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I would divide the USB drive faults into two groups. The first type is purely related to the mechanical damage (physical damage). Usually, when this occurs the soldering points on the PCB (printed circuit board) are damaged.
This can easily be fixed with a soldering station and soldering materials used for cleaning, soldering, etc. The most common such fault is when it is broken between the plug and the PCB. This is shown below.
The plug is always soldered onto the PCB without using glue. This does not provide for a sturdy connection. When the USB stick is carried around for a long time, it forces the joint to eventually break, due to the constant bending.
The simple solution here is to open up the stick and solder the four pins again. Sometimes, the tracks on the PSB are found to be damaged or the pins are broken. It is necessary at this point to put a bit more effort to make a proper connection using a wire, for example. It does not matter if the new connection holds for a long time because the data is always important on the stick and nobody uses a broken stick anymore.
Another not so frequent fault is an overheating NAND memory chip. Sometimes the chips reach such a high temperature that they de-solder themselves from the PCB.
Below is an illustration. This particular chip had fallen out from the PCB and had been soldered back. Actually, when the chip is plugged into the USB port, a bit of smoke can be seen coming from the area. This means that the chip is very hot.
This fault is very easy to fix for somebody who is experienced in soldering. They would need a soldering station, a good quality flux, and solder paste. This can be done using a simple solder instead of solder paste.
There is also the fault that involves damage to the chip itself. This happened to the interface chip below
In this case, we would need to use a special interface as well as the right software to extract the data. An example of this is the Flash Extractor.
The only one way to prevent data loss on USB sticks is to back-up the data in a few different places. A good way to do this is to copy all the data to your computer or upload it to online storage.
When you solder all the parts correctly, the USB stick will be recognized shortly after plugging it in. If it searches for a long time for a device, this indicates that something is wrong with the soldering or there is a fault in another area.
The technique for soldering electronics chips can be found on the internet, such as on youtube. The most important thing to remember for fixing NAD chips is to use a good flux and solder paste. As mentioned above, a simple solder can be used instead of solder paste because solder paste is very expensive. The soldering station used for this USB stick repair was the CSI 950+.
This basic soldering station is a good first tool to use. Below is a more advanced soldering station that is also used in the production process. The good thing about the station below is that it is fully automatic. As mentioned before, all soldering stations will do the work themselves. It's important to also have a soldering iron. The success rate truly depends on the experience of the person doing it rather than from the equipment itself.
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Me holding a laptop hard drive