Can I retrieve pictures from a dead iPhone?

Losing the photos, videos, and other precious data stored on your iPhone can be devastating. Many iPhone users fail to properly back up their devices until it’s too late. According to one survey, 41% of cell phone owners back up the files on their phone in case it fails or is lost (Pew Research Center, 2012). When an iPhone stops working and won’t turn on, the anxiety kicks in about whether those memories can still be retrieved.

This guide will cover the various options for trying to recover data from an unresponsive “dead” iPhone. We’ll provide tips on backup solutions to prevent data loss, using data recovery services, prioritizing what data to recover, and more. With the right techniques, there’s a good chance of rescuing at least some data and photos from an iPhone that won’t power on.

Define What a Dead iPhone Means

An iPhone can be considered “dead” or non-functional in a few different ways:

  • Won’t turn on – The phone won’t power on at all when you press the power button or connect it to a charger. The screen remains black and no signs of life are visible. This is often caused by a depleted battery, motherboard failure, or software crash.
  • Broken screen – The screen is visibly cracked, shattered, or damaged to the point where it is unusable and does not respond to touch. The phone may turn on, but the screen does not display properly.
  • Water damage – Liquid has gotten inside the iPhone and caused corrosion or short circuiting of internal components. This often prevents the phone from powering on or functioning properly.
  • Unresponsive touch – The screen turns on but does not respond to touch gestures like tapping and swiping. This indicates a problem with the touch screen digitizer.
  • Stuck on Apple logo – The phone gets caught in a reboot loop, continuously displaying the Apple logo but not fully starting up. This can be caused by a software crash.
  • Won’t charge – The phone won’t charge when plugged into power, indicating an issue with the charging port or battery.

In all of these cases, the iPhone is considered “dead” or non-functional because it cannot be normally operated or powered on to access data and apps. Determining the specific problem is an important first step before attempting any data recovery.

Backup Options Before iPhone Failure

It is crucial to regularly back up the data on your iPhone to avoid permanent data loss in the event of device failure. According to a 2012 Pew Research study, only 57% of mobile phone owners back up their device data. With millions of Americans using iPhones, as 45% of U.S. smartphone owners used an iPhone in 2019, regular backups are essential.

Apple provides two easy ways to back up your iPhone data – using iCloud or iTunes. iCloud allows device backup over WiFi whereas iTunes requires connecting your device to a computer. Both methods backup your photos, messages, documents, and other important data. Setting your iPhone to automatically backup overnight ensures your data is regularly saved. Before a potential device failure, you can then restore from a recent backup to minimize data loss. Consistently backing up your iPhone is simple and provides peace of mind if hardware issues arise.

Retrieving Data from Phone that Won’t Turn On

If your iPhone won’t power on or boot up normally, there are still a few options for retrieving your photos and data off the device:

Connect to iTunes – Attach your iPhone to your computer and launch iTunes. Even if the phone screen is black or unresponsive, iTunes may still detect the device and allow you to access data and backups. This will only work if you previously enabled iTunes backups on your computer.

Restore from iCloud Backup – Sign into and navigate to Settings > your device > Restore. This will restore your latest iCloud backup to your iPhone or a replacement phone, including photos. Just ensure you have a recent enough iCloud backup.

Use Recovery Software – Third party tools like iMyFone D-Back can retrieve data from an iPhone even if it won’t power on. The iPhone must just be detected when connected to a computer.

The key is to act quickly before significant data loss. But even on an unresponsive iPhone, there are several potential routes to retrieve your pictures and information.

Retrieving Data from Phone with Broken Screen

If the iPhone screen is cracked or broken but the phone still turns on, there are a few options to retrieve the data. You can connect the iPhone to a computer and use iTunes or Finder to create a backup, then restore that backup to a new phone (Apple, Disussions 2021). An external keyboard or mouse can be connected to the iPhone to help navigate with a broken screen.

You can also use a Lightning to HDMI adapter to mirror the iPhone display to an external monitor, TV, or projector. This allows you to see the iPhone screen on another device in order to back up data and photos. Just connect the adapter to the iPhone charging port and connect an HDMI cable from the adapter to the external display (Apple, Discourses 2021). The iPhone screen will then be duplicated on the external display.

Finally, you can leverage iCloud backups to transfer data to a new device. As long as the iPhone has WiFi connectivity, it can be connected to a power source and an automatic iCloud backup can occur. That backup can then be restored to a new iPhone, allowing you to access your data from the broken device.

Retrieving Data from Water Damaged iPhone

If your iPhone has been exposed to water, it’s important to act quickly to try to recover your data. The first step is to immediately turn off the device and dry it out thoroughly. Remove any water indicators if possible, as those can void your warranty (1). Place the phone in dry rice or use dessicant packs to absorb moisture. Let it dry for at least 24 hours.

After thoroughly drying, try turning on your iPhone. If it powers on, immediately back up the data either to iCloud or iTunes. If it doesn’t turn on, you’ll need to use data recovery services. Companies like DriveSavers offer professional water damaged device recovery, but it can be expensive (2). Your best chance is contacting a local repair shop to see if they can temporarily get the device on to back up data.

With water damage, time is critical. The longer the device stays wet, the more corrosion occurs making data recovery less likely. If drying doesn’t work, get professional help quickly to salvage your data before it’s lost forever.

Using Professional Data Recovery Services

For many people, using a professional iPhone data recovery service is the best option to retrieve photos and other files from a dead or damaged device. Professional services have advanced tools and expertise to extract data, even from severely damaged iPhones. However, there are some pros and cons to weigh when deciding between professional vs DIY iPhone data recovery.

The main benefits of using a professional iPhone data recovery service include:

  • Higher success rates – Professionals have sophisticated equipment and years of experience recovering data from iPhones, even in complex situations like water damage or hardware failure.
  • No risk of further data loss – Attempting DIY recovery methods when you lack expertise could make data retrieval impossible.
  • Retrieval of deleted data – Professionals can often recover previously deleted files.
  • Shorter turnaround time – Reputable professionals can typically recover the data within 1-3 days.

The downsides of professional recovery services are:

  • Cost – Professional iPhone data recovery has an average cost of $200-500+. DIY options cost nothing upfront.
  • Potential privacy risks – You must trust a third party with access to your data.

Overall, for valuable or irreplaceable data, most experts recommend professional recovery. The few hundred dollar cost is worthwhile given the risks and limitations of DIY iPhone data retrieval methods for dead or broken devices.[]

Prioritizing Which Data to Recover

When attempting to recover data from a dead iPhone, it’s important to prioritize the most valuable information first. According to Apple’s discussion forums, the most important data to recover includes:

  • Photos and videos – For many users, memories in the form of photos and videos are irreplaceable. Recovering these files should be top priority.
  • Contacts – Contact details, especially for close friends and family, are difficult to replace if lost. Make recovering address book contacts a high priority.
  • Messages – Conversations in text messages often contain important information and memories. Retrieving messaging history should also be prioritized.
  • Notes – Handwritten notes and documents contain personalized information that may not exist elsewhere.
  • Calendars – Appointments, events, and reminders help reconstruct schedules and timelines.

While applications, music, settings, and other data have value, photos, contacts, messages, notes, and calendars tend to be most important for recovering personal memories and information from a dead iPhone. Prioritizing these data types can help users retrieve their most treasured data first.

Preventing Data Loss in the Future

The best way to avoid losing data from your iPhone is to regularly back up your device. You can back up an iPhone to iCloud or to a computer using iTunes. Enabling automatic iCloud backups ensures your iPhone data is regularly saved to the cloud. Connecting your iPhone to a computer and backing up to iTunes also provides a copy of your data that can be restored if needed. Using both backup methods provides redundancy in case one backup becomes corrupted or lost.

In addition to regular local and cloud backups, storing important photos, videos, documents and other files in cloud storage services like iCloud Drive, Dropbox or Google Drive ensures there are off-device copies that can be accessed if needed. Waterproof cases can also help prevent data loss due to water damage, which is a common cause of iPhone failure.

Taking proactive steps like maintaining comprehensive backups and utilizing cloud storage for important files can ensure you have multiple ways to retrieve your iPhone data if your device fails, is damaged or is lost.


In summary, there are several options for trying to retrieve data from a dead, broken, or water damaged iPhone. The ideal solution is to regularly back up your iPhone to iCloud or iTunes, which allows you to easily restore data if needed. For phones that won’t turn on, you may be able to recover data by connecting the iPhone to a computer and using data recovery software or professional services.

To recap, you can attempt to retrieve data from an iPhone that won’t turn on by connecting it to power and trying a forced restart. For phones with cracked screens, you can use voice commands, on-screen keyboards, or external keyboards to access data. For water damaged iPhones, drying the phone thoroughly before attempting power on is critical. As a last resort, professional data recovery services may be able to repair and recover data from an iPhone, but this can be expensive.

The key takeaway is to regularly back up your iPhone and enable data protection features like Face/Touch ID and encryption. This is the best way to avoid losing your precious photos, messages, and other irreplaceable data.