Can iPhone data be retrieved?

Losing data on your iPhone can be frustrating and upsetting. Photos, contacts, notes, and other information may feel like they are gone forever when an iPhone is damaged, lost, or stolen. However, there are several options for trying to recover lost iPhone data depending on your situation.

Recovering Data from a Damaged iPhone

If your iPhone is damaged but still accessible, you may be able to recover data directly from the device. Here are some steps to try:

  • Connect the iPhone to your computer and make an iTunes or iCloud backup to save the data that is still accessible.
  • Use iPhone data recovery software to scan the phone and extract lost data. Programs like iSkysoft Toolbox – iOS Repair can find photos, messages, and other files even if the phone is damaged or unresponsive.
  • Repair the phone. Take it to an Apple store or repair shop, or ship it to a data recovery service. Physically repairing the device can allow more data to be accessed.
  • As a last resort, remove the flash memory chip from the iPhone and use special data recovery hardware tools to read it directly.

If the phone is too damaged to turn on, recovery options become more limited. But professionals may still be able to extract data by working directly with the storage components.

Recovering Data from a Lost or Stolen iPhone

If your iPhone is lost or stolen, retrieving your information is difficult but there some options to try:

  • Use the Find My iPhone app to remotely erase the device for security, and hopefully enable Lost Mode which can display a message with contact info.
  • Check your iCloud and iTunes backups to restore data to a new device.
  • Use third-party tracking apps to locate the phone. Many carriers also have tracking services.
  • File a police report. Police can work with carriers to track down stolen devices in some cases.
  • Report the lost or stolen device to your carrier and disable the SIM card.
  • If recovered, have the iPhone data extracted by a professional recovery service.

Enabling Find My iPhone and regularly backing up your data are the best ways to prepare for a lost device. But even without backups, skilled forensics experts can sometimes recover iPhone data for you if the phone is retrieved.

Recovering Data from a Water Damaged iPhone

Water damage is one of the most common ways iPhones can be damaged and lose data. Here are tips for recovering data from a water damaged iPhone:

  • Immediately power off the iPhone and do not try to turn it on. Attempting to power up a water damaged device can short circuit and ruin components.
  • Allow the phone to dry thoroughly for 24-48 hours before attempting data recovery.
  • Remove the SIM card and memory card without powering on the phone.
  • Clean water residue out of ports and openings with compressed air.
  • Use water damage recovery software to attempt reading data once the phone is fully dried out.
  • If the phone won’t power on or the software can’t read data, seek professional disassembly and chip-off data recovery services.

Quick action is key for saving data on a water damaged iPhone. The longer electrical components stay wet, the greater the chance of permanent damage. But even a phone that no longer powers on may still have recoverable data stored on its chips.

Using iCloud Backup to Restore iPhone Data

iCloud provides one of the easiest ways to restore your iPhone data if you lose your device or have it wiped somehow. As long as you had iCloud Backup enabled, you can get back most of your information.

Here are the steps to restore from an iCloud backup:

  1. Get a replacement iPhone.
  2. During initial setup, select “Restore from iCloud Backup” when asked.
  3. Enter your iCloud ID and password and select the desired backup.
  4. Allow the iPhone to download and restore apps, settings, and data from the cloud.

iCloud backups include data like:

  • Photos and videos
  • Contacts
  • Call history
  • iMessages
  • Ringtones
  • Home screen and app layout
  • App data
  • Some device settings

The latest iCloud backup may not perfectly match what was on your lost iPhone if it hasn’t synced recently. But it provides an easy way to get back a significant amount of data quickly.

Using iTunes to Restore an iPhone Backup

Before iCloud, iTunes was used to backup and restore iPhone data. iTunes backups are now less common but can still be useful for major recovery needs. Here are the steps to restore an iTunes backup to an iPhone:

  1. Connect the replacement iPhone to a computer with iTunes installed.
  2. In iTunes, select the new iPhone.
  3. Click Restore Backup and select the desired backup file from the list.
  4. Check apps and data as they are restored to the device.
  5. Sync again once completed so any new items are copied over.

iTunes backups contain:

  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • Messages
  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Photos
  • Videos

While slightly outdated, iTunes backups provide a full data snapshot and robust recovery option compared to iCloud. They can be ideal for major restoration needs.

Using Third-Party iPhone Data Recovery Software

In addition to Apple’s own utilities, there are many third-party iOS data recovery programs that can help retrieve lost iPhone information. Here are some of the leading options:

Software Features
iMyFone D-Back Recovers up to 35 data types. Works directly on iOS devices and extracts iTunes and iCloud backups.
FoneDog Toolkit Recovers up to 18 data types. Works on most iOS versions. Has free trial version.
iSkysoft Toolbox Does advanced data recovery across many scenarios. Can fix some iOS system issues.

These programs provide options like:

  • Recovery from iOS devices directly, bypassing iTunes and iCloud
  • Extraction of personal data from device backups
  • Advanced scanning and file carving algorithms
  • Retrieval of additional data types beyond Apple’s tools
  • Recovery from severely damaged or non-functional devices
  • OS repair features to enable successful recovery

Paid recovery software costs $40-$60 typically but can be worth it for the convenience, flexibility, and improved recovery capabilities compared to Apple’s free utilities.

Using Professional Data Recovery Services

For difficult iPhone data loss situations, turning to professional recovery companies may be needed. They use techniques like:

  • Chip-off recovery – Removing flash memory chip from iPhone and reading it using special tools
  • Microsoldering – Repairing damaged components at board level
  • Forensics – Advanced data reading tools for erased or partitioned storage

Pro iPhone recovery can cost a few hundred dollars but yields the highest success rate in challenging cases like:

  • Water damaged/corroded phones
  • Phones damaged beyond physical repair
  • Locked or disabled iPhone access
  • Previously wiped or reset iPhones

Companies like DriveSavers, Desert Data Recovery, and iBored are leaders in dedicated iPhone data recovery and can often recover data when consumer software and methods fail.

Preparing for Potential iPhone Data Loss

While data recovery is possible in many situations, the best approach is being proactive in preventing loss in the first place:

  • Back up regularly – Use iCloud Backup or iTunes Backup on a schedule in case you ever need to restore.
  • Encrypt backups – Password protect backup files for added security.
  • Use cloud storage – Stash photos and other files in cloud accounts for easy web restore if needed.
  • Insure your device – Plans like AppleCare+ can provide cheap replacement of damaged devices to get your data back online quickly.
  • Enable tracking – Use Find My iPhone to locate, lock, or wipe lost devices.

The more backups and redundancy you have for important iPhone data, the less stress there will be if you ever have an issue that causes data loss or the need for recovery and restoration.


Losing personal data is often traumatic, but there are techniques available to retrieve lost iPhone information in many circumstances. Backups provide the fastest and easiest option, while professional recovery services yield the highest success rate for difficult data loss cases involving damaged, wiped, or inaccessible iPhones. Using preventative measures like encryption, cloud syncing, Find My iPhone, and comprehensive backups can also help mitigate potential data loss disasters down the road for iPhone users.