Is there no hope of recovering data from my dead cell phone?
December 4, 2019 9:47 AM   Subscribe

It's been about a year since my Nexus 5 simply stopped cold. Buried inside are some files of enormous sentimental value. What can I do?

What I've already tried:

- charging it and trying to turn it on: no cigar

- giving it to a questionable cell phone repair shop in India who pronounced my data irretrievable, goodbye and thank you

Can that really be IT? Isn't there techie shenanigans people can do to extract the files from in there? There is absolutely no damage to my phone or its innards visible to the naked eye....

On the other hand if this is going to cost me anything over $200-$300, I wonder if my sentiments are really worth *that* much. :(
posted by MiraK to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If the phone's "motherboard" is dead, won't power on at all, getting data off of it is going to be pretty tricky. If you look at this iFixIt teardown the storage for the phone is attached to the main board and you can't just pop it onto another board to read the data off of it.

If the dead component isn't on that board, you could try getting another Nexus 5 and transplanting the board to it and see if it powers on & you could get the data that way. Used Nexus 5s should be reasonably cheap on eBay, and you can get the kit from iFixIt for about $30 I think. Your costs would be probably $100 or so plus whatever time it takes you to do the work.
posted by jzb at 11:00 AM on December 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Do you know how I can tell if the motherboard is dead or not - preferably without purchasing another Nexus 5 first?
posted by MiraK at 12:05 PM on December 4, 2019

Send it off to Drivesavers. They may be able to give you a second opinion. It's worth giving them a call, at least.
posted by Wild_Eep at 12:19 PM on December 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Do you know how I can tell if the motherboard is dead or not

Unfortunately, I do not. In theory it's possible the outfit in India you sent it to tried just that. Or not, hard to say.
posted by jzb at 12:37 PM on December 4, 2019

This sounds dumb but you didn't explicitly say you tried it: have you tried a different/new charger and charging cable? A number of times my problems were solved by realizing a cable or charger were bad and it wasn't actually taking a charge.
posted by bluecore at 12:58 PM on December 4, 2019

re drivesavers, there are other data recovery companies as well, and they are probably your last ditch option. It's very pricey but depending on what your missing/have lost, might be worth it ..
posted by elgee at 1:03 PM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's very likely that the questionable cell phone repair shop already tried this, but if you haven't yet tried to boot it in recovery mode, try that. Press and hold down the Volume Up, Volume Down, and Power buttons, all at the same time, and continue with the directions here.
posted by Jeanne at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2019

Did you enable encryption for the phone storage? (Enter the pin partway through booting). If so, I'm not sure anyone could retrieve it. If not someone could maybe pull the flash chip and read it, but with flash cell remapping and such it would likely be difficult and very expensive. A specialist job for sure.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:07 PM on December 4, 2019

Oh and about if it's dead, on the Nexus 5x supposedly the CPU becomes desoldered due to thermal expansion, they were all guaranteed to die eventually. There were class action lawsuits.

You can Google about tricks to revive it, very briefly. I think freezer in a ziplock for a while people thought worked sometimes for a few minutes. Some people even tried reflowing the solder, but that sounds like a good way to blow up the battery and do other damage to me.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:11 PM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Unlikely, but: Is your stuff on a microSD card? If so....remove the microSD card and put it in a reader....?
posted by lalochezia at 5:28 PM on December 4, 2019

Do you know how I can tell if the motherboard is dead or not - preferably without purchasing another Nexus 5 first?

Plug it in to your computer. If Windows makes a sound or it shows up in device manager (it won't actually work because you don't have the driver) with the yellow triangle warning thing it is functional enough to recover the data relatively easily, even if it won't turn on, unless you took specific steps to encrypt your phone's storage. It wasn't on by default on the Nexus 5.

It probably won't turn on because the battery bricked itself, but it can still be dead flashed (or in this case the inverse) with the right software.
posted by wierdo at 7:55 AM on December 5, 2019

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