Having an Android smartphone or tablet stuck in a boot loop can be extremely frustrating. A boot loop is when your device gets caught in a continuous reboot cycle, never fully starting up or allowing you to access the operating system. This often happens after an OS update fails or some system files get corrupted. When stuck in a boot loop, you can’t easily access your data, apps, settings, etc. The good news is that it is often possible to recover data from an Android device stuck in a boot loop. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps and options for retrieving your photos, videos, documents, and other files from an Android phone or tablet that won’t boot properly.
Try Restarting in Safe Mode
As a first step, try restarting your Android device in safe mode. Safe mode loads a minimal version of the operating system without third party apps. This can help identify if an app is causing the boot loop issue. To restart in safe mode:
- Press and hold the power button to turn off your device.
- Once it’s fully powered down, press and hold the power button again to turn it back on.
- When you see the brand logo screen appear, press and hold both the volume down and power buttons at the same time.
- Keep holding the buttons until you see “Safe mode” appear in the bottom left corner of the screen.
- If your device fully boots up into safe mode, try accessing your data normally through the Photos app, Files app, etc. You may be able to backup your data while in safe mode.
If the device still gets stuck in a boot loop even when restarting in safe mode, proceed to the steps below for recovering data through recovery mode.
Use Android Recovery Mode
The standard way to recover data from an Android device stuck in a boot loop is to boot into recovery mode and use ‘ADB’ (Android Debug Bridge) on a computer. Here are the key steps to follow:
- On a computer, install ADB tools. This allows communication between your PC and Android device when in recovery mode. You can download ADB tools here as part of the Android SDK: https://developer.android.com/studio
- Enable USB debugging on your Android device. You must have done this previously under Developer options. If you never enabled USB debugging before, you won’t be able to use this method.
- Turn off your Android device completely.
- Press and hold the Volume Up button and Power button together until you see the recovery mode screen.
- You should see an Android figure lying down with an exclamation mark. This is the stock recovery mode.
- Connect your Android device to your computer via USB.
- On your computer, open a command prompt or terminal window. Type adb devices and hit enter. You should see your Android device’s serial number listed as attached.
- Type adb pull /sdcard C:/recoveryfolder to copy the contents of your Android device’s internal storage to a folder called ‘recoveryfolder’ on your PC.
- If you also want to retrieve data from the external SD card, type adb pull /external_sd C:/recoveryfolder.
That’s it! Your data from the internal storage and SD card will be copied to your computer. You can now access your photos, videos, documents, and other files to back them up.
Use a Data Recovery App
Another option is to use Android data recovery software that runs through recovery mode. These apps allow you to scan your device for recoverable files and retrieve them to your computer. Some popular recovery apps include:
- Dr.Fone – Android Data Recovery
- EaseUS MobiSaver for Android
- iSkysoft Toolbox – Android Data Recovery
The overall process is similar:
- Download and install the data recovery app on your computer.
- Enable USB debugging in your Android device first (if you haven’t already).
- Connect your device to the computer via USB in recovery mode.
- Launch the recovery app and scan your phone or tablet.
- Select the types of data files you want to recover.
- Allow the app to pull the selected data from your device onto the computer.
Advanced data recovery apps like Dr.Fone also claim to support deleted file recovery from internal memory, SD cards, and cloud backups.
Use OEM Tools
Some Android manufacturers such as Samsung provide their own custom recovery tools for retrieving data from devices stuck in a boot loop. For example, Samsung has a utility called Smart Switch that can recover contacts, messages, photos, and more in recovery mode.
These OEM tools have the advantage of being designed specifically for that brand of Android devices. So they are tailored to properly handle data recovery across the manufacturer’s phones and tablets.
If you have a Samsung, LG, Motorola, or other branded Android device, research if the company offers a custom data recovery tool designed for their products. The process will be similar to the ADB method outlined earlier.
Try Factory Data Reset
If none of the above options have worked, you can attempt a factory data reset from recovery mode as a last resort. This will wipe your device back to factory settings. All your data and files will be deleted. But it should reset the operating system and hopefully resolve the boot loop issue.
Important: Only do a factory reset if you’ve fully exhausted all other options for data recovery. And you have already successfully copied the important files you need off your device through one of the methods above.
To factory reset from recovery mode:
- Boot your Android into recovery mode.
- Use the volume keys to scroll to Wipe data/factory reset.
- Press the power button to select it.
- Scroll down to Yes and select it to confirm.
- Allow the factory reset process to fully complete.
- Then select Reboot system now.
This should wipe your device and reboot it back to a fresh state. Be sure to only do this after recovering your essential data, as all data will be deleted.
Remove External Factors
Before factory resetting, also consider troubleshooting any external factors that could be causing your Android device to get stuck in a boot loop:
- Try rebooting your device while it’s not connected to power or a computer.
- Check if the charger or USB cable are faulty.
- Remove any connected devices such as SD cards.
- Try holding the power button for 20-30 seconds to force a reboot.
Eliminating any external physical factors can sometimes fix the boot loop issue and allow your device to start normally again.
Prevent Boot Loop Problems
To avoid Android boot loop issues in the future, here are some tips:
- Be cautious when installing major OS updates. Wait for any potential bugs to be fixed in incremental updates.
- Before updating, backup important data externally to cloud storage or a computer.
- Carefully read app permissions before installing. Only install apps from reputable developers.
- Install a trusted anti-virus app to scan for malware.
- Avoid using unstable custom ROMs or rooting your device.
Retrieving your personal data from an Android smartphone or tablet stuck in a boot loop can be challenging but is often possible with some technical effort. The key options include using ADB tools in recovery mode, data recovery apps, OEM brand tools, or factory resetting as a last resort after data backup. With some patience and by carefully following the steps in this guide, you should be able to regain access to your photos, files, and other important data.