If you are getting the error message ‘You need to format the drive, before you can use it’ when trying to read back files from your memory stick, there is a solution that doesn’t involve spending money on a specialist data recovery service. The best available is TestDisk, a free open source utility. At best it will recover all your data and at worst it will collect detailed technical information about the failure, so you can get quotes from data recovery experts.

TestDisk is one of the best freeware tools out there, and there’s no harm in giving it a go – at best, it’ll recover your data, and at worst, it’ll give you a detailed technical evaluation of what’s wrong with your drive. You can then send the details to a dedicated data recovery company.

Because TestDisk is a command line prompt, there is no graphical user interface, but don’t let this put you off, it’s one of the most powerful data recovery tools there is. Before downloading it, check that your particular file and operating system is supported.

To recover data using this utility, firstly choose ‘create log file’ and select which device to use. Then, ‘Analyze>Proceed>Search’ to scan for partitions. This will take a little while but once your lost partition is found, select it and choose ‘List’ to get a file listing.

If TestDisk doesn’t recover your data, your next stop is a professional data recovery service. Memory sticks are prone to physical damage and media degradation due to their delicate, cheap components. If the circuitry or interface is damaged, the only option is a JTAG or ‘chip-off’ analysis. Here we actually remove the NAND chip that stores your data and use a specialist data extractor to read the information on the chip.




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