A dead or broken screen is a common issue that smartphone users face. Recent surveys show that over half of smartphone owners have broken their phone screen at some point. For example, a 2022 survey found 55% of respondents had broken their cell phone screen before. With the fragile glass screens on modern smartphones, it’s easy to accidentally drop and crack your device.
When your phone screen no longer responds to touch or shows any display, you’re cut off from accessing apps, messages, photos, and other important data. A dead screen makes your smartphone unusable for anything besides the most basic calls and texts. This can be frustrating if you rely on your device daily. The good news is that even with a dead screen there are still ways to recover photos and data off your phone, as we’ll discuss in this guide.
Assess the Damage
The first step is to assess the extent of the damage to determine if the screen is completely black or if anything still shows up on the display. Try turning on your phone and see if there are any visual cues on the screen – even just a flicker of light or color. Haptic feedback when touching the screen is also a good sign that the display may not be completely broken.
According to Verizon’s troubleshooting guide, you may want to check for any cracks, burns, or discoloration on the physical screen itself to identify potential hardware issues causing the problem. A completely black, unresponsive screen with no haptic feedback likely indicates a more serious problem than one that is just glitchy or unresponsive in areas.
It’s important to fully diagnose the state of the screen and LED/LCD display. A screen that is completely black and unresponsive points to a different troubleshooting approach compared to one that still shows a dim image.
Try Rebooting Your Phone
If your phone’s screen is unresponsive or black, you can try rebooting it to get the screen working again, at least temporarily. This involves force restarting your Android phone by holding down the power button.
To force reboot an Android phone with a broken screen:
- Press and hold the power button for at least 20-30 seconds. Keep holding down the button until you feel the phone vibrate or see the screen light up.
- Plug your phone into a charger and then press and hold the power button again to reboot it.
This forced reboot may temporarily bring your phone’s screen back so you can access it to recover data, back it up, or reset it. However, the screen may go black again once the phone restarts. Still, it’s worth trying a force reboot if your screen is completely unresponsive.[Source]
Enable USB Debugging
If your phone was already set up with USB debugging enabled before the screen stopped working, you may be able to connect it to a computer and access the files that way. USB debugging is an advanced developer setting that allows you to transfer data between your Android device and a computer using a USB cable.
To enable USB debugging on most Android devices:
- Go to Settings > About Phone and tap Build Number 7 times. This unlocks the Developer options menu.
- Go back and open Developer options and enable USB debugging.
Once enabled, you can connect your phone to a computer with a USB cable. The computer should detect the phone and allow you to access the files and folders. You can then copy any photos, videos, documents etc. off the phone and onto your computer for safekeeping.
The main catch is having USB debugging enabled ahead of time. If you didn’t already have it turned on, this method won’t work. But if you did set it up before the screen stopped working, it provides a way to recover data off the phone even with a dead screen.
Use OTG Cable
One option to try accessing your phone’s storage with a dead screen is to use an OTG (On-The-Go) cable. An OTG cable allows you to connect external devices like a USB drive or SD card reader directly to your phone. Here’s how it works:
First, you’ll need an OTG adapter cable which has a micro USB connector on one end that plugs into your phone, and a regular USB port on the other end. Plug your phone into your computer using the OTG cable. Your computer should detect the phone storage and show it as an external drive. Then, you can access and copy over any photos or files you need.
The advantage of using an OTG cable is that it doesn’t require your phone’s screen to be functional. As long as the phone is powered on and storage is intact, the OTG cable should enable a data connection to transfer files. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to have USB debugging enabled on your Android phone for this method to work.
Remove SD Card
If your Android phone has an SD card slot, you may be able to remove the SD card and access the files on a computer. Here’s how:
- Turn off the phone if possible by holding down the power button for several seconds.
- Use a SIM card removal tool or paperclip to eject the SD card tray located on the side of the phone.
- Gently slide out the SD card.
- Insert the SD card into a card reader attached to a computer or laptop.
- The computer should detect the SD card as an external drive, allowing you to open it and view photos and other files stored on it.
- Copy the photo files from the SD card to your computer for backup and safekeeping.
As long as your phone’s SD card is intact, this method provides direct access to the photos stored on it. Just be sure to gently insert and remove the card to avoid any further damage. The internal storage will still be inaccessible, but the SD card may contain your most recent photos.
Try Mirroring Apps
If your phone’s screen is damaged but it is still able to turn on and connect via USB, you may be able to mirror your phone’s display to your computer using mirroring apps. Apps like Mobizen allow you to view and control your Android device from your computer. To use Mobizen:
- Install the Mobizen app on your Android phone and install the Mobizen desktop app on your computer.
- Connect your phone to your computer via USB and launch the Mobizen app.
- Allow USB debugging on your Android device if prompted.
- On your computer, the Mobizen desktop app will now mirror your phone’s screen. You can view photos, videos, files, etc. and transfer them to your computer.
With screen mirroring apps, you can access your phone’s contents even if the screen is cracked or unresponsive. Just make sure USB debugging is enabled beforehand.
Use Cloud Backup
If you had your phone set up to backup photos and data to the cloud, you may be able to restore your photos by accessing those cloud backups. Google offers automated backup options through Google One and Google Photos that can help in this situation.
If you had Google Photos backup enabled on your Android device, you can install the Google Photos app on a new device or use the web interface at photos.google.com to access your backed up photos. You can then download the photos to your computer or new device. See this Google support article for details: How to restore photos to device from Google photos backup?
Additionally, if you had full device backups enabled through Google One, you may be able to fully restore your device data and settings. This article from Google provides an overview of how to restore from a Google One backup: Back up or restore data on your Android device.
Restoring from the cloud requires that backups were properly configured and your photos/data were successfully backed up prior to the device failure. If you did not have automatic backups enabled, this method may not work.
Take It to a Repair Shop
If you’ve exhausted all other options, taking your phone to a professional repair shop may be your best bet for recovering data from a phone with a dead screen. Phone repair technicians have specialized tools and software that can often recover data even from badly damaged devices.
For example, companies like Mobile Training in Kathmandu, Nepal offer professional data recovery services. They use advanced software and techniques to extract data from phones with damaged or unresponsive screens. The cost for data recovery depends on the specific phone model and extent of the damage, but it may be worthwhile if the data is important to you.
Repair shops also have more options for getting inside your phone and bypassing the screen entirely. This may allow them to recover data directly from the phone’s storage chips. While not a sure thing, professional data recovery offers the best chance of salvaging your photos, messages, and other irreplaceable data from a phone with a busted screen.
With a phone that has a dead screen, there are a few options to get your photos off the device. The best approach will depend on your specific situation.
If your phone won’t turn on at all, taking it to a repair shop is likely the easiest option – they can replace the screen and recover data. However, this will cost money. If the phone powers on but the screen is black, enabling USB debugging or using a wireless mirroring app may allow you to view and transfer photos.
Removing the SD card is a good option if you’ve been storing photos there. Using cloud backups like Google Photos is great if you had them set up already. For minor screen issues, a hard reset may get the screen working temporarily.
Overall, don’t panic if your phone screen stops working. With some troubleshooting there are usually ways to recover your photos through cables, wireless networks, cloud services or professional phone repair shops.