The screen on an Android phone or tablet is its main interface, its focal point, and its window to the world. However, when that window shatters, what happens to everything on the other side? Your data isn’t lost, but swiping through vacation photos is ten times harder when your screen is cracked.
Thankfully, even if your screen is beyond repair, you can still recover all of the files locked away in your Android device. The way to do this can change if your screen is cracked but still responding, or is completely dead with nothing showing up on screen. Today, I’m going to show you how to quickly recover files, contacts, and more if your screen took a fall.
Method 1: Moving Files Through a Data Cable
One of the easiest ways to move your data from your phone/tablet to another device, is to use a PC and a data cable. With the appropriate USB cable, you can connect your device to your PC and copy over everything you need.
USB debugging needs to be turned on for this to work properly. If you don’t have USB debugging enabled, you aren’t out of luck just yet, but the workaround can take some time if you don’t have a custom recovery. I’ll be covering this same option without USB debugging after this section.
I hope you’ve got that USB cable ready, because you need to power up your phone or tablet and connect it to your PC. Let’s go through it step by step:
- Power on your Android device. If the screen is broken to the point where you can’t see anything, just wait for a minute or two after powering it on to ensure it’s activated.
- Power on your PC if it isn’t on already.
- Connect your Android device to your PC via your data cable.
If USB debugging is enabled, your phone or tablet will show up as one of your devices within your computer. You might even see an autoplay appear on screen to show you that your device is connected.
If USB debugging is not enabled it may still appear, but you will not have access or permission to transfer files.
You now have free reign over all of your files, and can click and drag any folders or files from your Android device to your PC. It may take you some time to find the files you want, but if you don’t have time to sift through them, you can just drag and drop every folder and sort through them later.
If you’re looking for photos, you’ll find them in the DCIM folder, so those vacation pictures will be safe on your PC in no time. That’s all you have to do if your USB debugging is already enabled.
Method 2: Moving Files Through a Data Cable(No USB Debugging)
Step 1 and 2 above are still going to come in handy here, but only after you manage to enable USB debugging. If your screen is still usable, this is easy enough, but if it isn’t, you’ll need to go through some extra lengths.
Let’s start with the easiest way to turn on USB debugging. If you can still use your screen, despite its problems, you can dive into your Developer Options to enable the required setting.
If you don’t have Developer Options available, you can enable if you:
- Navigate to your Settings
- Scroll down to About Phone and select it
- Scroll down to your Build number
- Tap your build number several times until you get a popup message
- Go back to your Settings and then scroll all the way down
You’ll see your Developer Options now available near the bottom of your Settings screen.
One of the first settings you can toggle in your Developer Options is USB debugging. You can switch it on or off with just one tap.
Step 1 works if you can still use your screen, but what if it isn’t responding to your touches, or won’t even show your lockscreen? Don’t worry, you can still use USB OTG to access your phone with the help of a second screen. If you can still view your phone or tablet screen, you won’t need a second one.
In either case, you’ll still need a USB OTG cable, and a USB mouse to act as your cursor.
To do this:
- Power on your phone or tablet
- Connect the USB OTG cable to your device like you would a charger
- Connect a USB mouse to the other end of the cable and wait a moment
If you can still see your screen, you’ll see a cursor that you can move around freely with your mouse. Anything you can do with your fingers, you can do with a connected mouse. So from this point on, follow Step 1.
If your screen doesn’t work, but your Android device can still power on; you can use a TV or a monitor as a secondary screen in conjunction with your mouse. This means you’ll need a HDMI cable, and a converter box so you can use both HDMI, and a USB mouse at the same time.
The only way that you won’t need a converter box is if your phone or tablet already has a micro HDMI port installed. In case your phone doesn’t have a micro HDMI port, you can purchase a converter box to use on Amazon or other markets.
This will work the same way as Step 2, except this time, you’ll be plugging in the converter box first, and then everything else.
Now just turn on your TV or monitor, and use your mouse to unlock your phone and enable USB debugging.
From this point on, you can follow Step 1 and 2 of the first method to recovery and transfer your data as normal.
Method 3: Samsung Kies / Smart Switch
Both programs make use of your PC, or another phone or tablet, to transfer photos, contact details, and other important files as painlessly as possible. I’ll start with Smart Switch first to show you how to transfer files from your Samsung device.
Before you can use Samsung Smart Switch, you need to download it first. You can download it for PC, or for Mac. If you want to switch files from phone to phone, you’ll need to download the app. However, using the app is difficult if your screen doesn’t work, so that won’t work for everyone.
On a PC or Mac, install Samsung Smart Switch. While this is happening, make sure you have an appropriate data cable to use for the transfer, and your device powered on.
The second you finish installing Smart Switch, make sure the checkbox to launch the program is filled out. This will launch Smart Switch right away, and the program opens up with instructions from the start.
From here, connect your Samsung device and follow the on-screen instructions to recover all of your import files for later transfer.
If you’re trying to use the app instead of the PC or Mac program with your screen completely broken, use one of the unlock methods here to install the app on your damaged device.
For phones and tablets that aren’t under the Samsung umbrella, you need to use Kies instead.
Just like in Samsung Smart Switch, Kies gives you all of the instructions you need after you correctly connect your device to your PC or Mac. If you cannot unlock your device to use Kies, please follow one of the unlock methods mentioned here.
If your screen is more than just cracked, follow one of the methods mentioned here.
Method 4: Backup Apps
When I mention backup apps, I’m talking about programs like Helium, or Titanium Backup. There are even services like Nandroid backups that make use of custom recoveries. Most of these are tough to use if you can’t use your screen, but with a mouse and a second screen, it’s easier than ever before.
I’m going to talk about Helium first, since it’s a service I’m a pretty big advocate of. Helium requires both the PC equivalent, and the Android companion for your device. If your screen is damaged beyond use, you can still use a USB mouse instead of the touch screen.
Download and install both versions of Helium for both your PC/Mac, and Android device. Once you’ve finished installing both, open Helium on your PC first.
With Helium open on your PC, connect your Android device to your PC via an appropriate USB data cable.
Once the connection is established, launch the Helium app on your Android device. If your screen is unusable without a mouse, launch Helium before connecting your Android device.
Once Helium establishes that both connections are in order, it will give instructions for the backup, and what to do past that point.
Now that we’ve covered Helium, I’m going to spend a minute on Nandroid backups. We’ve already covered how to use Nandroid in full, but if you don’t know what Nandroid is, I can explain.
Nandroid essentially takes a snapshot of your phone’s current internal state using your custom recovery. You can then take that snapshot and revert your phone to that snapshot’s state at any point in time.
You can make multiple Nandroid backups and store them for later use, so the service is really useful. I highly recommend you give it a try as long as you don’t mind spending some extra time on a recovery.
Last but certainly not least, I want to draw some attention to Titanium Backup. There isn’t much I can say about it that we haven’t already, but it’s still a great service and app. Titanium makes a backup of essentially everything on your phone that can be restored at a later date.
This created backup file doesn’t need to be used on the phone or tablet you’re using currently, it can be on any other Titanium enabled device. You can read our full explanation on how to use Titanium to see how it works, broken screen or not.
I know the sinking feeling in your stomach well when you drop your phone, screen first, onto the pavement. Even though seeing that shattered screen makes your heart drop, you can still save all of your important files as long as you stay calm, and use all of the tools you have at hand.
Still can’t get to your photos, files, and other important documents? Leave a comment below and we’ll help you out as soon as we can!