How to Recover Data from a Broken Phone

The day you never wanted to come, unfortunately, has arrived: after a rather daring fall, the screen of your smartphone is irreparably compromised and, unfortunately, you have to consider buying a new one or sending as warranty what you have just destroyed. The problem, however, is that the phone's memory is full of photos and videos that you really care about and that you have absolutely no intention of losing: that's why, even before you retire your old phone or send it for assistance, you opened Google in search of a guide that would teach you how to recover data from a broken phone, ending up right on my site.

Well, your research has had the hoped-for result: in the following lines, in fact, I will show you the most effective techniques to secure the photos, videos and documents you care so much about, either starting from a phone that no longer turns on, or operating on a smartphone whose display alone is irreparably compromised.

So, what else are you waiting for to start? Cut out a few minutes of free time for yourself, make yourself comfortable and read everything I have to say on the subject very carefully: I'm sure that, at the end of this guide, you will be perfectly able to choose the most suitable solution for your case and put it into practice without any difficulty. Having said that, I have nothing left to do but wish you good reading and good luck with everything!

How to retrieve data from a broken phone that doesn't turn on

Do you have a smartphone that, alas, no longer gives any sign of life? Then I have to tell you right away that accessing the data stored inside it is practically impossible with a DIY method, since you would need precise tools to access the flash memory of the device and be able to read it. One solution would be to bring the device to service and request the recovery of the data stored inside it, however this is not always possible and in most cases extremely expensive.

What you can do in total autonomy, however, is to use some "tricks" that can help you get out of this annoying situation: you can try, for example, to bring your phone back to life by replacing the battery, or to access the data (or a copy of it) via the microSD or the cloud. I'll explain everything in detail below.

Replace the battery

If your phone no longer shows signs of life without apparent cause (i.e. without having suffered an accidental fall, unwanted contact with liquids or things like that), the cause could be due to a battery so worn that it can no longer hold a sufficient charge to turn on, even for a few minutes, the smartphone (or the sudden breakage of the same).

If the battery is removable, you can buy a new one at a mobile phone store or online at Amazon if you wish. Otherwise, if your phone is equipped with a non-removable battery, you will need to go to an authorised service centre and ask for a replacement or, if you are handy, opt for a do-it-yourself solution. For more information on replacing non-removable batteries, please refer to my dedicated tutorial.

In any case, make sure that the components chosen are of high quality, without relying on cheap solutions but of dubious origin: remember that a faulty battery can seriously damage the phone or the user, as well as cause short circuits or even explosions during charging. Keep this in mind before you make a choice.

Once you've replaced the battery, try turning your phone back on the way you normally would: with a bit of luck, the new battery should allow it to boot up without a hitch. Once you're in the system, I still recommend that you create a backup of your data and update it each time, so you can be sure that in case of problems, your files won't be lost.

Retrieve data from SD

If your smartphone is equipped with expandable memory and, previously, having followed my dedicated tutorial, you had transferred your personal data to the microSD, you may be able to recover the files you are interested in: in fact, if your phone has suddenly stopped turning on (and hasn't been in contact with liquids, extreme temperatures or other conditions that could damage its hardware), there are very good chances that the data saved on the memory card has remained unharmed.

In this case, you can easily retrieve them and transfer them to another device, such as a computer: first, remove the microSD from the broken phone by accessing the slot near the battery (for phones that have a removable back part) or by using the removable trolley, which you can access by inserting the hook provided in the dedicated hole in the slot. If you have no idea how to remove the microSD from your phone, you can refer to its user manual or do a short search on Google, using the phrase how to extract microSD [phone brand and model].

Once extracted the "card", you have to insert it in its adapter (if you don't have one, you can get one by buying it from a physical store or online, even on Amazon) and connect it to the computer, inserting it in the slot located on the case (for desktop computers) or on one of the side shells (for notebooks).

After that, all you have to do is start your operating system's file manager (Windows File Explorer or MacOS Finder), select the icon for the memory card you just inserted and copy the files to your computer, taking them from the folders where the files are stored (e.g. DCIM for photos, Download for downloaded files, and WhatsAppMedia for media files received from WhatsApp), just like you would if you were copying data from a USB stick. If you need help with this, please refer to my tutorial on how to read SD card on a PC, where I explained the steps in detail.

Retrieve data from the cloud

Usually, when initially configuring your system, both Android and iOS require permission to make automatic backups of photos, videos and other types of personal data, using Google Photo/Google Drive and iCloud cloud services respectively: if you have configured these settings correctly, there is a good chance that a copy of the data in your phone will also be saved to the cloud.

The good news, in this case, is that these files can be recovered from virtually any device, provided you know the credentials to access the services in question: the Google account configured in the phone, for Android, or Apple ID for iOS

However, to connect to the cloud and recover your data, follow the instructions below, depending on the service you use.

  • Google Account (Google Photos/Drives) - to retrieve photos and videos automatically saved on Google's cloud space, connect to this website and, when prompted, type in the Gmail credentials associated with the broken smartphone: if everything went well, you should view the photos in the central part of the proposed web page, divided by date. As for the documents created through the Drive apps (Google Documents, Google Sheets and so on), you can retrieve them by connecting instead to the main page of the Google Drive service.
  • Apple ID (iCloud) - to retrieve the data on iCloud, you must connect to this website, log in using the Apple ID associated with your device (typing, when required, the email and password of the service) and then click on the entry more inherent to the type of data to be recovered: Photos for images and videos, Pages or Numbers for documents created by the app of the same name and iCloud Drive for all other files configured for automatic cloud storage (such as those of the GarageBand app, for example).

Also, if you used to listen to music from services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Amazon Prime Music or other streaming platforms on your smartphone, I have some great news for you: your music is always available for access through other compatible devices or through the web platforms of the above mentioned services.

This means, in practice, that all you need to do is download the apps (or visit the relevant websites) and type in your login credentials to instantly find all your favourite music! For more information about Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music and Amazon Prime Music, respectively.

How to recover data from a broken screen phone

Wait, are you telling me that your smartphone turns on correctly, however the screen is irreparably compromised and can no longer receive, anywhere or only in specific areas, the "touch" of your fingers? Then the situation could turn out to be much less serious than expected: here are some solutions that could help you recover data from a broken phone in a few minutes. Before proceeding, I recommend that you take your SIM card out of the SIM card to avoid further surprises due to the PIN code request.

Use the "standard" procedure

If the screen of your smartphone is in pieces but the touch is still working, and you can enter the code or unlock sequence when you start the phone, then you shouldn't have any particular problems: all you have to do is unlock the device, when required, and then connect it to the PC using the supplied cable and act as you would do in "normal" conditions.

In practice, you need to access the folders on your broken phone and copy the necessary files all using your operating system's file manager (File Explorer for Windows, Android File Transfer for macOS) or iTunes software (for iPhones).

Use a USB mouse or keyboard

Wait, are you telling me that you can't use the above instructions, because the phone turns on but the touch panel is hopelessly compromised, so you can't enter the unlock sequence or the code needed to fully boot the operating system?

If you have an Android smartphone, you can try to fix the problem using a "common" mouse or USB keyboard, which you can connect to the broken device via an OTG USB adapter. If you've never heard of it, OTG technology also allows you to connect devices such as mice, keyboards and mass storage devices, such as external disks and USB sticks, to smartphone operating systems.

To use OTG, you must first obtain an adapter designed for the purpose, paying attention to the type of connection required by your smartphone: USB-C (for newer Android devices) or microUSB (for most low-end or older Android devices). Here are some of them, available on Amazon.

See offer on Amazon See offer on Amazon

Once you have the adapter, connect the "thin" end to the dedicated port on your smartphone (the one you use to recharge it, for example) and connect the mouse or USB keyboard to the other end of the adapter: if everything went smoothly, the external device should work immediately, without the need for additional configuration.

After performing the initial unlock, disconnect the OTG adapter, connect your phone to your computer and back up your data according to the instructions I gave you in the section immediately above.

Use Find Personal Device/Find My mobile (Samsung only)

If you have a smartphone from Samsung, you may also be able to unlock the screen using the Find My Mobile service, which can be accessed via any computer browser, eliminating the need to use a mouse or keyboard via OTG.

For your information, the "Personal Device Finder" service allows you to perform some operations to find or secure your Samsung device, such as locating it, making the phone ring, remotely restoring it or unlocking the screen.

Please note, however, that in order to use this technique, the phone in question must be connected to the Internet, and the function must have been enabled beforehand from the Settings menu > Lock and Security screen > Find personal device; in addition, you must remember the credentials of the Samsung account used during configuration.

All clear? OK, let's do it. First, turn on your broken phone and wait a few minutes for it to fully boot up, then connect to the "Find My Device" website, press the Login button and enter your previously configured Samsung account username and password if required.

At this point, the game is practically done: press on the phone icon displayed on the map, click on the Unlock icon located in the right side menu and type again the password of your Samsung account to confirm your identity: if everything went well, the service should unlock the phone and delete the information related to the code or sequence previously set.

Once you have full access to the operating system, you can create a backup of your data using the procedures suggested above.

Use a Custom Recovery (Android only)

Some Android devices, especially those that have previously undergone the root procedure, are equipped with a small Android-independent operating system called Custom Recovery. This, in particular, takes care of managing the delicate parts of the Google system, giving the user the possibility to perform extremely complex and advanced operations that, otherwise, could not happen.

For your information, the Android devices on which the root has been run certainly have a Custom Recovery (without which the SuperSU/SuperUser app, which is essential for unlocking advanced access privileges, cannot be installed), however some smartphone manufacturers (Samsung, for example) also tend to install one on their devices, in order to make diagnostic operations easier for authorized technicians.

In any case, if your phone is equipped with a custom recovery, you can try to recover the data it contains using ADB, a special communication platform between the computer and the Android device connected to it.

For starters, if you're on Windows, you'll need to download the ADB drivers by connecting to this website and clicking the Download button; once you get the file (e.g. UniversalAdbDriver.msi), start it and press the Next button three times, then the Yes and Close buttons. On a Mac, however, this operation is not necessary, as you already have it included in your operating system.

At this point, you need to install the Fastboot tool, another development tool dedicated to Android, which allows you to intervene through the computer through the Recovery installed in the system. To download Fastboot on Windows, connect to this Internet page, scroll to the Downloads section, click on the Download Version X.y.z Portable Here link and then on the Click Here to Start Download and Primary Download buttons.

When you're done, extract the archive you just downloaded into a convenient folder, for example on your desktop, go to it and, holding down the Shift key, right-click on an empty spot in the window, then select the Open PowerShell window here/Open Prompt commands here from the proposed menu.

As for macOS, instead, you can install Fastboot in a pretty simple way: first, start the Terminal by calling it from the Other folder of the Launchpad (the rocket icon located in the Dock bar), type in the command ruby -and "$(curl -fsSL" followed by pressing the Enter key and, when prompted, press the Enter key again and enter the Mac administration password.

After completing this step (which may take a few minutes), finalize the installation of Fastboot by issuing, in sequence, the commands proposed below (press the Enter key after each of them).

  1. brew tap caskroom/cask
  2. brew cask install android-sdk
  3. brew cask install android-platform-tools

Once Fastboot installation is complete, turn off the phone completely and start it in recovery mode by pressing and holding down the Power+VolumeSu keys simultaneously; when this happens, connect your smartphone to your computer. Now, if you are on Windows, move to the previously opened PowerShell/Prompt command window or, if you are using macOS, open the Terminal again.

Regardless of the system you're using, now type in the command adb devices, followed by pressing the Enter key, to view the devices connected to the system: if all went well, you should see the serial number of the connected smartphone.

At this point, give the adb shell command to access the operating console and then the ls command to display the list of folders in the Android memory. To move to the folder of your interest (e.g. /storage), type the command cd /storage followed by pressing the Enter key. When you have identified the folder(s) to copy, take note of it and exit the ADB console by issuing the exit command, without closing PowerShell, Prompt or Terminal.

Note: If root permissions are not active on your terminal, you may not be able to access the contents of some system folders. Generally, such folders should not contain personal data.

Once you have obtained the path to the folder you want to save, you can copy it by typing the pull command "/folderDiAndroid/" /folderDelPC: for example, you can copy the DCIM folder to the Windows desktop by typing the pull command "/storage/sdcard0/DCIM/" %userprofile%Desktop or to the Mac desktop by typing the pull command "/storage/sdcard0/DCIM/" ~/Desktop. If you wish, you can also use the same command to copy a single file. When you are done, you can close the PowerShell, Command Prompt or Terminal window.

None of the procedures I described above have been able to solve your problem? Then you can try to recover data from the microSD or the cloud using the same steps.

Bibliography consulted in Spanish

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