Exploring TRIM in Cameras

Do Cameras Use TRIM Technology? Exploring TRIM in Cameras

Last updated:
Rating: 5.0 / 5
Votes: 1

No robots used, our articles are crafted by humans under strict Editorial Guidelines.

Written by Jordan Jamieson-Mane Jordan Jamieson-Mane Staff Writer • 45 articles Jordan Jamieson-Mane, a data recovery and Windows troubleshooting expert, joined Handy Recovery Advisor in 2021. Starting as a contributing writer, he quickly established himself as a skilled technical writer and researcher, earning his current staff writer position. LinkedIn Approved by Andrey Vasilyev Andrey Vasilyev Editor Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team. LinkedIn

Ever wondered if cameras utilize TRIM technology to help facilitate garbage collection? Solid-state drives (SSDs) use it to help with data management and optimization, but how does this translate to an SD (Secure Digital) card, considering it’s a different type of flash memory?

Put simply, SD cards do not use TRIM. However, they do have their own unique way of handling data that can have an impact on its recoverability following deletion. We’ve done some research into how SD cards handle data deletion and the implications to be aware of for data recovery.

What’s TRIM Technology? And, Do SD Cards Use It?

SSDs and SD cards both use NAND flash memory to store data. When data is written to a NAND cell, an electrical charge is applied to the cell’s floating gate. The level of this electrical charge determines what binary data (0s and 1s) it represents. When the SSD controller reads this, it can determine what data is present by reading the charge levels.

The Achilles’ heel of NAND cells and how they store data is that they have a limited number of write cycles they can sustain. Once a NAND cell has reached its maximum write cycles, it cannot be restored (similar to a physical bad sector). SSDs and SD cards use wear leveling to help mitigate this, but wear leveling can only extend the lifespan to a certain extent.

This is where TRIM can help. With TRIM enabled, it can immediately identify which blocks are no longer being used by the file system, allowing the SSD to mark blocks that are available for future writing. Without TRIM, the SSD must first read the block (to see if it contains data that can be erased), erase the data on it, and then write new data to the block. Essentially, TRIM reduces the amount of work an SSD needs to do to save new data.

In the context of cameras and SD cards, they do not use TRIM. It’s important to note that TRIM is an Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) command. ATA commands do not work for SD cards. Instead, SD cards have their own unique command set defined by the SD specification. The closest analog to TRIM on SD cards is the TRIM-like command called SD-ERASE.

👀

Similarly, other memory cards use different command sets. CompactFlash (CF) cards use the ATA command set, making use of the Secure Erase command. CFexpress cards use NVMe, which includes the Sanitize command.

The Difference Between TRIM and SD-ERASE

TRIM and SD-ERASE are similar in the sense that they affect how data is managed on the respective devices they’re used on, but there are some key differences between the two in terms of functionality and usage.

In addition to the fact that TRIM is an ATA command used by SSDs, it also actively runs in the background to improve SSD performance and assist with garbage collection. By knowing which blocks of data are no longer being used, it can free space more efficiently to help with drive longevity. TRIM is an option that can be enabled or disabled.

SD-ERASE, on the other hand, is only run when a request is issued by the host device (in this case, a camera) and executed by the SD card’s internal controller. Most SD cards support SD-ERASE, but not all. More specifically, they must support the commands CMD32, CMD33, and CMD38. Unlike SSDs where TRIM can be enabled and disabled, the behavior of SD-ERASE is pre-determined by how it was configured by the manufacturer. When it’s run, any blocks occupied by a deleted file are marked as available for new data.

Can You Recover Data Deleted by a Camera?

It depends, but in most cases, yes. What happens to your data after the SD-ERASE command is run is dependent on how your camera’s manufacturer sets it up. In most cases, for convenience, the command will simply wipe the logical addresses held by your SD card’s translator, which is a piece of its internal firmware that manages the mapping of data between logical and physical addresses. At least this is how it’s done with the Sony A7III. Most (but not all) camera brands do this because (1) people typically aren’t interested in completely zeroing out the card due to how long it takes, and (2) it puts unnecessary stress on the card when a normal format will suffice in most cases.

When the translator is wiped, the data is not zeroed immediately. Reading the raw hex data of the card may indicate that no data is available for recovery, but only because the logical addresses are now gone. Data may still be recoverable using chip-off data recovery, a service only offered by professional data recovery specialists. This involves making direct contact with the NAND cells and manually extracting data from the physical chips.

Fun fact: Logical mapping handled by the translator is dynamic, meaning that the addresses will change over time with wear leveling, garbage collection, and error management processes.

Some camera models include multiple options for erasing data, giving you the choice between performing a regular format, which deletes the metadata that points towards data on the SD card), and a full format, which completely zeros the data. For example, the Canon EOS R5 lets you specify if you want to perform a low-level format, which will zero every block on the card.

How Recoverability Varies by Camera Manufacturer

Each camera manufacturer has its own way of handling data deletion, which ultimately has an impact on your chances of recovering data once it’s gone. Even though most cameras make use of SD-ERASE as part of their formatting procedure, the recoverability for most camera brands relies on what type of format you perform. Therefore, we’re going to focus on what cameras include quick and full format options, as well as touch on those that are known to use SD-ERASE, to help you determine your chances of recovering data.

👀

Given the number of different camera models that are out there, this will not be an exhaustive list. If you don’t find your particular camera model mentioned, check out the documentation of your specific camera model.

Sony

Sony is known to use the SD-ERASE command in some of its cameras when deleting data, however, it’s not known exactly what camera models employ it. In the case of data recovery, Sony recommends its customers use the company’s Memory Card File Rescue software.

Camera

Format options

Recoverability

Sony A7III

Quick format only

The Sony A7III is known to use the SD-ERASE command to wipe logical addresses from the translator. This means that data recovery may not be possible using data recovery software and will need to be handled by a professional.

W800 Compact Camera

Quick format only

This format, as Sony advised, will permanently erase all data on the card, rendering it unrecoverable. However, it doesn’t give any specifics on how the data is erased (considering it doesn’t specify a full format), so data recovery is likely possible.

Sony A7 IV

Quick format and full format

Data recovery from an SD card used in a Sony A7 IV depends on whether you choose to perform a quick format or full format. Your chances of recovery following a quick format are good, but the data will be unrecoverable following a full format that zeros the data.

Sony ZV-E1

Quick format and full format

Similar to the Sony A7 IV, the Sony ZV-E1 camera lets you choose between quick and full formatting. Data recovery is possible with DIY recovery software following a quick format, but not after the SD card has been zeroed with a full format.

Nikon

Nikon does not have its own data recovery software, nor does it have much information for users who are seeking help in recovering photos that were deleted on a Nikon camera. Data recovery from an SD card that was formatted in a Nikon camera is possible, but again, it depends on the type of format that was performed.

Camera

Format options

Recoverability

Nikon Z fc

Quick format only

Includes an option simply referred to as “format”, which is inferred to be a quick format. Data recovery is possible following deletion with a quick format.

Nikon Z8

Quick format and full format (on supported cards)

Data recovery is possible if a quick format is performed. However, the option to perform a full format will present itself on supported CFexpress cards. Data recovery is not possible if a full format is performed. The same is true for the Nikon Z9.

Nikon Z7 II

Quick format only

This camera only offers the option of performing a quick format option. Therefore, only the markers to the data are deleted, not the data itself, allowing it to be recovered using recovery software.

Nikon D850

Quick format only

Similar to the Nikon Z7 II, the Nikon D850 only offers the option to perform a quick format, giving you a chance to recover the data afterward.

Canon

The majority of Canon cameras allow you to perform a full format to zero the card. This option is labeled “low-level format” inside the camera though.

Camera

Format options

Recoverability

Canon EOS R3

Quick format and full format

The Canon EOS R3 offers the ability to perform a quick or low-level format. Any deleted photos or videos have a chance of being recovered after a quick format, but not a low-level format. This also applies to the Canon EOS R5, Canon EOS R7, and Canon EOS R10.

Canon EOS R6 Mark II

Quick format and full format

Likewise, the Canon EOS R6 Mark II also allows you to perform a quick or low-level format within the camera.

Canon EOS RP

Quick format and full format

The Canon EOS RP, known as one of the more affordable digital full-frame cameras, offers both formatting options. Therefore, you have a chance of recovering any deleted photos or videos, so long as it is from manual deletion or quick formatting.

Canon EOS R100

Quick format and full format

The Canon EOS R100 is a favorite for beginners. Like the other mentioned Canon cameras, your data can be recovered for a limited amount of time after it has been quickly formatted or deleted manually.

Fujifilm

During our research, there were no Fujifilm cameras that we found that support the full format option, nor is there any information on whether it employs the SD-ERASE command.

Camera

Format options

Recoverability

Fujifilm X-H2

Quick format only

This high-end APS-C camera only supports quick formatting. Following a quick format, there’s a good chance the data is still there to be recovered for a time.

Fujifilm X-T5

Quick format only

The lightweight Fujifilm X-T5 does not zero data with its quick format, nor does it automatically zero data after it is deleted. Data can be recovered using a DIY data recovery tool.

Fujifilm X-S20

Quick format only

Despite being a fairly new model, the Fujifilm X-S20 also only allows quick formatting, allowing for recovery after the loss of your files.

Fujifilm X100VI

Quick format only

The 6th-generation Fujifilm X100VI will still retain some data after the photos or videos have been deleted manually or by a quick format.

Panasonic

Panasonic does not have its own recovery tool, but it does have a LUMIX repair tool that may prove useful in restoring corrupted video files following recovery.

Camera

Format options

Recoverability

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

Quick format only

Based on the instruction manual for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 (page 58), only a quick format is available, meaning data recovery is possible.

Panasonic Lumix G100

Quick format only

Likewise, the Panasonic Lumix G100 only allows users to perform a quick format, making file recovery a possibility.

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH6

Quick format and full format (on supported cards)

For SD cards, the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH6 only allows quick formatting. However, it can perform a low-level format on supported CFexpress cards, so bear that in mind if you use multiple cards.

Panasonic Lumix DC-G95

Quick format and full format (on supported cards)

Similarly, the Panasonic Lumix DC-G95 also has quick formatting for SD cards and low-level formatting for supported CFexpress cards.

FAQ

Can you recover data that has been deleted by SD-ERASE?

This depends on how the command has been implemented by the manufacturer of your camera, as SD-ERASE does not always zero data immediately. In cases where the SD-ERASE command has been executed but the data has not been zeroed, data recovery is possible using the chip-off recovery method. However, if the data has indeed been zeroed, it is likely unrecoverable.

Can you enable and disable SD-ERASE like you can with TRIM?

No, SD-ERASE is configured by the manufacturer and cannot be disabled like TRIM can with an SSD.

About article

This article was written by Jordan Jamieson-Mane, a Staff Writer at Handy Recovery Advisor. It was also verified for technical accuracy by Andrey Vasilyev, our editorial advisor.

Curious about our content creation process? Take a look at our Editor Guidelines.

How do you rate the article? Submitted:
Current article rate: 5 1 vote