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.

Final Thoughts

As we have seen with our testing, data recovery on a TRIM-enabled SSD is simply a lost cause. As soon as the command is issued, you may as well kiss your data goodbye. Interestingly, some traces to specific data remained, and that’s one oddity I don’t quite understand. It could have something to do with the NTFS file system, though. As Windows formatted the drive, it may have left some of the index in tact, for whatever reason. But it’s clear that despite any index, the data is gone, long gone.

I should also mention that while our testing here may seem rather simple, and non-exhaustive, this is a project I’ve been working on since mid-December. It’s just taken about this long for an article to come to fruition, for a couple of reasons – namely, thanks to the amount of time other content required. In all this time, I’ve tested non-TRIM vs. TRIM recovery many times, so I’m very confident in all of my findings. What I find a bit interesting, though, is that in our most recent run, traces of data were found, but in months past, I’ve had runs where absolutely nothing was found after a deletion. So in that regard, it seems a little random, but the ultimate reality is that once the data is gone, it’s gone.

While I was doing research for this article, and of course hands-on testing, I e-mailed numerous companies for some information on the subject, and surprisingly enough, I didn’t receive a single worthwhile response from anyone. The companies I contacted included data recovery firms, SSD manufacturers and even T13, the company that governs the ATA standards.

The companies I received responses from were a couple of SSD vendors and also a single data recovery firm. The SSD vendors simply couldn’t answer our questions – not even their engineers – and the data recovery firm simply left me hanging, not once, but twice. It almost felt like no one wanted us to know the full story behind data recovery and TRIM, so given that, all of our opinions are based on personal findings only.

Kingston's SSDNow M Series Solid-State Drives

Although the focus of this article is to point out something that we should all be aware of with the TRIM command, I don’t at all mean to put it in a poor light. That’s the last thing I’d do, because it’s clear that TRIM is the reason our SSD’s are going to keep good performance numbers for the life of us using them. TRIM might have this one caveat, but aside from that, it’s an absolute necessity if you want to retain high performance numbers and an overall clean SSD.

What I am trying to advocate, though, is that backing up is made even more important with TRIM usage. On non-TRIM storage, if you delete a file, you still have a chance of getting it back. But with a TRIM-enabled drive, it’s long gone… you’re just not getting it back. Although I can’t confidently state that even forensics couldn’t get the data back, I’m leaning towards that being the case. Like computer RAM, once the data is cleared from the memory chip, it’s vanished.

We haven’t made it a secret before that backing up is important, because it is. Far too many times I’ve lost data due to my own idiocy, and I can say I’ve officially had enough and learned my lesson. While the TRIM “issue” affects few people right now, it’s only a matter of time before SSD’s are far more commonplace, and people who aren’t paying attention are of course going to lose valuable data. So be careful out there, and for the love of bytes, back your data up!

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  • 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.