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Can you recover photos from a phone that won’t turn on?

Sep 28, 2021

Can you recover photos from a phone that won’t turn on? Most of us can’t live without our phones in the modern digital age. A dead phone can be easily replaced, but what about its contents?

Maybe your phone has become damaged, or maybe you’ve found an old iPhone 3 at the back of a drawer and you’re wondering what treasured memories or hilarious moments that it captured circa 2007. Either way – a phone that won’t turn on is incredibly disheartening – not to mention frustrating.

An old phone can be a goldmine of nostalgia – but what do you do if it won’t turn on at all? Are the photos and other memories trapped in limbo forever?

Well, that all depends on the make and model of the phone and what level of damage it has suffered. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to retrieve your phone snaps!

SD Cards Data Recovery

Does your phone use an SD Card?

Certain older (and some newer) models of phones use an SD card to store photos instead of storing them on the device itself. If it has one, the SD card can usually be removed, so look for a slot or opening on the outside of your phone (it could be camouflaged with the bezel and may need a pin to open it)

If you’re lucky enough for your phone to have an SD card slot, don’t jump for joy just yet! Not all phones will automatically save photos to the SD card. There’s a chance that your photos are stored on the device instead.

However, retrieving the SD card is still a positive sign. Now, plug it in to your laptop using an SD card reader to discover its contents whilst keeping your fingers (and toes) crossed.

Get in touch with one of our expert technicians for advice if your SD Card is unreadable.

See also: Tips for protecting your SD Card

Connect your phone to a PC

If your phone doesn’t have an SD card (boooo), or your SD card didn’t contain what you were looking for, then the photos are stored on the phone itself.

You can try to connect your phone to a PC or laptop using a USB data cable. If possible, use the charger cable that came with your phone as many low-cost USB cables can only carry power, not data.

If you’re in luck, your PC will recognise that a device has been plugged in. Try leaving it connected for a couple of hours to see if the phone will gain enough charge (you never know!)

With Android phones, you should see a device connected and be able to browse the content of the folders.

Photos are almost always saved in a folder called /DCIM/ but also check these folders:

  • Downloads
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Gallery
  • Camera
  • Screenshots

With most iPhones, unfortunately you cannot browse through the folders in the same way, but you should be able to access the photos using Windows Explorer. You cannot browse other folders.

To view and manage files on your iPhone properly, open the latest version of iTunes with your iPhone connected via USB.

Attempt to ‘soft reset’ your phone

Another way to recover photos from a phone that won’t turn on, is to use your willpower to make the phone power on…


All jokes aside, there may be a way to reset your phone by long pressing some of the physical buttons in a certain sequence. This varies greatly from handset to handset, so the best option is to search Google for “How to reset [insert phone make and model]”

Unfortunately we can’t list all the hundreds of different phone models here! To hard reset a Samsung Galaxy S10, you press the Power, Volume Up and Bixby buttons simultaneous for several seconds until the device vibrates and boots up.

Each phone will have a slightly different combination of buttons so make sure you check the correct way to do this for your device first.

Do not attempt to open the phone yourself

If you’re trying to recover photos from a dead phone, you should not attempt to open the case of the phone to look inside it for anything that might be storage media. It’s highly likely that you’ll damage the components inside the device and potentially render everything unrecoverable.

It may be tempting to play Operation with an old, possibly dead phone, but if it contains any important data then it’s best left to the professionals!

Also, resist the urge to try at home data recovery software if you can. These tools are not designed or intended for beginners, so you may end up losing more than you retrieve.

Check Online Cloud Storage Accounts

Even if your phone is really old, there’s a chance that your photos were automatically backed up to a cloud storage provider.

Samsung have been giving users additional OneDrive storage quotas for many years, Apple devices use their own iCloud storage service and other devices use DropBox or Google Drive.

It’s certainly worth using a computer or another phone to login to any potential cloud storage accounts you may have, even if they’re free services. Have a look through your files to locate anything important!

You may be surprised – we recently found a OneDrive account with mobile phone photos from as long ago as 2002 when the account owner thought those photos were gone forever! The photos were small, grainy and of the time, but they brought so much joy to their owner.

What about the messages and other media besides photos?

Other data stored on the phone such as text messages, login credentials, apps, videos, songs and other general things kept on your phone can also be retrieved.

However, the method used to do so is very different depending on the make, model and features of the phone. Speak to one of our technicians in the first instance.

Find a Mobile Phone Data Recovery Specialist

If you’ve exhausted your options, your next step is to contact a technician with experience in recovering data from mobile phones.

You’re in luck!

Our data recovery engineers understand how important your photos are, some memories just cannot be replaced. Our resourceful technicians have a verified track record and are widely renowned for successfully recovering data from mobile phones, SD cards, cameras and a range of other devices.

We’ve recovered photos and files from mobile phones belonging to:

  • Students
  • Large businesses
  • Small businesses
  • Charities and non-profit organisations
  • Home users

Get in touch today

Do NOT sell the phone as ‘faulty’ or ‘for parts’

Why not? Because your phone could still have your data on it! If someone got hold of the phone and had the tools and knowledge to access its data, they could potentially be reading your old text messages, looking through your photos or much worse – they could login to your Facebook account or emails.

If you have a faulty phone lying around and you’re curious about its contents, follow the steps in this article and let us know how it goes!

Working with Aaron has been amazing. He kept me informed of the process all the way through and was honest about whether the data could be extracted or whether my hard drive was too damaged to retrieve anything.

Thank you so much Aaron, your service has been impeccable.

Alexis Charkiw

Aaron was amazingly empathetic. I was distraught with the thought of losing everything but he was reassuring whilst managing my expectations very well.

The communication was brilliant. It’s great to be able to speak to a human being who genuinely cares.

I would recommend this business to anyone who needs this level of forensic support. They are brilliantly human and competent.

Shea Heer

Very impressed by the friendly and reliable service. Went above and beyond my expectations plus fantastic value for money! Would highly recommend to anyone.

Donna Clark

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