The repair of a broken USB Drive: Sandisk 16MB

power to cap

Last year I bought a 16GB Sandisk USB drive, and I used it to store homework files that I did during lunch (and more inappropriate times) at work. I worked in the shipping department, and the scale was right in front of the tower.

power to cap2

On any particular day I would put about 15 boxes on this scale, and I knew that the USB drive was there.  I had a friend come in that wanted to ship a big, heavy box, so I asked him to put it on the scale. Well, I sure wasn’t thinking because I heard a SNAP THUNK, which occurred almost simultaneously.

the light works

I felt sick. I didn’t know whether to be angry at him or myself. And it didn’t matter either way. The drive was busted, and my school work was lost. I was currently writing a paper. Murphy’s law was in effect that day. I really wanted to throw up because I hate writing more than anything, and that paper was important, and hard to construct.

Desperate situations lead to desperate measures. I was having a large moose baby. I ran to the electronic shop in the building and grabbed some stranded wire, some solder, and the soldering iron along with a few tools, and I went to work repairing my USB drive. I stripped the wire and took 3 strands from it. Then, I checked the points with a multimeter. I followed the traces to find where they went.

two wires and an impossible solder job

The ground wire was also the plug mount on the circuit board so I soldered it back. Now it is sturdy enough to plug in. Next I had to find where to connect the power. The traces were ripped up. There was no hope of reconnecting the traces. I found a large SMT cap and located ground. This was a stab in the dark that the other end of that cap would be connected to the positive supply. I couldn’t imagine a large cap not being connected to it. I made the connection from cap to plug, which was the easiest of the three connections. I plugged the drive into the computer and the LED lit for a few seconds.

I unplugged it and went to locating the other two connections again. There are 14 pins in just over a quarter inch. The two pins were separated by one pin, and each one had very little connection area. The tiny surface mount ICs are not hobby guy friendly. I’m almost positive that computers assemble these things.

I took two more strands of wire and tinned the very tip. Then I got the end of the wire as close to the pin as I could and I pressed with the soldering iron. After about 2 minutes of trying I finally got the wire to take. Avoiding a solder bridge was my number ‘only’ priority. I repeated the same procedure for the other one.

Next, I carefully wrapped the two wires around the board so they wouldn’t touch. Then I connected them to the pins that they broke free from. Then I carefully plugged the USB drive into the computer. It recognized a disk and it opened my files. The Cruzer was fixed!

Then I hot glued the wires to ensure they did not move. I’ve told you the history lesson to tell you this…I left the drive in my pocket, and it went through the washer. Normally, this doesn’t hurt USB drives. Well, if it is a hot glue, franken-drive, it is not going to survive. It didn’t survive.

and it works

Well, I tried to peel the hot glue off. No way this was going to work. That hot glue was solid. I chipped a few pieces off, but the rest was there to stay.

I never threw it away. It has been on my desk for several months. 8 or 9 I believe.

I advertised to one of my wife’s coworkers that I was able to fix a busted USB drive and that I do data recovery for a nominal fee. She took me up on the offer.

I picked mine back up and said, “Hmmm, I need some practice.” I carefully used my pocket knife to whiddle away at the glue enough to expose the pins again. The above history of steps were just repeated again. The drive works, again! It only took me about 15 minutes since I knew where to put the wires. I did have to switch the Data in and Data out, but now I’m hot gluing it again. I’m super happy to share this with you.

This entry was posted in Electronics, Troubleshooting and Repairs and tagged , , by robbie. Bookmark the permalink.

About robbie

I am an electronics enthusiest and a ham radio operator (W1RCP). I like to play with electronics. It's fun and educational. I looked forward to working in the engineering field in the future. I have a BS in Electronics Engineering Technology from DeVry University. I also have an Associate's degree in Marketing Management from Moultrie Tech, and a diploma in Electronics from MTC.

2 thoughts on “The repair of a broken USB Drive: Sandisk 16MB

  1. I have the traces, but I don’t know the order of the leads. That is, looking at my 16GB SANDisk card, are they leads in the order +5, D-, D+ and Ground, or in the other way around. Any idea where to look to find that?