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How to recover lost data from an Android or iOS phone

Don’t worry, all may not be lost with these tips and tools for getting back your precious stuff

It’s happened to the best of us. You accidentally hit the delete button or your phone falls into the toilet and poof: those favourite photos, important contacts and key conversation strings are gone forever. Or are they?

As you may know, when you delete something from an electronic device, it isn’t really deleted. There’s usually a way that data can be recovered, whether it’s images and videos, text messages, contacts or apps. In some cases, features built in to the smartphone operating system, or OS, make this super-simple. Failing that, there are third-party apps and software programs you can use.

Recovering lost data from an Android device

If you’re an Android user, it’s likely that much of your data – including contacts, photos, email and more – is already stored in the cloud through your Google account. But if you’ve accidentally deleted something or have lost files from the device’s internal storage, you may find help.

To retrieve lost data from an Android device’s built-in storage, you’ll need to download a third-party app, like DiskDigger or Deleted Photo Recovery. Both scan the device for recently deleted files and present the results so you can choose what to recover.

If you’ve lost important contacts and/or text messages, turn to programs like FonePaw to scan, extract and preview recovered files, though you’ll have to pay to get select data – such as voicemails and voice memos – back.

Recovering lost data from an iPhone

Apple has made recovering certain files super-simple from iPhones without third-party apps. Accidentally deleted photos, for example? Under Albums in the Photos app, there’s a folder in the latest iOS version called Recently Deleted. There, you’ll find images or videos that were deleted from the device in the last 30 days, and you can restore them to the phone before they’re officially wiped.

If the data has already been deleted, check your iTunes or iCloud backup. Restore the last backup, or a backup from a specific time prior to the deletion of the data, and voilà! The lost item(s) will return.

If you don’t use iCloud or iTunes for backups (and really, you should), try the aforementioned FonePaw program or options like iOS Data Recovery Tool, which retrieves everything from photos and videos to contacts, SMS and even voice memos and Safari bookmarks. Preview the files for free and pay a small fee to actually retrieve data.

Another option is iMyFone software. Sign up for a lifetime licence, or use the free trial, and it will walk you through the recovery process, determining where the data needs to be recovered from (the device itself or an iTunes backup, for example), then scans for the files that you’re able to get back.