Data recovery specialists complained about a serious drop in the quality of USB flash drives

Data recovery company CBL said the latest microSD cards and USB flash drives often contain unreliable memory chips.. Experts are increasingly encountering devices with stripped-down memory chips from which manufacturer information has been removed, as well as USB drives that use converted microSD memory cards soldered to the board. Against this background, CBL concluded that the quality of portable flash drives is becoming increasingly poor.

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“When we opened up failed USB drives last year, we found an alarmingly large number of low-quality memory chips with reduced capacity and the manufacturer's logo removed. Defective microSD memory cards are also soldered to the USB drive and controlled by an external controller on the USB drive board instead of the internal controller of the microSD card itself,” said Conrad Heinicke, Managing Director of CBL Datenrettung GmbH.

Image source: CBL Datenrettung

According to CBL, we are talking about NAND memory chips that have not passed quality control, which were most likely manufactured by large manufacturers such as SanDisk and Samsung. Instead of being recycled, these chips somehow end up on the market.. While studying low-quality drives, CBL specialists in a number of cases found the manufacturer’s name blurred out on the memory chips, but they could still be identified as SanDisk products. In other cases, the name and logo of the memory chip manufacturer was completely removed. Most often, low-quality USB drives were identified among “promotional gifts,” but in some cases such media were found among “branded products,” although CBL did not specify which specific companies were supplying low-quality flash drives.

Another ailment that modern flash drives suffer from, CBL calls QLC technology, which allows you to store more data in one flash memory chip.. QLC chips have become too common in cheap drives. CBL says the combination of low-quality flash chips and QLC is exacerbating existing quality problems, so the company says, «You should not rely too much on the reliability of flash drives.»

CBL in its report did not address the issue of “deceptive” USB drives that claim to have a capacity of several hundred gigabytes, but in fact contain only 16 GB or even 8 GB of memory. However, such devices are also common and are designed using methods similar to the USB flash drives that the CBL warns about, such as using microSD cards.