted files.
  • Many SSDs are encrypted by default. Encryption can prevent data recovery engineers from restoring data in a usable format, though this isn’t necessarily true for all forms of encryption.
  • SSDs vary in quality. Drives created by major manufacturers have an established architecture, but “off-brand” SSDs may use unusual techniques for data storage that heighten the chances of failure or data loss.

If your SSD fails, we recommend taking immediate action to optimize the chances of a successful recovery. While recovery outcomes vary based on the source of the failure, an experienced data recovery firm can often restore the files to an accessible state. SSD data recovery isn’t impossible — it simply requires a high level of specialization.

Steps to Take After Losing Data on an SSD

We strongly recommend keeping at least three separate backups of important files. If you’re reading this page, however, you’ve likely lost data from a solid-state drive. The good news: The data isn’t necessarily gone forever, but you’ll need to take immediate action to maximize the chances of a successful recovery. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Do not attempt to run software on the failed SSD.

Many consumer-available data recovery programs are designed for hard drives, which store data in a fundamentally different way. Even when software is designed for SSD technology, the program will be limited by the drive’s accessibility. If you’re not sure why you’ve lost data, running software will put your data at risk.

Turn the SSD off — and keep it off.

Starting up your SSD will engage its garbage collection process, which could target real data. We recommend disconnecting the power source from the device as soon as data loss is detected, regardless of whether the drive seems functional. It is not necessary to shut off the device via your computer’s shutdown menu; disconnect the drive as quickly as possible or unplug the computer from the wall.

Take appropriate precautions when handling your SSD.

Make sure you’re electrically grounded before touching the device. Check that the computer is unplugged (and, for laptops, the battery is unplugged) before touching an internal drive — that’s a good practice for handling any sensitive electronic components.

External SSDs should be packed in appropriate shock-resistant packaging (3-5 inches of bubblewrap is generally sufficient). Internal SSDs should be placed in antistatic bags, then packed in shock-resistant packaging.

If the data is critically important, find a data recovery company with SSD experience.

SSD data recovery is a relatively new field. Engineers need extensive knowledge of solid-state media to attempt recovery safely. Running a logical solution (such as data recovery software) on an SSD carries significant risks, and data corruption can render an SSD permanently unrecoverable. offers SSD recovery services with industry-leading success rates. Our laboratories have dedicated equipment for solid-state media from every manufacturer, and we use non-destructive methods to maintain the integrity of your data throughout the recovery process. If you’ve lost data from an SSD, contact us at 1-800-237-4200 or click here to get a free quote.