How many times have you dropped your phone, believing that the screen would be cracked when you picked it up? Luckily for us, most phone screens are relatively durable and don’t break easily. But when they do, you’re left scrambling, trying to figure out how to access your Android phone with a broken screen.
When your phone breaks and the screen is no longer working, not only can you not use your phone, but now all that information stored on your phone is inaccessible. The good news is it’s possible to recover all the information on your device with a little troubleshooting.
Use OTG to Gain Access
If you can see the screen but can’t touch it because you’ll cut your hand, or if the screen is not responsive, use an OTG adapter to control the phone with a mouse.
An OTG, or On-the-Go, adapter has two ends. One plugs into the USB port on your phone, and the other end is a standard USB-A adapter into which you can plug your mouse. Once you connect the two, you will be able to use your phone without touching the screen.
Not all Android phones have the capabilities to use OTG, so check with your manufacturer to find out if yours does. If it doesn’t, you may not be able to retrieve the information from your phone without using third-party software.
In addition to helping you access your Android phone with a broken screen, there are a variety of other uses for an OTG adapter, including connecting a keyboard.
As a side note, if your phone isn’t compatible but the screen is still visible, install a thin tempered glass screen protector over the broken screen. This may allow you to still use the phone long enough to back up all your information.
This method assumes the screen is on but touch control no longer works.
To access your phone through your computer, you need to turn on the USB Debugging mode. USB Debugging allows your Android device to communicate with the Android SDK (Software Developer Kit) over a USB connection. When you use USB debugging, your Android device receives commands, files, and other data from your computer. It works the opposite way as well, letting your PC pull necessary information like log files from your phone.
Here’s how to turn on USB Debugging mode on an Android phone:
- Use your OTG adapter to connect your phone to a USB mouse.
- Click the mouse to unlock your phone.
- Enter Settings by pulling down the top menu on your phone and clicking on the gear icon in the top-right corner.
- In Settings, tap “System.” On older devices, look for “About phone.” On newer devices, such as those with Android 12, “About phone” is located within “System.”
- Select “About phone.”
- Select “Software information.” Depending on your phone model, you may not see this option. If you don’t, look for “Build number” instead.
- Locate “Build number” and click the box seven times. You may see a pop-up on your phone that developer mode is turned on.
- Go back to Settings and open “System.”
- Click “Developer options.”
- Under “Developer options,” press the switch to turn on USB debugging.
Connect your phone to your computer using a USB connection. From your computer, you can access and open the folders from your phone and copy the data you want to your computer.
If Your Screen Won’t Turn On
There’s a slim chance that you may be able to connect your device to your computer even with a dead phone screen. If you can turn the phone on, even if nothing appears on the screen, connect the USB cable that came with your device to your computer. If you’ve previously allowed file transfer access on your Android device, you should see a folder appear on your computer with the name of your phone. Use this folder to copy or transfer files from your phone to your computer.
If that doesn’t work, it would be best for most users to use an Android data recovery tool. While complicated to use, you can install Android Studio and SDK Tools, if you already have USB Debugging turned on before the drop. Most of these tools are paid versions, but there are some free ones you can try, such as MiniTool Mobile Recovery for Android, Undeleter Recover files & data, and DiskDigger for Android. The free versions will have minimal features, and you may need an upgrade to do what you need.
If none of this works to access your broken phone, you may need to take it to a professional. Make sure you go to a reputable shop because once they access your phone, they can access all your data.
Your mobile carrier may also be able to retrieve your data. However, this may cost you, or it may be included if you have insurance on the device.
How to Prevent These Issues
Accessing an Android phone with a broken screen isn’t always easy, so it’s a good idea to try to be prepared if the worst ever does happen. You can do this by keeping your phone backed up and installing programs like AirDroid that will give you access to the data on your phone even if you can’t control it. You can also use Android backup tools to regularly back up your data so you don’t have to worry.
Ideally, back up your photos and important documents to Google Drive or another cloud service automatically. Then, if you do drop your phone and the screen breaks, you haven’t lost the most important items on your device. You can use cloud services to back up your photos automatically.
It’s also a good idea to connect your Android phone to your computer at least once and tap the “File transfer” option when connecting via USB. Tap “Always” to always default to File Transfer mode when connecting via USB so you can recover files if the screen breaks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my Android phone won't turn on at all?
At this point, you’ll need a professional data recovery tool or take it to your mobile carrier to see if they can retrieve your data. In order to connect your broken phone to your PC or computer, it must be turned on. If it’s damaged to the point it won’t power on, your options are severely limited.
If my screen breaks will my SD card still work?
There’s a good chance if the case itself isn’t damaged, your SD card is still okay. Remove it from your phone and use the SD card adapter for the microSD card to insert it into your computer. You may need an SD card reader if your computer doesn’t have an SD card slot.
How much data can my mobile carrier or device insurance recover?
This all depends on how severely your phone is damaged. Professional data recovery experts can remove the drive on your phone and use a specialized reader to access the data. They can even put the drive in another phone.
Is phone insurance worth the price?
This depends on how likely you are to damage your phone. If you’re always incredibly careful and use a protective case and screen protector, your phone will likely survive most drops. However, phone insurance is definitely worth it if you never use a protective case or screen protector and drop or lose your phone regularly.
If you don’t want to bother with insurance, back up your device regularly. Most mobile carriers let you back up things like contacts and messages. Your Google account can sync with Google Drive to back up files and photos automatically, though you may need to buy extra storage. If everything is always backed up, then you won’t have to worry about losing important photos or files in the event your phone is damaged.
Image Credit: Ali Abdul Rahman via Unsplash
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