Even if the display of your smartphone or tablet with iOS/iPadOS or Android is damaged and the device is no longer operable, there are various ways to recover your data. However, there are no guarantees of success. If nothing else works, it is best to seek out a repair shop. Make sure to inform them not to delete any data or perform firmware updates. This way, you have a chance to retrieve your personal information. In this article, we will also show you how to use a computer mouse to operate your smartphone if only the touchscreen function is defective but you can still see something on the display.
The first step in data recovery should always be to connect your smartphone to your PC or Mac using your regular charging cable. In many cases, this will allow you to access and synchronize the device’s data with your computer. With a bit of luck, you can thus save the data on your iPhone or Android smartphone, unless you already have synchronization set up with iCloud or Google Drive. Unfortunately, sometimes the phone is visible on the PC or Mac, but you can’t access the content. The following tips will help you in such situations.
Extra tip: Check if you have insurance for your smartphone that you purchased. While it won’t save your data, it can at least cover the cost of repairs.
Avoiding Data Loss Through Backup and Synchronization
Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario and regularly back up your data either in the cloud, transfer it to your PC, or export it to other programs. In Android and iOS, you can easily synchronize contacts and appointments with online calendars such as Outlook.com, iCloud, and Google. Since access to smartphones already requires Apple or Google accounts, you only need to set up this synchronization. Everything necessary for this is freely available.
Finding a Nationwide Repair Shop
A convenient way to find a suitable repair shop is through the online service “Wertgarantie”. First, select your device and the type of damage. You will then receive a list of workshops where you can either drop off the device (which is usually faster) or send it free of charge (which is usually cheaper). You will also see the estimated repair cost. An alternative to this is “kaputt.de”.
Before placing an order, clarify directly with the workshop whether it is possible to recover your data without any loss. You will be provided with the relevant contact information during the ordering process. When searching for repair shops on a search engine, pay attention to Google reviews. Negative reviews are especially relevant as they indicate where other customers have encountered problems with repairs. Many users also exchange information about mobile phone repairs on social networks, which can also be helpful in finding recommendations in your specific region.
Preparing for Recovery and Taking Initial Measures
In some cases, you may need to enter the SIM card PIN when restarting your smartphone. This depends on the settings you have configured on your device. To bypass this hurdle, it may be advisable to remove the SIM card. Although you will likely still need to enter the device password in most cases, you can avoid entering the SIM card PIN. As a precaution, make sure to store the PIN in a safe place so that you have it available in case of emergency. In Android and iOS, you can deactivate the PIN prompt during startup in the phone settings. Since the device is already protected by the device PIN, the SIM PIN can usually be deactivated.
Many owners of Android smartphones also use memory cards on which they store some data such as large photos or videos. You can easily recover this data by simply removing the card from the phone and accessing the data on a PC. If your PC or laptop does not have a built-in card reader, you can use an adapter or an external card reader.
Scenario 1: No Lock Screen Set Up – Lucky Break
If your phone does not have a lock screen set up, you are in luck (although this is quite rare). If you don’t have a lock screen, start your smartphone as usual, connect it to your computer, and use Windows Explorer or Linux and macOS to access the device’s storage and back up the desired data. If you are unsure about the location of the data, it is best to use the software provided by the manufacturer for your smartphone, which often includes a backup mode for the device’s data. In most cases, the smartphone’s disks are mounted as drives in Windows Explorer. For example, Samsung Kies is used by Samsung. For newer devices, Samsung has introduced the successor Samsung Smart Switch. Test the new software in advance so that you know how to perform data recovery in case of emergency. Wondershare Recoverit is also frequently used. Another tool that can be used to recover data from Android smartphones or iPhones from a PC or Mac is FoneLab.
Scenario 2a: Lock Screen Enabled, No USB Debugging – Access via USB Hub, Mouse, and Keyboard
One of the most challenging cases occurs when you have a lock screen enabled and no USB debugging activated. In this case, direct access to your phone is not possible. However, you can still bypass the lock screen if your smartphone has a USB On-the-Go (OTG) interface. You can determine this by searching for “OTG” with a search engine, such as “Samsung Galaxy S21 OTG”. Test the access if you can’t find information about your smartphone. If you connect a mouse to the OTG adapter, which can also be used with PCs and Macs, you can often use the mouse to operate your Android smartphone, especially if only the touchscreen function is not working and not the entire screen is broken.
In this case, you can connect a mouse or keyboard using an OTG adapter and use it to enter the pattern or PIN code. Once the smartphone is unlocked, you can back up the data as described in “Scenario 1”. Many OTG adapters even have an HDMI port, allowing you to connect a monitor and potentially view the information on your smartphone. This often works with iPhones and many Android smartphones. A TV can also serve as a monitor. You just need a device with an HDMI port. Sometimes it is enough to enter only the SIM PIN or unlock the device using the OTG adapter. After connecting the smartphone to a PC or Mac, you can access the data.
Scenario 2b: Lock Screen Enabled, No USB Debugging
However, there is a special solution for Samsung devices in this case, provided they support the “SmartThings Find” service and you have registered there. Visit the website of the service and enter the email address and password you used to register with Samsung. Select the registered device with the defective screen, disable the lock screen, and then use Samsung Kies or its successor Samsung Smart Switch to back up your data. If you are using another smartphone, the manufacturer may provide its own backup and restore program, which you can find on the manufacturer’s website. It is best to search on a search engine for the specific type of phone and the term “data recovery”.
Scenario 3: Lock Screen Enabled, USB Debugging Activated
The following hint does not work on all devices but is worth a try. Your smartphone does not necessarily need to be rooted in this scenario, although it increases the chances of success – as in our test alone.
You will need the Android Debugging Bridge (ADB) files for this. You can find them through the Android SDK. After installing ADB, connect your smartphone to your computer and open the command prompt by using the “Run” command (Win+R) and typing “cmd”. Use the “cd” command to navigate to the installation directory of the ADB drivers and check if your smartphone has been recognized as a device. The command “adb devices” should display a list of all connected Android devices.
Then enter the command “adb shell rm /data/system/gesture.key” and wait for the response. If you do not receive an error message due to insufficient permissions, the action was successful. You can reboot your phone and back up your data.
Scenario 4: Lock Screen Enabled, Bootloader Active, USB Debugging Deactivated
The next description works for smartphones that have an active bootloader like CWM (Clock Work Mod). This is the case if you have installed a custom ROM. Start by booting into Recovery Mode. From there, you can use ADB commands to transfer the required data to your computer.
To boot into Recovery Mode, use the keys on your smartphone. Turn off your phone completely. Press and hold the three buttons “Volume Up + Home + Power” simultaneously and wait for the recovery menu to appear. You don’t need to do anything else on your smartphone.
Connect your smartphone to your PC using a USB cable. Even if you have not enabled USB debugging, your computer will recognize the smartphone in this state. Again, open the command prompt using Win+R, enter the command “cmd”, and navigate to the directory containing “adb.exe”. Use the “cd…” command to move up one level from the current directory, and use “cd” to enter a directory. Before starting the copying process, use the command “adb devices” to check the connection to your smartphone. If it appears in the list, you have access to it.
Now, transfer all data from the smartphone to the PC. This may take a while but will allow you to carefully examine the data afterwards. The command “adb backup” is available for this purpose.
adb backup –all –f :backup.ab
With the first parameter “-all”, you create an almost complete backup of your smartphone. With the second parameter, you can change the path where you save the data. Replace with the desired path accordingly.
- SMS: /data/data/com.android.providers.telephony/databases/mmssms.db
- Contacts: /data/data/com.android.providers.contacts/databases/contacts2.db
- Calendar: /data/data/com.android.providers.calendar/databases/calendar.db
- Memo: /data/data/com.sec.android.app.memo/databases/Memo.db
- WhatsApp: /data/data/com.whatsapp/databases/wa.db, /data/data/com.whatsapp/databases/msgstore.db
Recovering Data from a Defective iPhone – Even Without an Existing Backup
Many of the methods mentioned here also work for iPhones. It is generally highly recommended to set “Settings -> Apple ID -> iCloud -> iCloud Backup” to “On” before any data loss occurs. This way, your most important data will be regularly backed up in your iCloud. You can access the data through a browser at icloud.com and, of course, transfer it back after repairing the display or purchasing a new smartphone.
Another option for data recovery is the software iMazing. It can back up even more data than iTunes and restore it in case of emergency. It can also back up and restore SMS, iMessages, and attachments.
You can also use Phone Resuce from iMobie to recover data from iPhones. The software is available for free testing, allowing you to check if your data can be recovered before making a decision. The tool works with iTunes and can also restore data through iTunes. iMobie also provides DroidKit for Android smartphones, which can be tested for free.
However, data can also be recovered without iTunes. You don’t need to be an IT professional for this. An assistant will guide you through the recovery process. You can choose which type of data you want to recover, such as photos, videos, music, messages, voicemails, call logs, contacts, notes, Safari history, and bookmarks.
Another tool that can help recover data from an iPhone is Fondedog. The procedure is the same as with other programs. Install the tool on Windows or macOS and connect your iPhone to the computer. The tool will attempt to establish a connection and then download and back up the data. Again, an easy-to-use assistant will assist you. The manufacturer’s website also provides comprehensive instructions for data recovery.
Dr.fone is another tool available for recovering data from iPhones. The process of data recovery is described on the page “Recovering Data from a Broken iPhone: How to Rescue Data from a Broken iPhone”. How to recover data from a Samsung smartphone using Dr.fone is also shown in a YouTube video by Wondershare.
Backing up data without access to the display can be very difficult. Therefore, it is advisable to continuously back up important data. The synchronization programs provided by manufacturers are suitable for standard data. Everything else can be easily backed up using the adb command with USB debugging enabled.