Too TRIM? When SSD Data Recovery is Impossible

by Rob Williams on March 5, 2010 in Security, Storage

It goes without saying that solid-state drives are well-worth the investment in order to give your PC some responsiveness, but with all the benefits they can offer, there’s one lesser-known issue that we’ll talk about here. That issue is simple. As soon as you delete a file on a TRIM-enabled SSD, the data is gone, for good.

Setting Ourselves Up for the Test

We’ve covered a lot of ground here so far, so how about we actually try to prove that data recovery on a TRIM-affected drive is impossible? Although I’ve always been confident in the fact, I felt the only right thing to do would be to load up two SSD’s and put the theory to a good test.

The two drives we’re using for our testing were shown on the previous page, Kingston’s 80GB SSDNow M Series, 1G and 2G. These drives are based off of Intel’s own, so the 1G doesn’t support TRIM, but the 2G does just fine.

Before testing, I used HDDErase on the 1G drive in order to wipe it completely clean (you could consider this to be a form of TRIM, because it has the same effect… it just happens to affect the entire drive), and for the 2G, I simply installed it, as it was brand-new with no data ever written to it. For the OS, I used Windows 7 Ultimate x64, since it supports the TRIM command by default.

Because both drives were in a factory-fresh state, I used Windows’ “Computer Management” tool in order to both initialize and format the drives to NTFS.

SSD's - TRIM and Data Recovery SSD's - TRIM and Data Recovery

The goal was to fill each drive with the exact same data (which was rather easy given we’re dealing with equal-sized drives), which I accomplished with the help of my personal documents folder. In total, the files copied to each drive weighed in at 79,873,675,264 bytes, or 74.3GB. With that much data on the drives, only 3MB was considered to be free space. Of all the space taken, it was attributed to 40,002 files and 670 folders.

As you can likely tell, there’s really no breathing room whatsoever on either of the two drives, which is what we were going for. We wanted to make sure that if even one file could be recovered, we’d have a good enough variety to make it so.

SSD's - TRIM and Data Recovery

The first thing to do in Windows 7 when testing for TRIM is to see if it’s even enabled. To do so, you need to load up a command-line (Windows Key + R, then type in ‘cmd’, without quotes), and then type in this command:

fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify

If this command returns a 0, it means that TRIM is enabled, and likewise, if it shows 1, then it means it’s not enabled, and that a TRIM-capable drive is not likely installed. Note that just because Windows says that TRIM is enabled doesn’t mean it’s “working”. Although there’s little reason for it not to, you’d want to run your own tests to make sure it’s working as it’s supposed to be.

With both of our drives filled to the absolute brim, I did a simple delete on each. There was nothing special done here, just a simple Ctrl + A to select all and then a swift push of the Delete key (followed of course by the typical “Are you sure?”). Could we recover anything? That’s to be seen on the next page.

Page List

1. Introduction
2. Setting Ourselves Up for the Test
3. The Quest to Recover Our Data
4. Final Thoughts

  • James Hatton

    Hey, Thanks for your great write up. I got plenty from that.
    Can you tell me, if TRIM is enabled on the SSD within the OS and you have data on a conventional HDD and you delete a file from the HDD does it bypass the Trash can? Does it get permanently deleted?
    As in…if I have TRIM enabled and delete the file on the conventional HDD within the same OS will I need specific recovery tools to simply undelete it….unlike if the whole system was non-Trim and using conventional HDD where you could just restore from the Trash?

    Is there a way of using TRIM and still have Trash can working for all other drives and in particular User data drives. I use my SSD Intell 180GB drive for my OS only and I have several other storage drives in use for other data. I am trying to figure out how to use Windows Shadow copy but only on “some drives” and it seems as though this feature is either enabled r it isn’t no inbetweens in this case? I maybe doing something wrong here but I have not found any info in my searches? Regular backups of these drives means a huge amount of backup storage needs to be free which really sucks. Windows backup cannot backup anything until Shadow Copy service running and a restore point it created. So I am forced to enable the system restore. Run the backup and then disable the system restore. I want to do this for only the SSD but the system restore wipes all restore points when it is disabled which also sucks. It would be great to enable it. Take a snapshot and disabled it and/or disable it for one drive only and keep it running for the rest of the PC.

    I switched back to Windows backup also because Acronis completely hosed one of my backups and there has been absolutely no help from any of their tech support. They pretty much shit blame around and basically tell the users that it is their fault that they are doing something wrong bla bla bla I didn’t even waste my time posting on their forums or asking for support after what I had read. My clean 100% untouched backup to them is corrupt. Something I have never had an issue with using the standard Windows backup? So for what it’s worth I went back to using it and said good bye to Acronis backup forever. I will never use their software again. I diverse.

    Have you looked at the performance that people are claiming out of the new RAID 0 as well as TRIM? They set up using multiple smaller SSDs, the outcome has tech people throthing at the mouth for this but support from intel is….well…..questionable. Forget older technology being supported. Speeds though are meant to be incredible!

    For reference ^^^^

    • Rob Williams

      “Can you tell me, if TRIM is enabled on the SSD within the OS and you have data on a conventional HDD and you delete a file from the HDD does it bypass the Trash can? Does it get permanently deleted?”

      When something is deleted and placed in the Recycle Bin, the data gets moved to a hidden folder on the same drive and remains there until it’s permanently deleted (eg: when the Recycle Bin is emptied). TRIM doesn’t affect anything except data actually located on the SSD itself.

      By your wording, it sounds like you think that when a file is deleted off a hard drive, it gets copied over to the SSD’s Recycle Bin – but no, it doesn’t work like that. Whatever’s in the Recycle Bin is linked to its original location; it’s not all routed through the SSD.

      “My clean 100% untouched backup to them is corrupt.”

      This is why I keep multiple backups of the same Acronis .tib file. I’ve only ever encountered this particular issue once, and it was a number of years ago. But I never want to take a chance. I’d also recommend always using the validate option to make sure backups are captured successfully. You can also setup Acronis in Windows to automatically re-validate backups every so often to make sure no corruption occurs. I am not sure where you see a connection to TRIM here, but TRIM definitely has nothing to do with it. TRIM -only- affects deleted data, and on the SSD that said data was on.

  • angelina410329
  • angelina410329

    with the widely use of SSD drive, SSD drive data loss issues will also be paid attention to. Even when you take every precaution to avoid it, the day may still come when you have to face it. SSD drive recovery software is usually the first place people turn to solve their SSD drive data recovery issues. Usually, a free data recovery software will be the best choice.

  • Alva J. Starks

    All I know is that my SSD died and I had no idea what to do. I thought my data was gone forever. I was looking for articles on who would be able to tell me how to get my data back. I finally found a company SERT who actually did recover my data and wasnt as expenisve as some of the others like OnTrack and DriveSavers. So it is actually possible.

    • Rob Williams

      When an SSD “dies”, its data isn’t lost – it’s just inaccessible, until an expert gets ahold of it and is able to work their magic. That’s different than trying to get the data back after it’s been outright deleted, which is what this article’s focusing on.