Can You Recover the Data on Your Mobile Device Alone?

Friday, January 16, 2015 by Jennifer Duits

It starts out so simple.  Just a quick update or installation of a new app on your mobile device and suddenly nothing works and you cannot find any of your photos, texts, contacts, etc. Or maybe you are like me and did an innocent thing like pull your mobile phone out of your pocket and dropped it on the floor resulting in a cracked, useless, device (yes, I even had a name-brand rugged case on it). Now what? Is it possible to recover the sensitive data stored on the device yourself or should you contact a specialist? Because it is a mobile device, in contrast to "normal" computers or laptops it is different.

Where Do Mobile Devices Store Data?

In an iOS Apple smartphone, all data storage occurs exclusively on the internal memory of the device. Depending on the model, the iPhone has a different sized NAND flash memory. Alternatively, you can store data via iTunes or on iCloud in the cloud.  The same also applies to the iPad. Android-based smartphones, however, offer the possibility to use three different data storage places. In addition to the internal memory - mostly NAND flash - many devices have a (micro-) SD card slot on which you can save the data. As a last resort, you can store various data on the SIM card of the Telco provider depending on the available amount of memory. Most Android phones also have cloud options for back-up depending on the manufacturer and service provider.

Types of Data Loss on a Mobile Device

Like most data storage devices both physical damage and logical errors can occur. An example of physical damage on a smartphone is when the flash memory chip or the controller fails on the internal circuit board due to a fall (see story above) and now the device is no longer usable. Or the internal memory chips partially break within the device and data is no longer accessible. Several examples of a logical error would be missing or incorrect file structures or linkages, corrupt files and file formats as well as faulty memory allocations. In short, all logical errors cause files not to be displayed, but still exist on the memory.

Need Help?

Whether it is a logical or physical failure, in most cases, an affected user cannot recover their data alone. The chance that a user can save data using freely available software tools from the internet, is really low. On the contrary, the use of such tools can cause the device to stop saving data and since some programs work on "live objects", they will overwrite data and destroy it.

For this reason, any user who suffers from data loss on mobile devices should always consult a professional data recovery company. Only specialists who have frequently and successfully engaged in data recovery from mobile devices can really assess whether there is a realistic chance to recover important material from mobile phones or tablets.