Is your iPhone damaged to such an extent that you can no longer use it? Is the screen broken or won’t even turn on? You can buy a new iPhone, but the data on your old device may be irreplaceable. Fortunately, you may be able to recover it.
Has your iPhone been backed up?
If you have a recent backup for your iPhone, you’re in luck. There are two different types of backup you can have: a wireless cloud backup to iCloud or a local backup on a Mac or PC.
iCloud backups are the easiest to work with as they take care of themselves once set up. You’ll need plenty of free iCloud storage for this to work, which for most people means paying for the 50GB ($0.99/month) option.
You can see if you have backups enabled and when the last successful backup was made using other devices connected to your Apple ID. These include other iPhones or iPads, a Mac, or a Windows PC with iCloud for Windows:
- On an iPhone or iPad: Launch the Settings app, tap your name, then navigate to > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups.
- On a Mac: Launch System Preferences, click Apple ID, then select the iCloud tab on the left. Click Manage and then select “Backups” in the window that appears.
- On a Windows PC: Launch iCloud for Windows, click Storage, then select Backups on the left.
If you have a recent iCloud backup, the data on your iPhone is safe. You can restore your iPhone using the “Restore from iCloud Backup” option presented to you when you activate a new iPhone. Your device will be restored as you remember it, but how long it takes depends on the speed of your internet connection.
Note that if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled (and have enough free space to copy everything to the cloud), your personal media will already be backed up. You can log into iCloud.com to see the latest snaps copied to the cloud.
If you’ve backed up your device to a Mac, you can see your available offline backups using Finder. To do this, launch Finder and click Go > Go To Folder… at the top of the screen, copy and paste this location followed by Enter:
In Windows, use the search bar to enter
%appdata% followed by the Enter key and then navigate to “Apple” or “Apple Computer” followed by MobileSync > Backup. On a Mac or Windows PC, these local backups can be restored by plugging in a new device and selecting:
To transfer a local backup to a new iPhone, first connect the replacement to a Mac or Windows with iTunes, choose “Restore from this backup” when prompted, then select the backup -up you want to restore.
Is your iPhone recognized by a Mac or PC?
If your iPhone’s screen is broken or the device becomes unresponsive but turns on anyway, you may still be able to create a new backup that you can transfer to a new device. This will save everything on iPhone to your Mac or Windows 10 or 11 drive in a format that can be recovered using Finder or iTunes for Windows.
To do this, make sure your device is turned on and then connect it to your Mac or Windows PC. Launch Finder (on a Mac) or iTunes (on Windows) to see if the device is recognized. Keep in mind that you may need to “trust” a device by allowing access on your iPhone screen before it can communicate with your computer, and this can be difficult if the device is not functioning normally.
You can create a new backup on a Mac by selecting the device in the Finder sidebar, then clicking “General”, followed by “Back up all data on your iPhone to this Mac” (you can also choose to encrypt the backup with a password if you want). Click “Back Up Now” to start the process.
In Windows, launch iTunes and click on your iPhone in the top left corner of the window, followed by Summary > Back Up Now. You can restore these backups to a new (or nearly new) iPhone using Finder or iTunes for Windows.
If you already have an iCloud backup and use other iCloud services like iCloud Photo Library, you don’t necessarily need to do this (but more backups won’t hurt).
Recover data by restoring the device to a bootable state
If the device doesn’t boot up or isn’t recognized by a Mac or PC, and you haven’t used iCloud backup or other iCloud services to store data, you might not be completely out of luck. Repairing a damaged iPhone is often not worth it, as the repair costs are often comparable to the price of a new device.
But you may only need to restore your device to a bootable (not necessarily usable) state to back up the data. If the speakers don’t work or the screen is partially covered by a crack, that’s not a problem, provided you can communicate with a Mac or Windows PC with iTunes (as in the previous section).
What this means depends entirely on the damage to your device. For example, if the only thing preventing your iPhone from communicating is a damaged Lightning port, you may be able to disassemble the iPhone, replace the Lightning port, and then run the backup.
Apple introduced a Self Service Repair program for iPhone owners in 2022, which allows “persons with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices” to repair their iPhones. Apple provides repair manuals, tools, and replacement parts (for a fee) to help you fix your device, but it’s not for everyone.
You can also use iFixit’s iPhone Repair Hub for instructions on how to disassemble, diagnose, and repair your device. You will likely need a set of specialized tools to pry the unit open and remove screws and ribbon cables. How far you go with the repair depends on how much your stranded data is worth to you.
Third-party repair and recovery options
If you’re not really sure about a DIY repair, third-party data recovery services exist. The problem is, they can cost as much as a new device, and there’s no guarantee that your data will be recovered.
Get a service like iPad Rehab that specializes in all kinds of iPhone and iPad repairs. The service promises to “perform open-ended troubleshooting and micro-soldering to identify and correct errors on the circuit board to bring the dead phone back to life enough to provide a path to your data.”
The listed price for this method is $300-$600, although they do offer a “no data, no fee” promise and a wait of approximately four weeks. You can throw in another $100 to get in line if you’re desperate.
There are plenty of other companies that offer data recovery services, and many will be in your area. These companies often don’t provide quotes until you request an evaluation, although payment plans often exist. Paying someone else to recover your data doesn’t require soldering skills or specialized equipment, but it will likely cost you more because you’re paying for expertise.
Set up a backup and don’t let this happen again
By far the best thing you can do to protect your data is to use a backup solution. iCloud backup might cost you 99 cents to a few dollars a month, but it’s a lot cheaper than paying for specialized data recovery services.
Set up an iCloud backup under Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup by turning it on. You may be asked to sign up for more iCloud space, so why not learn what else you can use your iCloud storage for?
If your iPhone is no longer usable and you need a replacement, check out our recommendations for the best iPhones available right now.