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How to use your broken smartphone from a PC

How to use your broken smartphone from a PC

Have you ever broken your smartphone and despaired at the notorious spiderweb on a smashed, unresponsive touchscreen? You don’t have to say goodbye to your device just yet. Here are our tips to salvage what's left of your smartphone.

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Prevention is better than the cure

Our smartphones contain a lot of highly sensitive data that is always wise to secure. This is easiest before something bad happens to the phone, trust us. There are several ways to do this: hide the files you want to protect, block applications to restrict access, use guest mode, back up in the cloud, or put passwords on applications.

The best way to secure all the data contained in our smartphone is to back it up. That is to say, save the data in a secure location so that we can recover them even in case of losing the device.

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Back up regularly, just in case. / © AndroidPIT

There are several backup apps available on Google Play where we can transfer data and back it up on our computer. In a few steps, we can keep our data safe. Don't have a favorite backup app? Check out our recommendations.

How to recover files from an Android using a PC

To recover data from your damaged smartphone you can count on the help of your computer. Before starting, we must activate USB debugging in the configuration of the Android device, to ensure that the smartphone will be recognized by the PC.

AndroidPIT use with broken display
Connect the smartphone to the PCs and get ready to retrieve your data. / © AndroidPIT

Recovery of images and music is quite simple. Simply connect your smartphone to your PC, activate Debug from the settings menu and use the mouse to access the different folders saved on your device. By accessing the WhatsApp folder, for example, you can hand over all images received in chat. 

However, it may happen that although your PC has recognized your smartphone, you are unable to view the files saved on it. Don't worry though because, as always, on Android there is a solution to everything.

USB debugging mode not active or PC doesn't recognize your device

So you have a poorly functioning or out of use display, USB mode not active, or a computer that doesn't recognize your smartphone. These are all the most common problems you may face when your mobile phone is broken and you need to retrieve your data.

For those of you who have a Samsung device in your hands, remember that on the official website of the South Korean brand you can find a section called Find My mobile which not only useful for when you lose your smartphone, but also for unlocking your device with the function Unlock my screen. By accessing this function, the PC will recognize your device and you can then use the well-known Kies program to transfer your data.

If you have a device from another brand or this solution does not work, you can enter Recovery mode and use Fastboot (which does not need USB Debugging enabled). You'll then have to start a Custom Recovery with Fastboot and use shell commands to extract files.

This isn't exactly a simple solution, and needs some familiarity with working with Android, but it will allow you to solve the problems encountered and proceed with the recovery of your data from your broken smartphone.

To get familiar with Fastboot and how to use it to control your Android, check out our dedicated guide:

How to recover data if your screen is broken but you can still see the display

If you've broken your touchscreen but the display is still working (you can see it), you can fix this by using a USB OTG (On The Go) and a mouse connected to your device. A USB OTG connects mobile devices to other devices. Basically, your Android device has a mini-USB port or USB type C port and you need to connect this to a mouse that has a USB port. The USB OTG links these two together.

Once you have connected the mouse, you can unlock your device regardless of whether you have a pattern, PIN or password. We recommend using passwords anyways because they are highly secure. 

Now that your phone is unlocked, you can connect it to your computer and either transfer the data you need to your microSD memory or connect it directly to your PC and transfer the files there.

How to recover data if your screen is off

If you can't see your screen, you might need to get a VNC program. There are plenty of these on the market but make sure you pick one that's safe and free. These programs move your Android interface to your PC so you can control it from there.

In order to use these programs, you'll need to download the program to your PC but also on your Android device. This is another case of prevention, as you'll struggle to install it on your Android if the screen is already dead. There are some paid programs out there too but they usually include more features than pure VNC functionality. So if you're looking for a more extensive tool, you can grab one of these instead. 

Recovering files with AirDroid

AirDroid is software that connects your smartphone to your computer. You can use it from a web interface or through an application on your computer. You just have to install it on your PC and on your Android device.

Through your account, you should be able to connect to both devices. On your smartphone, you will see several icons that give you access to features such as file transfer or app uninstalling. You can take a look at the different options but the one we're looking for is the Backup.

Make sure you use the same login details and go to your phone and press the save button. You can also go through the application: click the name of your device in the left menu and click the Backup menu within the three tabs at the top. Your data will then be saved onto the computer.

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File transfer and backups are done with ease. / © AndroidPIT

Plus: AirDroid also allows you to see your notifications on the computer.

Recovering files with Vysor

Vysor also allows you to use your Android phone from a desktop computer. It works through an extension for Chrome, which has a clear advantage: you can use Vysor on Windows, Mac and Linux. A simple USB cable connects the phone and desktop.

You can use Vysor's basic functions with the free version. With it you can, for example, connect the devices to take screenshots from Android. With the paid version, screen quality is better, full-screen display is available and data transfer can be performed by dragging and dropping all without a cable connection.

Application setup is simple. We found it to be occasionally slow and, as mentioned above, the image quality is not optimal in the free version.

AirDroid is probably the best way to use your smartphone from your PC because it offers more than Vysor. Perhaps TeamViewer also deserves a place in this list but unfortunately, it does not work with many Android devices. 

If you still can't get your data

Another solution for getting your data off your phone is to take it to a shop that can fix it. Yes, this option costs money but you'll not only have your data but also have a fixed phone. 

Make sure you ask around for a reputable repair shop. Once the phone has been repaired, they can easily steal your data. If you go to one of the big dealers, you'll probably pay more but you're also less likely to get ripped off.

Have you recovered data from a broken smartphone? Let us know how in the comments.

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41 comments

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  • I also experienced the same situation where my phone got broken and my important files are stored there. Luckily, my friend recommended me to use ApowerManager for me to transfer my files from my broken screen phone to my PC. This tool helped me a lot to move my important files and to back them up as well.


  • It's better to backup the whole files of your device.
    If your screen broken accidently,you can use MobiKin Broken Android Data Recovery software to help you.


  • Hi, i read the whole article but cannot manage to fix my problem. I have a Huauei Honor 10 with not working touch screen. I need to reset it and to erase all of my data inside it. Since I thought that turning it off then on would have fix the screen problem, I turned it off. Now I cannot access couse cannot digit the password. I tried to push the camera button and the volume on together in order to start the reset, but I cannot "write" the word "yes" to start the process. I tried to erase the data from google Android Device Manager, but since I can't control from the device if it worked, I'm not sure about this procedure. I also downloaded Vysor, but still doesn't work.. I think I need something that allows me to visualize my divide screen directly on my macbook without activating anything from the device (since the screen isn't working..).. Please, can you help? Thanks in advance! Melissa


  • Rob East 10 months ago Link to comment

    My screen wasn't working and I didn't have USB debugging turned on, I thought it was hopeless but I kept trying and slowly made progress to the point that now I can view and use my phone easily on my pc and control it with the mouse.

    Here's what to do;

    If you can manage to unlock your phone, plug it in to your pc via usb, you can then take screenshots as you go and view them via the file browser on your pc to help you navigate and access the settings to turn on screen mirror which uses wifi to display the phone screen on a smart tv. You can now unplug the phone from the usb.

    If you have one I found it helpful to use a stylus with the pointer shown to make it easier to select things and navigate, but if you dont have a stylus just try to press on the right spot on the phone screen as you see it on the tv.

    Navigate to the developer options and turn on USB debugging, start vysor and reconnect your phone to the usb, once detected select "always accept usb debbugging for this pc" on the phone, and then click "view" on vysor to remotely control the phone with the pc's mouse easily and backup all your data.

    Hope that helps :)


  • ladyXLR8 11 months ago Link to comment

    Thanks you guys. My Xperia tablet had a broken screen, so I plugged in a mouse in the OTG cable plugged to the tablet and voila, I managed to restore my tablet to factory settings before I have it repaired. God bless.


  • Though its a rewritten article on AndroidPit from 2 years ago, I think its one of the better articles I have read here.


  • Thanks, this post was awesome!!


  • May May 22, 2018 Link to comment

    OMG you save me! GOD BLESS YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Someone message me when mirroring a broken screen is as easy as making my face look like a dog. k. cheers


  • It's so much easier to get a twenty dollar case to protect your 1000. Dollar phone, no ive never broken my phone they have all had cases, much easier that way, I have seen 100's of ignorant iPhone users with broken lcds, lol! buy a case *****


    • Thanks for those sage words of wisdom there @Greg ... Really helpful. Really, really constructive ... Jagoff.

      Can't believe you just couldn't contain yourself from posting essentially a "I told you so" to a bunch of strangers consulting this article because they have a real reason - the frustrations in troubleshooting a malfunctioning (or broken) device and the worry that critical data may be sealed inside their new $1000 coaster.

      There are 1000 different causes for touchscreen issues, Greg. A case only protects you from 1 GREG - "oops I dropped my phone" - that leaves 999 paths to touchscreen issues unprotected by a phone case. YEAH GREG, I HAD A #%$@ CASE FOR MY PHONE.

      Sorry - usually don't let the buffoons bait me. @Nicholas, thanks for the informative post - a couple of methods here I hadn't considered. May end up being a huge help.


  • Thanks for this beautiful post.

    Got my iphone fixed by ScreenFixed they even offer me a home service.

    Your post is very insightful.


  • OK, I CAN GUESS HOW TO UNLOCK. I CAN GUESS WHERE TO TAP 3234 ONTO MY SCREEN TO UNLOCK. BUT THE PROBLEM IS HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO ENABLE USB DEBUGGING, ALLOW USB AUTHORISATION, ETC. Installing apps into device is quite simple though


    • Enable usb debugging via recovery: Code:
      Adb shell
      echo "persist.service.adb.enable=1" >>/system/build.prop
      echo "persist.service.debuggable=1" >>/system/build.prop
      echo "persist.sys.usb.config=mass_storage,adb" >>/system/build.prop"
      reboot

      Source: forum.xda-developers .com /showthread.php?t=2786395


    • If you can guess the unlock steps, then conceivably, you can extend that approach to "guessing" the taps to open settings, navigate to 'Developer Options', click the 'build no' 7 times, confirmation dialog, etc to enable Debugging over USB. I don't think I could do it - but @Criss (who apparently has way more patience than I) describes how she did it in a comment below.

      If you're device supports MHL, then you could mirror you're phone's display on you're TV - won't be totally blind navigating. You'll need an adapter like this one -


    • "Micro USB to HDMI TV Out HDTV MHL Adapter Cable"

      Can't post a URL- google for the above. Device support for MHL seems a little hit or miss based on the manufacturer.


  • How to install a program on phone ?, When the screen does not work?
    :)


    • I am wondering the same damn thing!! The main reason why you want to do this is because YOUR PHONE IS BROKEN AND CANT BE ACCESS!!!

      Edit by Admin: insult removed.


  • Josh Jan 30, 2017 Link to comment

    Are these people idiots. Every site I've read about this issue says you need to download something to your phone too. Our screen is broken you dumbass's


  • so......is there anyone with a solution that acutally works? NOTHING stated here works. the reason? you have to have a working screen!! even the "help" for the phone with no working screen relies on the ability to use the screen thats not usable.....


    • Here's what worked for me --my screen broke and wouldn't display anything HOWEVER the touch still worked.

      - Using memory of the key placement, I entered my pin to unlock the phone.

      - Next, using my husband's phone as a guide (because it runs on the identical os), I navigated to the 'Accessibility' feature in settings, and switched on 'Talk Back'. Doing this took a lot of the guess work out of navigating with a blank screen.

      - Next, I turned on 'USB debugging,' also found in settings.

      - From there, if your situation is similar, you should be able to install Vysor on Google Chrome on your PC, install the ADB drivers (upon opening Vysor in Chrome using the provided link) and then connect your phone via USB cable for the screen to be mirrored on your PC.

      - Because my phone is pretty crappy, when I connected it to the PC at this point, I got an error message saying that the Vysor APK file could not be installed on the phone. To get around that I found the Vysor installer file for android on apkmirror.com, downloaded it and copied it to my phone. Then, I located it on my phone via the file manager and installed it. From there I was able to connect via USB cable and mirror my phone's display to my PC. Thank Heavens!!

      I quite like Vysor. On my new phone I'm gonna keep it installed and USB debugging activated as a sort of fail-safe should I lose use of my screen in the future. Hope this was able to help you.


    • Buy a case when you purchase your phone


  • my phone is Samsung galaxy fame and connecting a mouse does not work on it how could i fix it then


  • You can also use an MHL adapter on a Samsung phone to get HDMI out to a TV to show your screen and give permissions for the VNC program.


  • You can download the trial version of the software and check if your device is in the supported device list.


  • Hi Cory - related to the question asked below: how can I install something on my Android device (Motorola Droid Maxx) if the screen is totally dead and black? The phone is on, but I can see nothing. I'd like to be able to retrieve my Contacts from this device, but 1) I don't have debugged USB, and 2) are there VNCs that don't have to be loaded onto the phone? Hard lesson learned about backing up (and about not trusting Verizon's backup programs).


    • i have the same problem with my phone I dropped it down a flight of stairs at my school and its not cracked on the outside its cracked on the inside and will not show anything but pitch black


  • So, I need to wipe my phone (Nexus6, easier said than done, read on) - the screen stopped working visually and touch is impossible at this point. I got another Nexus 6 and signed in, recovered everything and, I am good to go there. I signed into the Manage Devices page, and there are several Nexus 6's in there - the one I want to wipe which was "added" 2 years ago is not responding to the request to Ring, so I assume it wont wipe the device, either. Also, I don't want to make the mistake of it wiping the Nexus6 I actually want to keep using.


  • So how do I install a program on my phone when the screen does not work?


  • Lene Jun 6, 2016 Link to comment

    Thanks! The USB-OTG is saving my data (at least what what not backed up yet)!


  • Rhys May 29, 2016 Link to comment

    Remember Google Play is your friend! Even when your screen is broke you can install apps remotely via a browser (however I know some apps of this nature require you to activate permissions before they work which could be a problem if your screens bust..)


  • I agree the most important thing to do is to BACKUP your data, use at least 2 different types of storage media - USB stick/SD/SSD/hard drive/cloud storage /CD-DVD.

    Using a VNC if your screen is faulty sounds like a good idea... But the fact that you have to have the program installed on your phone before the screen becomes faulty means it's not a viable option for like 99% of users who have broken screens.

    Yes some people may install such apps and services in the unlikely event that the screen breaks.

    Is this the only way to access your device in this situation?

    Peace ✌


    • also, you have to give permission to said applications to even remote into the phone before they work... its a catch 22


  • Alex May 22, 2016 Link to comment

    But you can backup your data before itself right it will more safe and less time consuming.


  • Faizan May 22, 2016 Link to comment

    how does using fingerprint means you are out the luck? the screen is broken not the fingerprint sensor.

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