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. / © NextPit

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. / © NextPit

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.

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

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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  • VARUN 1 month ago Link to comment

    hi, my phone is working but the display gone look all green and also Mobile data/Wifi is off, USB debugging is off, Usb cant recognise by pc fingerprint scanner is also not working

    Now in this case what to do?

  • You need to enable USB debugging to be able to use Vysor. And, of course, you can't enable it if you have your screen unfunctional, accesing your phone was te issue in the beginning and you are trying to fix it by using what you are not able to... just a waste of time

  • HELP!! I have my sons phone, he was killed in a car accident. The screen is shattered but it will still power up.. How can I get Pictures ect off of his phone? It's a LG android.. I dont know if he had things backed up... I have all his passwords... I just want his pictures... PLEASE help me

    • marco sarli
      • Admin
      May 8, 2020 Link to comment

      Sorry for your loss. If you have the passwords and the phone works it should be really easy to transfer all the files on the phone to a computer. I suggest that before you try anything by yourself, you take the phone to a phone repair shop and ask them to do it for you. Without phisically seeing the phone it is very difficult to tell you what to do and there is the risk to do something wrong

  • 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

  • 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 :)

  • 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.


    • 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"

      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.

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