Author Topic: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?  (Read 1512 times)

wenchsenior

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Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« on: June 14, 2019, 07:58:10 AM »
Boy, I'm just full of questions this week!

So, our kitten rambunctiously rammed into the side of my laptop that was holding my thumb drive, and bent it about 20 degrees, which killed it.

I really need some info off this drive, which wasn't backed up (I KNOW, I KNOW...my main laptop is backed up weekly, but stupidly not this...)

There were no loose components audible. I took it to a local diagnostics shop and they just emailed and said they couldn't retrieve anything b/c of structural repair needed.

I assume, though haven't yet confirmed, that the bend separated the connecting thingamies from the little board holding the actual chip components and need to be re-attached in order to access anything.

The computer guy said it would likely be 1,000$ or more to repair at a specialty shop.  Best Buy website seems to indicate this also for structural repairs of any kind...prices starting around 1,000$.

I know very little about computers.  Is this really the best price estimate I'm likely to get? 

(Ugh, this has been an unbelievably un-mustachian month...2 major appliances died, 2 major vet bills, and now this...)


sol

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2019, 08:13:04 AM »
Most modern USB drives are must microSD cards inside of little cases with a plug on them.  For about $6 you can buy a microSD card reader that looks like a USB drive and plugs into a USB port, but has a little slot in the back for putting the card into.  Then you could conceivable take apart your current USB drive and remove the card, and then put it into the card reader.  The USB drive itself would be ruined, but at least you'd get access to all of the data off of it.

At this point, what do you have to lose?  Is the data on the drive really worth $1000?

thesis

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2019, 08:31:27 AM »
How much would it cost you to repair your thumb drive?

...an arm and a leg. ;)

dcheesi

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2019, 08:34:57 AM »
This is a full size USB connector (USB A), right? I can't imagine that the pins would be that hard to re-solder, to where it would cost a thousand bucks?!? Maybe find a techie friend who'll give you a second opinion?

wenchsenior

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2019, 08:54:38 AM »
1,000$ is the bottom end of what I've been quoted. It really is astonishing. The place in CA that the shop is recommending I send it is used by Apple and other big companies, and looking at reviews it appears they do a great job, but reviewers are quoting prices as high as 2K for a broken stem connection.  Seems like gouging to me, as well.  I really want the data, but not THAT much.


lefty

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2019, 10:08:09 AM »
I ran into the same problem.
Used wires and soldered the pins on the drive to them. Found instructions on YouTube. Patience and a steady hand is required.

FWIW, I was quoted $7k to get this repaired. Lol!

sol

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2019, 11:22:20 AM »
I ran into the same problem.
Used wires and soldered the pins on the drive to them. Found instructions on YouTube. Patience and a steady hand is required.

FWIW, I was quoted $7k to get this repaired. Lol!

If you're going to try soldering, you had better know what you're doing.  Applying heat to memory chips can fry them in a hurry.  I'm guessing that the professional repair places are using some kind of cold chemical solder to make these repairs.  Which is also something you can do on your own with a little youtube tutorial practice, just think twice before you fire up your 60W iron with the big blunt tip.

lefty

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2019, 11:25:45 AM »
I ran into the same problem.
Used wires and soldered the pins on the drive to them. Found instructions on YouTube. Patience and a steady hand is required.

FWIW, I was quoted $7k to get this repaired. Lol!

If you're going to try soldering, you had better know what you're doing.  Applying heat to memory chips can fry them in a hurry.  I'm guessing that the professional repair places are using some kind of cold chemical solder to make these repairs.  Which is also something you can do on your own with a little youtube tutorial practice, just think twice before you fire up your 60W iron with the big blunt tip.
True story.

Syonyk

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2019, 12:10:07 PM »
A USB drive with important data is not a "first time soldering project" repair.  You stand a good chance of doing more damage, especially if you don't have any good soldering tools.

For board/connector level repair like this, you're looking at (ideally) just putting a new connection on, but perhaps dealing with some board level repair as well if the traces have cracked.  It's doable, but it's not a "Hey, let's learn to solder!" project.

In extreme cases, you might actually need to transfer the components to another board - it depends on what the damage is and how easy it is to work around the damage.

There's no reason to bother with cold solder - you can safely solder components with the proper equipment and temperature regulation.  Pretty much all spec sheets have a "safe operating temperature" range and a "soldering temperature range" that covers how you can heat it up for soldering.  You don't want to operate it there (also, you'll melt it off the board), but they're not particularly fragile.

All that said, if you don't have a low level expert locally who can do surface mount soldering and work, I'd be happy to take a stab at it.  I can't guarantee anything without seeing the hardware, but if it's relatively straightforward damage, I can work around it and should be able to get the data off.  I don't have a discrete chip reader or anything, so I'd be using the existing board if it's repairable.

Do you have a way to disassemble the case and get high res macro shots of the damaged areas?

... also, sol, no, most USB drives are not uSD cards in a reader.  I've been inside quite a few, and they're almost universally surface mount hardware - possibly two separate dies for the controller and the memory, sometimes a single combined die.

wenchsenior

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2019, 12:16:25 PM »
A USB drive with important data is not a "first time soldering project" repair.  You stand a good chance of doing more damage, especially if you don't have any good soldering tools.

For board/connector level repair like this, you're looking at (ideally) just putting a new connection on, but perhaps dealing with some board level repair as well if the traces have cracked.  It's doable, but it's not a "Hey, let's learn to solder!" project.

In extreme cases, you might actually need to transfer the components to another board - it depends on what the damage is and how easy it is to work around the damage.

There's no reason to bother with cold solder - you can safely solder components with the proper equipment and temperature regulation.  Pretty much all spec sheets have a "safe operating temperature" range and a "soldering temperature range" that covers how you can heat it up for soldering.  You don't want to operate it there (also, you'll melt it off the board), but they're not particularly fragile.

All that said, if you don't have a low level expert locally who can do surface mount soldering and work, I'd be happy to take a stab at it.  I can't guarantee anything without seeing the hardware, but if it's relatively straightforward damage, I can work around it and should be able to get the data off.  I don't have a discrete chip reader or anything, so I'd be using the existing board if it's repairable.

Do you have a way to disassemble the case and get high res macro shots of the damaged areas?

... also, sol, no, most USB drives are not uSD cards in a reader.  I've been inside quite a few, and they're almost universally surface mount hardware - possibly two separate dies for the controller and the memory, sometimes a single combined die.

I'll get back to you. I have to pick up the thumb drive this afternoon and will try to get more info from the tech guy.

wenchsenior

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2019, 12:20:07 PM »
I ran into the same problem.
Used wires and soldered the pins on the drive to them. Found instructions on YouTube. Patience and a steady hand is required.

FWIW, I was quoted $7k to get this repaired. Lol!

If you're going to try soldering, you had better know what you're doing.  Applying heat to memory chips can fry them in a hurry.  I'm guessing that the professional repair places are using some kind of cold chemical solder to make these repairs.  Which is also something you can do on your own with a little youtube tutorial practice, just think twice before you fire up your 60W iron with the big blunt tip.

I've had John Wick 3 on the brain all week, and this comment made me laugh b/c I thought: Hey, I bet John Wick could kill someone with a soldering iron!


nightzephyr

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2019, 10:33:05 AM »
This probably won't work, but I think a 0.1% chance of saving $1000 is worth crossing your fingers and giving it a try. I got lucky with this technique after knocking my thumb drive on a door frame while walking with laptop in hand.

Stick the thumb drive in, just like normal. Slowly and gently bend the thumb drive up, down, and to each side while it's inserted. Hold for a minute or so in each position and see if you can get just enough of a flicker of life for the computer to recognize the drive. (Then pull off the files you need and back them up, pronto!)

Syonyk

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2019, 11:18:11 AM »
I think that's a terrible idea if one is considering sending it somewhere for repair.

You're far more likely to break it further and increase the complexity of the repair and reduce the success of the repair.

secondcor521

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2019, 11:55:01 AM »
Almost certainly the leads from the connector were broken.

Almost certainly your data is safe and sound, just currently unavailable.

I'd try to find someone who is good at soldering to see if they can de-solder and re-solder the connector.  If they are good, they won't damage the other chips on the board.  It is a job that should take 15 minutes and should cost $20 or a pizza.  No <bleepin'> way it should cost $7K or even $1K.

The data is stored in the memory chips and they are furthest away from the connector.  The controller should be between the memory and the connector.

In theory, even if heat damaged the controller when attempting to fix the connector, you could de-solder the memory chip(s) and re-solder them onto a replacement thumb drive of the same model with a working connector.  Although this would likely be much harder.  (USB connectors should just have four leads and they're large enough to be visible and can be worked on by hand; memory chips are typically some variant of BGA now, and there are maybe 32 or more balls and they're tiny.)

wenchsenior

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2019, 12:11:06 PM »
Ok, further update.  Apparently, according to the tech guy, there's nothing wrong (visibly) with the connector. But the drive is dead and the tech guy said there is a tiny bit of visible damage to the circuits themselves, which looked like water damage to him. 

It's not water damage, unless somehow rampaging kittens magically excrete water as they crash into things. So all I can figure is something about the sudden bending of the connector caused a power surge into the thumb drive and fried something.

I'm screwed, right? I'm going to need to pay for circuit repair if I want this data...

secondcor521

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2019, 12:26:32 PM »
I don't think the tech guy knows what he's talking about.  Water (which as you note isn't excreted by rampaging kittens, haha), generally won't damage a thumb drive.  Unless you soak it in water, which people just don't do.

Bending the connector is extremely extremely unlikely to cause any electrical problem.  The power is supplied by your computer, and it wouldn't increase the power for any reason within the realm of probability.  You could maybe maybe maybe cause a short, but (a) the power and ground are on opposite sides of the connector, so to get them to touch would be very unlikely, and (b) even if they did connect, it's probable that there is some sort of circuitry on the USB thumb drive that would protect the downstream chips from a power surge.  Electrical engineers and board designers are very smart people and they've seen fried electronics before, so they design against that very obvious concern and they're very very good about preventing it.

The only way I can imagine a short is if the kitten was wielding something that was conductive, like a paper clip.  Unlikely.

Maybe what the guy is talking about is if you did get a short and popped a capacitor or something, then you'd have to have the capacitor replaced.  Again, $20 and someone who knows how to solder, plus a replacement cap with the right specs has a decent chance of getting it working again.

Thought:  Call the manufacturer of your thumb drive (Kingston, PNY, whomever) and see if they have any recommendations.  They likely won't offer to repair it for you themselves as they don't want the liability.  Or just ask around your circle of acquaintances for someone who knows how to solder electronics.

Syonyk

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2019, 03:05:33 PM »
Ok, further update.  Apparently, according to the tech guy, there's nothing wrong (visibly) with the connector. But the drive is dead and the tech guy said there is a tiny bit of visible damage to the circuits themselves, which looked like water damage to him.

Said person has... how much experience with board level repair?  If it's a store level tech, they don't know anything as a general rule of thumb.

Quote
I'm screwed, right? I'm going to need to pay for circuit repair if I want this data...

Sounds like it.  You're going to have to pay someone to attempt to bypass the failed connector/traces and get things online.

Sibley

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2019, 06:19:01 PM »
How badly do you need this data? What's the consequence if the data is gone?

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2019, 07:16:20 PM »
I've done the exact same thing MANY times. Apparently, you just need the same kind of thumb drive and someone who knows what to do, and you can transfer data from one to the other. I don't know how it works, I take it into a local computer store, one of those small, standalone organisations where the owner works in the store. They always know how to fix this kind of stuff. The big chains have no idea what I'm talking about, what they're talking about, and they charge like wounded bulls.

Syonyk

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #19 on: June 15, 2019, 07:36:59 PM »
Good luck finding even small shops that are skilled in surface mount rework.  Nobody does that anymore for system repair...

SemiChemE

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #20 on: June 15, 2019, 08:14:45 PM »
Fifteen or twenty years ago, this would have been an easy repair for anyone skilled with a soldering iron.  However, these days with bump solder, BGA's and other surface mount technology, circuit board traces have shrunk to such a level that any repair work is quite challenging.  If it's only the USB connection that failed, you might have a chance re-soldering a connection.  However, if the circuit board itself was damaged, fixing it is a long shot. And if a chip has failed, forget about it.

I've taken a stab at repairing some similar failures over the past few years with limited success.  I did get lucky repairing one of those blue-tooth OBD2 scanners when the wireless module popped off, but fixing an old Kindle mini-USB connector ended in failure. I'd guess, even a skilled small shop would only have a 50% success rate.  A reliable repair is going to require some specialized equipment, which explains the >$1K price tag.

Good Luck!

Syonyk

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #21 on: June 16, 2019, 08:16:19 PM »
However, these days with bump solder, BGA's and other surface mount technology, circuit board traces have shrunk to such a level that any repair work is quite challenging.  If it's only the USB connection that failed, you might have a chance re-soldering a connection.  However, if the circuit board itself was damaged, fixing it is a long shot. And if a chip has failed, forget about it.

Repair work can be challenging, but usually falls into a few categories - and, here, the goal isn't to totally repair the drive, it's to recover data.

In general, BGA chips fail in a pretty consistent manner - the solder bumps crack.  If the goal is to get them to function again, at least for a period of time, you mask off the rest of the board and hit them with a hot air rework station.  Or put the boards in the oven/use a heat gun/etc.  The XBox "Red Ring of Death" repairs tend to fall into this category, as do the old nVidia 8600M failures.

Fortunately, most cheap hardware like USB sticks doesn't bother with BGA ICs - they're typically standard SMD technology, with fairly wide pin pitches.  You can run small jumpers to them and bypass failed bits of the board if needed.  You're not going to pull that off with a cheapo Radio Shack woodburner iron (though I know a few people who probably could), but a good soldering station and magnification makes it pretty straightforward.

But in the context of this thread, it's almost certainly a failed USB connector.  The drive got smacked, the plug bent, and it doesn't work.  The goal is data recovery.  The damage is quite likely limited to the connector, the solder pads, and the immediate traces.  It's not (that) hard to put some 24/26 AWG jumpers to the next point of connection on the board to restore the power/data lines.  Use another connector, recover the data, and then toss the remains.  It's 95% likely to be that simple, 5% "... woah.  Yeah.  This is seriously fragged..."

secondcor521

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #22 on: June 16, 2019, 09:20:13 PM »
I agree with @Syonyk.  But I think the biggest problem for the OP is finding someone who can do the work and know that they've picked a good person.

I happen to work for several high tech companies here where a lot of those kinds of people exist and I could ask them to do stuff like this.  If you don't have those resources or don't know those people, it could be tough.

It'd be more likely that OP would encounter someone who was willing to claim they could fix it and not have the needed skills and try anyway, then maybe make things worse.  (Although if a person is careful I can't imagine them damaging a broken USB connector or the rest of the thumb drive any more while trying to fix it.)

OP, are there any local high tech companies that manufacture or repair anything with circuit boards in it?  That'd be your best bet I would think.

Syonyk

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #23 on: June 16, 2019, 09:35:46 PM »
But I think the biggest problem for the OP is finding someone who can do the work and know that they've picked a good person.

I've offered. ;)

https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2017/03/fixing-fake-ftdi-ft232rl-adapters-ssop.html

https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2018/04/on-art-of-repair-re-capacitoring-old-mainboards.html

And an awful lot of microUSB ports replaced and other such work.  I'll either be able to rapidly identify the break and bypass it, or I'll be able to tell it's over my head and ship it back free of charge...

Though I'd rather see high res macro photos first. :)

Quote
I happen to work for several high tech companies here where a lot of those kinds of people exist and I could ask them to do stuff like this.  If you don't have those resources or don't know those people, it could be tough.

They're hard to find outside those circles.  You actually live somewhat near me... PM inbound, off topic.

YYK

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Re: Cost to repair dead thumb drive?
« Reply #24 on: June 18, 2019, 02:28:03 PM »
I agree that this is most likely just a damaged connector and nearby traces; the chips themselves should be just fine. It's an easy fix, but first pictures would be helpful as Syonyk suggested.