Software Sunday EP14: Make Fake Flash Media Usable With BOOTICE

A few months ago I bought several unrealistically cheap micro SD cards off eBay for testing purposes. To no surprise, it turned out that over half of the cards were fakes. Using the H2TESTW flash testing utility (I also have a tutorial on how to use H2TESTW, click here for that), I verified that a majority of the cards were just 4GB to 8GB micro SD cards concealed behind sleazy firmware to make it appear that they were actually 32GB to 64GB in size. Once the cards were filled to their actual capacities they would simply overwrite all of the previous data stored on the card. So not only were the cards much smaller in capacity than advertised, they were also completely unusable.

In this installment of Software Sunday I am going to show you how to use BOOTICE on Windows to restore fake SD cards to a usable state. Now, keep in mind that this WILL NOT restore your card to its advertised capacity as that is impossible. Since these “high capacity” cards, in actuality, only contain 4-8GB of flash storage, there is no way to make more flash memory magically appear out of thin air. What we can do though is re-partition the drive so that only the “real” section of the drive is used for storage purposes.

First download the BOOTICE drive management utility from Softpedia CLICK HERE. This is a small application and if you have a decent Internet connection it should only take a matter of seconds to download. Next, navigate to your downloads directory, extract BOOTICE, and run it as an administrator. At first the UI might look a little daunting, don’t worry this utility is very straightforward to use.

When the application first opens the tab labeled “physical disk” should already be selected. Within this tab you will see a drop down box used to select the destination device, set the fake SD card as the target device. Next, select the “parts manager” function, inside the parts manager window click on “Re-partitioning”, and then select “USB HDD mode and hit “OK”.

Parts Manager

During this process you may have encountered an error stating “access denied”. To resolve this, go back to the “primary disk” tab and, with your disk selected as the target, click on the “process PBR” option. Click on “BOOTMGR boot record” and then click “Install/Config”. Now when you go back to the parts manager to partition the drive you should not encounter any errors.

This next step is the most important part of the process. You should now be looking at 4 rows which represent 4 partitions, we only care about the first row in this case. Set the “size” of the first row equal to the actual size of your SD card. For example, if my card was really only 8GB then I would set the size to 7000MB, yes I know this is not 8GB but I like to set the usable size a bit smaller than the actual capacity just to be on the safe side. Label this partition with a memorable name such as “realpart” and leave the labels for the other partitions blank. From here, click “OK” and then “OK” again when the dialogue box pops up. Under the “parts manager” you should now see all 4 partitions you just created. Select to “hide” the three partitions that are unlabeled and leave the real partition untouched.

Set the size of the real partition, name it something, leave the other labels blank
Hide the fake partitions

That’s it! The card should now be recognized as the capacity you specified in BOOTICE. Just a little disclaimer, the flash storage used in these devices tends to be pretty crude and unreliable. If you run H2TESTW on the card again you may still experience a small amount of data loss. For most applications this is okay but I WOULD NOT recommend storing critical data on these cards, even after they have been re-partitioned.

Even though I was primarily focusing on microSD cards during this video, this partitioning method works on virtually any flash storage medium (flash drived, SD cards, ect….)



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