Research: Wiring a smartphone's internal storage chip?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by eicca, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. eicca macrumors 6502


    Oct 23, 2014
    So I'm researching this hypothetical situation for a book I'm writing... How hard would it be to take a flash storage chip from inside a smartphone and wire it into something else? I.e. use it to replace the storage chip on a thumb drive?
  2. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
  3. eicca thread starter macrumors 6502


    Oct 23, 2014
    Lol made my day.
  4. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    So many bees
    What is the target audience for the book? In essence, what kind of explanation are you looking for?

    "Hard" for whom? What's your budget, in both time and money? Are you allowed to hire specialized contractors, or is it DIY only?

    The simplest answer I can think of is probably this: If you have to ask, then it's impossible.

    Doing what you ask takes specialized equipment, not least of which is a suitable microscope and desoldering gear. None of that is cheap, even on places like ebay.

    It also takes some varied skills, because it's a delicate mechanical process, plus the electrical aspects, plus the knowledge of the electronic signals.

    On the mechanical and electrical parts, you're going to need to practice on something you don't care about. If you're clumsy or inexperienced, odds of success are slim to none. Even in the best case, the chips involved weren't designed to be removed and reused. Ball-grid arrays (BGA) are perhaps the worst in this regard. QFN (Quad Flat No leads) is more likely to survive removale and resoldering, but I still wouldn't give it great odds. QFP (Quad Flat Pack) is better still, but not great. You can read about those circuit packages on Wikipedia.

    After the basic mechanics of getting the chip off and remounted, you have to know what the chip is and what electrical connections to make, what signals to apply, etc. That might not be documented, if it's a custom or semi-custom chip. You might be able to reverse engineer it by observing the signals in the original phone, given enough time and money. However, if encryption is involved, the signals may be opaque to such observation (such as by a logic analyzer).

    For a roughly similar analogy, how hard is it to take a balance wheel from an expensive Tag Heuer watch and put it into a Rolex Submariner, and have it work?

    First there's the mechanical aspects of the tiny delicate parts. Then there's the issue of getting it to fit: it has to fit the space (not larger), and fit between the mounting jewels vertically, and the escapement has to match. Finally, the whole thing has to work, and that simply may not be possible, if for example the Rolex needs a balance wheel that weighs 50 milligrams less in order to keep time. All of those watch parts have articles on Wikipedia, or elsewhere, and are decent analogies to the difficulty.

    You can also imagine the "Hard for whom?" part: a skilled watchmaker might be able to accomplish the task, but a random person wouldn't.

    Here's another analogy: How hard is brain surgery? For whom: a brain surgeon, an MD that isn't a neurosurgeon, or for a random person? Operating on what part of the brain?
  5. b0fh666 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 12, 2012
    well, if the purpose is to bypass a password to steal contents, if it is a decent phone it would be all encrypted anyway, so pointless.

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