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Data Recovery from the Internal Drive of an Android Device

If you have ever performed data recovery on a computer drive then you’ll know that it can be, at times, a bit of a complicated process. This process gets even trickier when you want to recover data from the internal drive of your Android device.

Before beginning to read this guide, please bear in mind that this is for recovering data stored on the internal drive. A lot of modern smartphones now support storage expansion through microSD cards. This process will not work if the data you wish to recover was stored on the microSD card. To recover from your microSD card you need to mount it to your PC and then run data recovery tools from there.

For internal recovery, however, it works differently. First of all, you need to make sure that your device is rooted. To explain how to root is beyond the scope of this guide, especially since the process can vary depending on your device model. If you google “root + your device name” then there likely be documentation guiding you through the process. It should be noted, however, that some rooting processes means wiping data – which lessens chance of successful recovery.

Annoyingly, modern versions of Android require a bit of work before you can attempt data recovery on the internals. Although you can hook your phone up to your PC via USB and then browse the phone’s files that way, recovery programs can’t actually detect it as a scannable device due to the way Android works. As such, there are two different methods to go about rectifying this.

The simplest way of performing this is to launch into fastboot and then backup directly onto a microSD card. You’ll obviously need enough free space on the microSD card as the internal storage is going to take up. Once backed up, mount the card onto your PC and run a recovery program of your choice, like R-Studio or PhotoRec.

If you have an external drive handy but not a microSD card then there is another method. First, download an app like {{|Terminal Emulator}}. Launch it on your phone and type ‘su’ to grant SuperUser permissions to the app. Now type ‘mount’ and it’ll list all your system partitions. What it says will vary per device, but it’ll say something like ‘/data’. Now you need to find out what your external device is listed as, usually something like ‘/Removable’.

If you’re recovering a partition larger than 4GB then use a file system like NTFS. FAT isn’t suitable in this case – but then there’s another caveat that older versions of Android will only detect FAT drives.

With everything set, run something like ‘dd if=/dev/block/mmcblk0p7 of=/Removable/USBdisk2/Drive3/transformer-recovery.img’ (although edited for your needs).

This will have now sent an image of the internal drive to your computer. From here you can use a suitable recovery tool to scan the image and see if you can get your data back. Again, something like R-Studio or PhotoRec will be suitable here.

Hopefully this guide has helped you navigate the frankly confusing world of Android data recovery. Remember, in the future you should implement a strong backup plan to avoid ever having to do this again!


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