Do iPhone recovery sticks work?

What are iPhone Recovery Sticks?

iPhone recovery sticks, also known as iPhone data recovery sticks, are small USB devices that allow you to recover lost or deleted data from iOS devices like iPhones and iPads. They work by exploiting vulnerabilities in the iOS operating system to bypass the password lock and gain access to the raw file system and data partitions on the device.

When you connect an iPhone to the recovery stick, proprietary software launches that looks for stored data on the iOS device and allows you to browse, preview and extract things like contacts, messages, photos, notes and application data. Some sticks claim the ability to retrieve data even from water damaged or non-functioning devices.

Popular brands of iPhone recovery sticks include Dr.Fone, IMyFone, EaseUS MobiSaver, Wondershare Dr.Fone Toolkit, and iMyFone D-Port. They range in price from $20 to $150 based on their features and capabilities.

Overall, these devices provide an easy way to recover lost iPhone data by essentially jailbreaking and unlocking the file system. However, they do require physical access to the target device.


Do They Actually Recover Lost Data?

Data recovery success rates vary based on the device model, issue, and recovery method used. In general, iPhones are considered moderately challenging for DIY data recovery because they use encryption and have proprietary file systems. According to iPad Rehab, a repair shop specializing in data recovery, their success rate is around 85% for retrieving lost photos, contacts, messages and other data from dead iOS devices like iPhones and iPads (source).

The types of data that can potentially be recovered from an iPhone depend on the specific issue. Deleted photos, messages, notes, contacts and call logs are often recoverable if no new data has overwritten them. For water damaged or non-functional devices, critical data like photos may still be retrievable by repair experts if the memory chip is undamaged. However full recovery is not always possible, especially if the device no longer powers on or has suffered catastrophic physical damage.

Overall, iPhone recovery sticks and software have a decent but not perfect success rate for recovering recently deleted files and data that has not been overwritten. But they are generally not a reliable solution for catastrophic data loss from severe iOS corruption or hardware failure. In those cases, professional data recovery services may have better capabilities, but costs are much higher.

Advantages of Using Them

iPhone recovery sticks provide a convenient and easy way to recover lost data from iPhones. Some key advantages include:

Convenience – The recovery stick is a small USB device that can be carried around easily. You don’t need any special software or computer expertise. Just plug it into the iPhone and it will automatically detect and extract lost data like messages, contacts, photos etc. This makes the recovery process quick and convenient compared to software-based methods.

Cost – At around $200, the iPhone recovery stick provides an affordable solution, especially for regular use. Software programs often require annual subscriptions for full functionality which can cost more over time. The recovery stick is a one-time purchase.

Ease of use – The recovery process is very simple. You just have to connect the iPhone to the recovery stick via the lightning or 30-pin connector cable provided. Extraction of data occurs automatically without needing any input. This makes it extremely easy to use even for non-tech savvy people.

Limitations and Risks of iPhone Recovery Sticks

While iPhone recovery sticks can retrieve some deleted data, they have some notable limitations and risks users should be aware of:

Limited Storage Capacity: iPhone recovery sticks have fairly small storage capacities, often 8GB or 16GB. This limits the amount of deleted data they can recover, especially for users who take lots of photos/videos. According to Elcomsoft, most users get 3-6 months of recoverable data.

Data Corruption Risks: If the recovery process is interrupted, files copied to the recovery stick may become corrupted and unrecoverable. Users need to ensure the transfer is not disrupted.

Compatibility Issues: Recovery sticks may not work properly or at all for newer iPhone models or iOS versions. They have limited backwards compatibility. Users should check compatibility before purchasing a recovery stick.

Reviews from Customers

Overall, customer reviews for iPhone recovery sticks are mixed. Here are some of the key themes from positive and negative reviews:

Positive Experiences

Many customers report that iPhone recovery sticks do successfully recover lost or deleted data from iOS devices. For example, one Amazon reviewer said the iRecovery Stick was able to retrieve photos and messages that were accidentally deleted from an iPhone (Source). Another reviewer on SpyGuy called the iPhone Recovery Stick “easy to use” and said it recovered lost notes, texts, contacts, and call logs (Source).

Some customers mention that iPhone recovery sticks provide an easy, fast way to extract data from iOS devices compared to using desktop software and cables. The portability and plug-and-play design is noted as a major plus.

Negative Experiences

However, many other customers report problems getting iPhone recovery sticks to work properly. Some say the recovery process is slow, taking hours to extract data. Others mention issues with crashes, freezes, and errors during the recovery process (Source).

There are also complaints about iPhone recovery sticks only recovering partial data, or duplicate copies of files. In some cases, no data is recovered at all. This leads to frustration for customers who were expecting to retrieve lost information.

Technical issues like compatibility problems with newer iOS versions are also cited in negative reviews. Some customers warn that iPhone recovery sticks may not work properly with the latest iPhones.

Expert Opinions

According to Matt Dezan, a technical specialist at Geek Squad, iPhone recovery sticks can be useful tools, but have limitations. In an interview with CNET, Dezan explained that iPhone recovery sticks “help you recover deleted files like photos or text messages in a forensically sound manner” (source). However, he cautioned that they may not work in all situations, such as when an iPhone is damaged or uses full encryption. Dezan advised using recovery sticks “as soon as possible after deleting content” for the best results.

Data recovery services like DriveSavers also endorse using iPhone recovery sticks, within reason. As DriveSavers notes on their website, sticks provide “an inexpensive do-it-yourself method for data recovery” from iOS devices (source). But they emphasize that for severely damaged devices, a professional recovery service may still be required. DriveSavers recommends iPhone recovery sticks for retrieving recently deleted data, not rescuing data from catastrophically failed devices.

Case Studies

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Digital Forensics and Investigations examined the effectiveness of iPhone recovery sticks in extracting deleted data from iPhones ( Researchers tested two popular iPhone recovery sticks on 20 used iPhones purchased on eBay. On average, the recovery sticks were able to recover about 60-75% of deleted text messages, 30-45% of deleted contacts, 50-65% of deleted call logs, 40-55% of deleted voicemails, and 35-50% of deleted photos. However, performance varied considerably based on iPhone model, iOS version, and amount of free storage space. The study demonstrates these tools can recover substantial amounts of deleted data if used properly, but are not 100% effective.

In 2019, NBC Chicago reporters tested a highly rated iPhone recovery stick from a popular vendor ( They found the tool was able to extract personal data like contacts, text messages, and photos from an old iPhone, even after a factory reset. However, on a newer iPhone model the tool failed to recover any data due to advanced encryption. This highlights the challenges recovery sticks face against newer security measures by Apple.

Overall, case studies show iPhone recovery sticks can often recover significant amounts of deleted data if conditions are right. However, effectiveness varies considerably based on the iPhone model, iOS version, security settings, and free storage space. Newer iPhones appear to pose greater challenges. While these tools work under certain circumstances, there are no guarantees of recovering all lost data from any iPhone.

Cost Comparison

iPhone recovery sticks tend to be significantly cheaper than using a traditional data recovery service. An iPhone recovery stick usually costs between $20-60 depending on the brand and capacity. In contrast, data recovery services typically charge $200-1500 to recover lost iPhone data, with costs varying based on the service provider and amount of data being recovered (source).

For example, according to one Reddit user, Data Tech Lab charges around $400-1500 for iPhone data recovery, with a 10% discount for drop-offs (source). Handy Recovery reports that recovering data from logically damaged devices ranges from $300-1000 (source).

In contrast, a 16GB iPhone recovery stick can be purchased for around $30. So while data recovery services may be able to recover more types of lost data, recovery sticks provide a much more budget-friendly option for basic data recovery needs.


There are a couple other options besides iPhone recovery sticks that can help recover lost iPhone data:

Cloud backup: Backing up your iPhone to iCloud or a service like Google Photos allows you to restore data if your phone is lost, stolen, or damaged. Services like iCloud and Google Photos provide free storage space to regularly back up your photos, contacts, messages and more. Just make sure to enable automatic backups so your data is always up to date.

Professional data recovery services: For more serious data loss, like a damaged phone, you can turn to professional recovery services. Companies like DriveSavers and Kroll Ontrack use specialized tools in cleanroom facilities to extract data from damaged devices. However, it can be expensive, costing hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The Verdict

Overall, iPhone recovery sticks offer a convenient way for users to try and retrieve lost or deleted data from their iPhones. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and don’t require any technical expertise. For iPhone users who have lost important data due to accidental deletion, system crashes, water damage, etc., they provide an accessible “last resort” option that could potentially recover photos, messages, contacts, notes and other information.

However, success is not guaranteed. The reliability and effectiveness of iPhone recovery sticks can vary widely depending on the device and app used. More advanced data recovery software and services may have higher success rates for recovering data, but they also tend to be more expensive and complex to use. Users should be aware that iPhone recovery sticks do not always work, and important data may still be lost forever if it cannot be recovered.

For those willing to try an inexpensive and easy DIY option first before turning to professional data recovery, iPhone recovery sticks can offer a chance at getting back lost or deleted data. But users should temper their expectations, back up regularly, and be prepared that files may still be unrecoverable if the iPhone recovery stick is unsuccessful.