This paper compares the three major semi-invasive optical approaches, Photon Emission (PE), Thermal Laser Stimulation (TLS) and Electro-Optical Frequency Mapping (EOFM) for contactless static random access memory (SRAM) content read-out on a commercial microcontroller. Advantages and disadvantages of these techniques are evaluated by applying those techniques on a 1 KB SRAM in an MSP430 microcontroller. It is demonstrated that successful read out depends strongly on the core voltage parameters for each technique. For PE, better SNR and shorter integration time are to be achieved by using the highest nominal core voltage. In TLS measurements, the core voltage needs to be externally applied via a current amplifier with a bias voltage slightly above nominal. EOFM can use nominal core voltages again; however, a modulation needs to be applied. The amplitude of the modulated supply voltage signal has a strong effect on the quality of the signal. Semi-invasive read out of the memory content is necessary in order to remotely understand the organization of memory, which finds applications in hardware and software security evaluation, reverse engineering, defect localization, failure analysis, chip testing and debugging.

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