iPhone data recovery – what can be retrieved from your iOS device

What Mobile
February 22, 2021

We live in an age when our smartphones have become attached to our hands. It’s incredible how a tiny device can hold some of our most important data. All our friends’ phone numbers, photos that hold important memories, conversations with people, and apps that help us get through the day – they are all locked inside an iPhone that fits into your pocket.

We’ve grown used to how available technology has become, that we sometimes don’t realise things are not forever. What happens if, all of a sudden, we lose access to all this precious data? What if your phone gets stolen, lost, or damaged? Or what if you mistakenly delete something?

These are the moments you realise technology, despite seeming so powerful, is not, actually, infallible. In an instance, data we believed to be safe is completely gone.

Or so it appears…

What if we told you technology is, in fact, more powerful than we think? Even if you believe your data is gone forever, there might be a chance to recover it almost entirely. This depends, of course, on some conditions, but at least hope is not lost.

Below are three of the most common instances people lose data from their phone, together with what can be done to get as much as you can back from it.

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Deleted data

In most instances, when we are deleting something from our phones, we hope it will be gone forever. But what happens if we do that by mistakes? What if you delete some important photos or messages that you absolutely need to get back?

Luckily, there may be some things you can do to get it all back. It has to do with the way your iPhone stores information and what it does with it.

With few exceptions, your iPhone encrypts all user files that you store on the device. This means these files need a unique encryption key to be accessed and, once the files are deleted, this encryption key is destroyed. If the key is gone, it becomes close to impossible to recover most of your files without using advanced exploit tools such as jailbreak.

Still, there are some exceptions that don’t follow that rule, precisely so that you can undo your mistakes:

  • Messages

Your iPhone stores messages in SQLite format. When SQLite files are deleted, they don’t instantly disappear from your phone but are stored separately on a free list. With a bit of knowledge, and the right tools, such as this Enigma Recovery software, these files can be recovered, and you won’t lose anything.

  • Photos and videos

You may actually know this by now, but when you delete photos and videos from your iPhone, they are not removed instantly. Instead, they are stored in the Recently deleted album that you can find at the bottom of the Albums tab in your photo gallery. Your phone keeps the files here for 30 days before they get permanently deleted, so you can easily retrieve them.

Broken phone

A broke phone may seem like a lost cause, with very few hopes of recovering anything from it. However, even if you managed to completely shatter your display, the phone may still be functional despite not showing anything on the screen.

Plugging the iPhone into a computer and using some recovery software can let you access almost any files store on the phone, including text messages and photos. Still, there are some things you need to keep in mind.

The simplest way to do this is to have your phone already paired with the iTunes app on your computer. This won’t require you to use the phone screen to type in the password or confirm that you allow the phone to connect to the computer.

If you are required to mark your computer as a trusted device, but you can’t use the screen to type in the password, your only hope is that the fingerprint or facial recognition sensors are not damaged and you can unlock the phone this way.

Photos are the easiest files to recover using this method, as they can be easily downloaded on your computer. However, if you need to recover messages or other files, they need to be backed up and converted into iTunes-format files, then analysed with a third-party tool. This can be a tricky process, so it’s better you let a professional do it.

Water damage

We saved the worse for last, as this is one of the biggest fears of any smartphone users. Luckily, all of the newest iPhone models are waterproof, but only to an extent. If your phone ends up in a deep pool, then you may have a problem.

Unfortunately, there won’t be much you can recover from a sunken device due to something called end-to-end encryption, which protects sensitive information such as passwords. Professional data recovery services may be able to recover more than you can do by yourself, but the hopes are still low.

If you constantly back up your data, you can use a tool that recovers information from synchronized data and backups to get your files back. These tools are available for the general public, and some can be used with ease. This is one of the situations everyone who tells you to back up your data from time to time warns you about.

iPhone users can easily do this by using iCloud; Apple’s could service. When you make an iCloud account, you receive 5 GB of storage space for free, and you can always purchase more. This works as a subscription service, so you can always upscale or downscale it as you see fit, and the prices are quite affordable.

If your files have not been backed up, but you absolutely must recover them, your only chance to get back data from a water-damaged phone is by contacting a data recovery lab. Their services can be expensive, but if the information is incredibly valuable, it may be worth a try.

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