Should You Repair A Fake USB Flash (Pen) Drive?

Before you attempt to repair a fake aka upgraded USB Flash (Pen) Drive you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my chances of being successful?
  • What are the chances of downloading a virus?
  • How trustworthy are repaired drives?
  • How much is my time worth?
  • Unless the pen drive contains one of the popular controller chips (Microv, ICreate or Alcor families) and memory storage chips (Samsung & Hynix) finding the correct low level software program will be a challenge. You will spend a significant amount of time looking for solutions and may not be successful in your efforts.

You may find some software on a website that you think could fix your drive and inadvertently download a virus or other forms of malware. McAfee’s Siteminder identifies some of the download sites as containing malicious software or software that breaches browser security.

The drive may also be irreparably damaged during the repair process. Using the wrong software can destroy the flash storage chip. Using a program someone else used with their previous sitting i.e. leaving the ECC open could destroy access to the storage chip, as information in the controller is over written.

Could you ever trust a repaired drive with your data files or pictures? The unscrupulous creators of the fake flash drives maximise their profits by using the lowest cost chips they can purchase. The quality of these chips range from average to poor. When the chips fail you may be lucky and just loose all the files that you have stored on the drive, or worse – the contents of the files can be corrupted and remain undetected by you.

Can you trust the software (aka firmware) that was installed on the flash drive by the manufactures tool (Udtools etc) during the repair process? The firmware that was installed could be a “hacked” version, reprogrammed to ignore memory errors.

Since the tools the counterfeiters use to create the fakes have the ability to ignore or hide memory errors, it is best to assume that the fakes contain poor quality memory chips. The output of H2TestW may indicate that a fake contains extremely poor quality chips. A significant difference between the reported “OK” size as reported by H2TestW and that of a typical fake flash drive is a good indication of bad or damaged memory areas on the fake flash drive. The following are some typical “OK” sizes:

180MB OK is typical for a Fake 16GB Drive created from a real 256MB memory chip
980MB OK is typical for a Fake 16GB Drive created from real 1GB memory chip
1.9GB OK is typical for a Fake 16GB Drive created from a real 2GB memory chip
1.7GB OK is typical for a Fake 32GB drive created from a real 2GB memory chip

If H2TestW does not complete a test or outputs error messages then you should not consider repairing. The life time of repaired drives may be significantly less than regular drives. The type of NAND flash memory used in brand name USB flash drives is typically rated at 10,000 erase – write cycles. Some of the potential methods used in the producing fakes may result in significant numbers of erase – write cycles done on a small area of the flash drives. This will result in the drive having a short life time.

If you going to repair and reuse a drive you should mark and/or label the drive so that you will remember that is a repaired fake flash drive. You should also use tools that provide basic data integrity checking when savings files on the drive. Some of the potential tools are Zip, 7Zip and Microsoft compressed folders.

After you have repaired the drive, test it! If H2TestW shows any errors then destroy the drive and throw it in the garbage.

After considering the above you should ask yourself: how much is my time worth, especially when I may end up with a 2GB or smaller drive?


2 thoughts on “Should You Repair A Fake USB Flash (Pen) Drive?

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