Broken Universal Serial Bus (USB) Thumb Drive

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A lot of people use USB drives for personal and business storage, or for even backup. What happens when you accidentally break the head off of the USB drive? Well…it breaks. Fortunately enough there aren’t any mechanical parts in a USB drive, and if the printed circuit board (PCB) didn’t break your chances of retrieving your data is high. You do not have to be proficient in soldering, but must have some experience. Below is a picture representing an exploded USB drive that someone left in a laptop and dropped. Fortunate enough for the owner, the laptop wasn’t damaged.

As you can see, the USB drive is completely broken. When you have the PCB and the USB head accessible, locate the four pins on the end of the head, and the four holes on the end of the PCB. Once you have done so, do damage control by looking at the pins as wells as the holes to determine if you can piece the two back together. If not, do not worry! You only need to make it work long enough to retrieve your data. You can do this by soldering a connection from the location of the pin to the location of the proper hole on the PCB (as illustrated below).

Exploded View of a USB Drive

Internal USB Drive

NOTE: You can get a closer view by clicking on the picture.

It is important that you make sure not to cross any of the connections or alter any of the other circuits on the PCB. Once you have successfully connected the four pins to the PCB, you must double check your connections before testing. You can do so by looking at it very carefully through a magnified glass. This will ensure that you do not ruin any of the electronically stored data. Then finally, once your connection is secure plug it into the USB port (illustrated below).

Fixed USB Drive

If you find that you have done a really great job at fixing your broken USB thumb drive, you might want to piece the puzzles back together and save it. I wouldn’t recommend using it for anything that is important to you, because you may find out that it fails on you later. Normally the housing’s are snap-ons, and can easily be pieced together. I would recommend heating the glue on the other end of the PCB with a lighter, and then placing it back in the original location to settle. Once you have done so, and the glue has dried, snap the other end of the housing back into place so that it becomes a whole unit once again (below is an illustration of the completed repair of a USB thumb drive).

Repaired USB Thumb Drive