Smartphones function as a central repository for some of our most sensitive data. From private pictures and videos, to pinpoint travel locations, contact details and even payment records; all of this critical information is housed within fragile, portable devices that can be stolen, hacked or damaged in the blink of an eye.
Indeed, statistics from early 2016 show that 1 in 3 consumers have experienced data loss on at least one of their portable devices. Despite this fact, only a small percentage of mobile consumers regularly backup their data. While there are legitimate reasons for neglecting this vital security precaution ranging from a lack of expertise to the amount of time taken to complete the process; the fact remains that without an up-to-date backup system in place, retrieving lost files, photos and videos can prove extremely difficult.
Nevertheless, we understand that the last thing you want to hear when you’ve lost important files is, you should have backed up. So for those users struggling with accidental deletions, viruses or damage on their smartphones here are some key data recovery steps to follow on Android and iOS devices.
Data Recovery for Android
If the lost data was initially stored on an attached SD card then the recovery process will be a lot simpler. SD cards basically function as a hard drive for your Android phone storing applications, photos, videos and other documents. To transfer data from your SD card to your computer, you simply have to connect the smartphone to it using a USB cable. As long as the host computer is able to recognize your phone, you can transfer data between the two devices with ease.
If you’ve lost vital data from your phone’s SD card, your first step should be to stop writing any further information to the external memory. If possible, remove the SD card from your phone altogether to prevent any deleted or corrupted files from being overwritten. Next, insert your card into a card reader, and connect it to a computer.
Now, you need to download and install a data recovery tool onto your computer. There a variety of applications which we recommend for photo and video retrieval. Bear in mind that each particular tool will have different strengths and weaknesses, files that may be recovered by one software may not be recovered by another. We generally recommend trying out a couple of different programs to check whether a data recovery is possible, don’t ever buy a tool without checking out the trial version first. While none of these tools can completely guarantee full recovery, in most cases a partial retrieval of corrupted or deleted files is possible.
Once you have your data recovery tool set up it will ask you to define the target storage media for retrieval. So make sure you’ve made note of the relevant disk letter for your SD card. The program will then start analysing your SD card for recoverable files. The result of this assessment will then be listed. Go down this record and identify any of your lost files. Then transfer them over to your PC’s hard disk, rather than back onto the potentially corrupted SD card. It’s quite possible that many of the files will need to be renamed after this process.
Data Recovery from Internal Memory
Unfortunately, if the vital files were stored on your phone’s internal memory then you will have a tougher time with your recovery. To get your files back using traditional data recovery software you’ll probably have to undertake a potentially risky procedure known as rooting.
Rooting basically allows you to gain enhanced privileges over your phone memory, and install custom programs on the system. However, rooting voids any existing warranties on your phone, and if you carry out the procedure incorrectly you may render your phone completely non-functional. While some older Android devices do offer a USB mass storage interface which allows direct data recovery without rooting; any newer model will most likely not allow any advanced interaction with the phone memory unless rooted.
Bear in mind that every phone is different, and rooting methods may differ depending on the model and brand; so there’s no one size fits all instruction that will work on all devices. If you’re desperate to retrieve your data, and you’re willing to take the risk of rooting then you’d be best served looking in the following places:
- The XDA Developers forums– A meeting place for some of the best smartphone hackers on the internet. Check out the relevant subforums to find rooting information for your particular phone, as long as you have a well-known model you’ll likely find multiple step-by-step guides to help you along with the process.
- The Phandroid forums– An Android specific forum for hackers and independent developers. Check out the All Things Root sub-forum for guidance regarding your particular smartphone.
- RootzWiki– Not as active as other communities but still a great resource to find in-depth rooting manuals for more popular models.
Once you’ve managed to successfully gain access to your phone’s memory, you have two options. Hook up your Android device to a computer using your USB cable, and use one of our recommended data recovery tools to complete the retrieval. Or you download one of many available data recovery apps on your smartphone itself.
Data Recovery From iOS
In most case, Apple devices will automatically back up your data to either iTunes or online on your iCloud account. So if you’re looking for accidentally deleted photos and videos, your best bet is to check through these store backups. In your iCloud photo library you will find a folder named “Recently Deleted” which holds all your deleted media for up to 40 days; which should be more than enough time to retrieve accidentally deleted files.
If you’re unable to locate your lost data then your options are unfortunately somewhat limited. System memory on iPhones is more limited than on Android devices, and they’re far more difficult to root. Your best option may be to hook up your device to a computer and try out a number of different data recovery tools from your desktop or laptop to see if any of these programs are able to find your missing files.