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My micro sd card was broken into two halves and then fell into the water. Is it possible that someone may find it and get the data which is personal to me?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I’m voting to close this question because it's about hardware that's common to computers rather than specific to any form of photography. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 3, 2022 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point, @ZeissIkon. If it were to be moved to SuperUser, the answer would still be the same, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 3, 2022 at 15:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ No argument, @FreeMan -- but there it would be on topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 3, 2022 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ SD cards are pretty durable, but probably not so much if they are already broken in half. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Jun 5, 2022 at 21:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Am I the only one who wants to hear the story behind the card being broken and flushed? 😁 \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2022 at 4:04

3 Answers 3

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Is it possible that someone might find it?

Of course it's possible. Who knows how likely it is, though.

If it was flushed or otherwise went down the drain of a domestic water system, it will end up at the water treatment plant eventually. It will likely be caught in a filter there and will, most likely, never be seen again because it will be scraped out with all the other trash and sent to the landfill. It's possible that someone will see it and decide to grab it.

If it fell into a natural body of water, there's no telling where the currents might take it. If somebody were to ever find it, they might let it dry out and try to read it to figure out who it belongs to in order to return it. i.e. be a Good Samaritan and try to get your valuable pics back to you. They might also just pick it up and toss it in the trash.

Is it possible ... to get the data

It depends on what you mean by "it snapped in two halves":

  1. It was a "horizontal" snap - the plastic case came apart, separating the top from the bottom half of the case. In the situation, the circuit board and chips are still all in one piece.
    1. If the case came off, someone could, after letting it thoroughly dry, probably just put it in a reader and have a high chance of getting data back.
    2. They might be able to put the halves of the case together, then hold the whole thing together as they slide it into the reader.
    3. If they cannot get the pieces to fit back together properly, they might be able to push it into the reader, then gently wedge something in on top to hold the contacts on the card against the contacts in the reader.
  2. It was a "vertical" snap - the circuit board itself is broken
    1. They (or someone skilled at soldering under a magnifier) might be able to solder all the traces together with jumper wires and then be able to read the chip in a standard reader.
    2. This might take professional assistance, which would cost them. They'd have to decide if the data is worth the expense. (It's not their data, it's probably not worth the expense.)

If the card is broken in any fashion and it happens to be found, it's highly unlikely that someone would go to much effort to read the data off of it unless, of course, you are a "person of interest" (to the police, national security, corporate exec, etc.) who might have data that you are trying to hide and that agency is actively tracking the card and looking for it to pursue a conviction, gather surveillance data, etc.

i.e. If you're a "regular citizen", it's very unlikely that anyone would attempt or be interested in the data they find on a random SD card somewhere. As a matter of fact, the rule is that you do not insert unknown data storage media of any sort (memory card, USB drive, hard drive) into a computer system, as "bad actors" have been known to intentionally drop them in the hopes of spreading malware of various sorts.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The card was a micro sd card not that big sd card. And it is broken into two halves horizontally \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3, 2022 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ The answer still stands. It probably applies to Compact Flash cards and even Sony Duo cards - if the case itself is broken, it can probably be easily read, but if the internal circuit board is broken, it will take a notable effort to read it. The real questions are "will it be found?" and "will someone make the effort to read it if they find it?". The tiny micro SD card is probably pretty low on the "will it be found" scale, leaving the other question rather moot. \$\endgroup\$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 3, 2022 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay thanks for your detailed answer. And water will not going to damage it more in anyway? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3, 2022 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ The components of the card itself are relatively safe from water so long as the card isn't energized when it got wet, causing a short. The card contacts (at least on better cards) are gold plated, so they won't corrode. The circuit board traces are coated to protect them, but the solder usually isn't. The outside of the solder joints may corrode, but it's likely that there will still be an electrical connection. Again, the whole thing boils down to "will it be found" and if so "will the finder try to read it to return it". If your names on it, that's probably all they're looking for... \$\endgroup\$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 3, 2022 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re, "no outer card" A micro SD card is an assembly. The bottom side (with the gold contact pads) is an extremely thin circuit board. A silicon chip is bonded to the top side of the circuit board, and then the chip and the whole top side are covered with an even coating of epoxy and (probably epoxy-based) ink. See youtube.com/watch?v=kJXkqz659sQ for a crude way to see what's inside. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2022 at 3:28
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If the card was dropped in fresh water, then FreeMan's answer is more or less correct.

If the card was dropped in salt water or water with any other corrosive chemicals in it, then the metallic components in the card will corrode and eventually become inoperable. Even if the card is retrieved from the water fairly quickly, the chemical residue would be enough to continue to corrode exposed metallic components of the card and make it increasingly difficult to recover any data stored on the card.

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Unlikely the data can be recovered but no one can give you a definitive yes or no due to lack of data. No matter what data recovery labs claim, data recovery from a so called monoliths is never straight forward or easy. NAND recovery in general isn't.

Basically 99% of physically broken, snapped in half micro SD cards I see are beyond recovery (standard SD card is different issue). These monoliths still require the same components as non monoliths (passive components, controller, NAND). Broken controller is often not an issue, meaning it does not prevent data recovery. In general NAND uses largest portion of available real-estate, so chance it gets damaged is fair.

IOW, as long as NAND survives in one piece, then using the right equipment and software (NAND reconstruction software) the data may be recoverable. Chances NAND survives are not too good IMO. The more modern the microSD, the less favorable chances for recovery are (in general). The longer it takes for the microSD to be found, the less easy recovery will be as NAND leaks data slowly over time.

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