It should not be this hard to recover your phone data.
So TLDR I decided to try and recover data from my busted phone and massively underestimated how awful and frustrating it would be.
Earlier this year, I broke my Samsung Galaxy S7. The screen was black and unresponsive to touch, but the phone would start up and everything was still running. I just could't see anything or use the touchscreen. (One fun problem was that the alarm would still go off every morning and I had no idea how to turn it off.) I took it to a repair shop to replace the screen, but they said it was too busted and they couldn't do it. I asked them if they could backup the data, but they said I would need to come back and bring a USB drive to put the data into.
This was back in March when COVID was really taking off, and I really didn't want to make any more trips to the repair shop. I'm stubborn and a bit of a tinkerer, I've easily recovered data from my old dead laptops before, so I thought this was something I could handle myself. This lead me down a rabbit hole of dealing with all sorts of wierd issues I never thought I'd deal with.
As I found out, Samsung has made it VERY difficult for users to be able to recover their phone data on their own. Over the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time online looking up various solutions, reading tech articles and lurking old forums so I could try all sorts of things to try and get this to work.
First I tried connecting it to my laptop using the USB/ODP cable and using MTP file transfer, but this requires you to accept a prompt on the phone, which requires use of a touch screen, so it was a no-go.
I tried various apps to connect or sync my phone to my laptop. I tried connecting with Smart Switch but was greeted by some cryptic error messages. I assumed that I needed to enable some kind of permission on my phone, but without the touchscreen, I can't respond to any prompts or notifications. I also tried using SideSync, but it was also a no-go as I found out that it needed to already be installed on the phone. The Samsung Cloud Backup managed to recover a grand total of 3 photos from my Gallery and nothing else. I tried several other third-party apps as well but they all had the same problems.
Some solutions I looked into required having Developer Mode activated as a prerequisite. And if like most people, you don't already know about this buried setting and have it already activated, you're out of luck — since you need the touch screen to activate it.
One article recommended using a USB mouse to click through the prompts. This might've been helpful advice if it weren't for the fact that there's only one Micro USB port, and therefore I can't have both the mouse and the transfer cable hooked in at the same time.
I then tried using ADB (Android Debug Bridge) to connect my phone to my laptop and access the filesystem directly. Luckily I'm no stranger to command lines. Some guides I saw mentioned a command called ADB push which could be used to copy the files from my phone onto my laptop. While this does require Developer Mode and USB Debugging to already be enabled, by this point I had figured out a way to get into my settings and change them. Unfortunately, I found out that in order to make the connection, I needed to accept a prompt. On the phone. Using the touch screen. And somehow, every single one of the guides I had read had failed to mention this important little detail. (Would've been nice to know that up-front.) That was a LOT of time wasted.
At one point, I saw a YouTube video where someone was fixing a Note7 with a dead screen by using the screenshot tool and viewing the synced files on her laptop, which gave me some new ideas. After seeing and reading about all sorts of obscure, clever tricks like this one, I eventually developed my own technique.
I could use the Samsung Find My Mobile website to unlock my phone remotely, circumventing the touch pattern lock. I could use my Google Play account to install apps remotely as well. I could use the screenshot tool on my phone and then sync my Gallery using Samsung Cloud to view what was happening on my screen.
Now that I could see what I was doing, all I needed was a way to interact with the phone. At first I tried using a USB mouse, but I quickly realized that the cursor is not always visible. (I assume it becomes visible when moving and fades away if the mouse is still for a while.) This made it impractical to use since the screenshot tool takes a couple of seconds and was generally not fast enough for the cursor to be captured.
Next thing I tried was a USB keyboard. I could not find any guides or documentation online as to how to operate an Android phone using a keyboard. LUCKILY, I happen to be a web developer who happens to specialize in web accessibility, and it turns out my knowledge on accesible keyboard controls was applicable here. Controlling an Android phone via a keyboard is very similar to browsing the web with a keyboard. You can use the TAB key to move the focus indicator forward, and SHIFT+TAB to go back, arrow keys to navigate menus and so on. Without this very specific knowledge, I can't imagine how anyone could have figured out something like this on their own.
I now had ALMOST complete control over my phone. Basically, I would use my keyboard to do what I would normally do with a touchscreen, and then I would take screenshots and sync my gallery to Samsung Cloud in order to see what I was doing. It was far from perfect. First of all, relying on screenshots and Cloud Sync meant there was a significant delay between doing something and seeing what actually happened. Second, the Samsung phone doesn't do a good job of reading keyboard inputs. I might press the TAB key 4 times, expecting the focus indicator move forward 4 places, but then I view the screenshot and it would only have moved 2 or 3. Occasionally, the screenshot tool would get stuck in a submenu asking me to crop the image, which I had no idea how to cancel out of. And as far as I know, there is no way to scroll up or down either. Regardless, it opened a lot of doors and I could now see and do most things on the phone.
I went into the Settings app and used the Backup and Recovery option on my phone, but it didn't really do anything. I also tried using the Helium app, a third-party app that I had previously installed remotely, but had no luck there either.
I then tried installing Smart Switch on my phone. (Previously I had it only installed on my laptop, which refused to connect.) By now, it had been several weeks since I first started toying around with this, and I had gotten a new Galaxy S10 to replace my old S7. I then decided to try using Smart Switch to sync data from one phone to the other, which proved to be especially challenging. In order to sync data between the two phones, you have to initiate the sync process on both phones at the same time. When you sync the phones, the new phone emits a high frequency sound signal, and a prompt appears on the old phone that you have to accept. You have a limited amount of time, just a few seconds, to tell the old phone to respond to the signal. If you are too slow, the signal stops and you have to start over from the beginning. And thanks to the aforementioned challenges of poor keyboard controls and delayed response time, this took me several tries. I had to memorize the keyboard sequence and time the button presses exactly, which was made especially difficult because the prompt didn't always appear immediately and could take a few seconds. After about half an hour of this, I finally succeeded.
Once I got Smart Switch to sync, I was able to copy almost all of my old data onto my new phone. Great Success. Unfortunately there were still several apps missing data, so I still had work to do.
Also at around this time, the Gallery feature on the Samsung Cloud website stopped working, forcing me to put my work on pause. The Samsung Support guy kept insisting I follow these outdated articles which I had already read a dozen times. It took me sending him links to 3 other forums of people reporting the same issue for him to believe me that there was an issue on their end. I had to follow up on a phone call the next day and Support told me to check back in a few days — they said they were working on their website. A few days later I saw a banner on the Samsung Cloud site saying that the site's features were limited at the moment.
Since I had like 90% of data on my new phone now, I was able to move on with my life for the most part.
Fast-forward to July, and I see the "limited features" banner is finally gone. The Gallery appeared to be back, but for some reason the site wouldn't let me access it. After several hours of back and force with Samsung Support and talking with 4 different support people, the last guy I talked to told me I needed to create a new email to "reset" my email verification status. They were not able to fix the issue on their end for some reason, they needed me to create a new email account and verify my Samsung account with the new email. Thankfully, it is pretty easy to set up a free Yahoo Mail account. Thanks Yahoo.
Once I could finally get in again, I tried picking up where I left off in April. I found that the Cloud Sync was now incredibly slow and unresponsive and probably broken. So once again I got in contact with Samsung Support. They kept insisting that it must be because I have a large number of files, even though I had been waiting for over an hour. I informed them that I've only added a few new files since my last sync, and previous syncs with similar payloads typically finished in 1-2 minutes, so this was definitely abnormal. We had some back and forth. The Samsung Support person then asked me if I tried using Smart Switch. LOL. He then suggested I use an HDMI adapter to connect my Galaxy S7 to a TV. That way, he explained, I could see my screen and also connect a mouse or keyboard using the additional USB port.
I wasn't too happy with the idea of giving Samsung more money just to access my own data, but I was tired and just went ahead with it anyway. Unfortunately, the product that the Support person linked me to was not available, so instead I decided to go on Amazon to get a third-party Micro USB MHL to HDMI adapter. Wait two weeks. Once it arrived, I hooked it up to my TV, which went black for a second and then did nothing. Unfortunately, I had bought an adapter that did not support the Galaxy S7. I did not realize that not all Micro USB MHL to HDMI adapters were supported on the Galaxy S7. (My mistake for just assuming that a USB adapter would just work on any device... what does USB stand for again?) So I returned the adapter, and then bought a different one. This time, I made sure that the product name included the words 'Galaxy S7' before ordering it. Wait two weeks. Once it arrived, I had the same problem. Confused, I did some research, and it turns out the Galaxy S7 does not support MHL adapters. PERIOD.
I double-checked the product description, which clearly had 'Galaxy S7' in the product name. Once I dug down into the reviews, sure enough, there were several people saying that it did not work with their Galaxy S7. Clearly the sellers got the product description wrong (not sure if it was on purpose or just incompetence), but I got my money back from Amazon and left them a 1-star review. I then went back to the original Samsung adapter on the Samsung site that Samsung Support had originally recommended to me. Maybe the Samsung brand adapters are different from the third-party Amazon ones, I thought.
Would Samsung Support really recommend an incompatible product to me? I decided to call the Samsung Accessory Support Team to get some answers. (The Samsung Support person had given me their number earlier.) I go through the automated menu and they tell me that there would be a wait time of 1 hour and 23 minutes. When I finally got a chance to speak to someone, they insisted that the adapter was compatible. I was still not confident with that answer, so I went back to Samsung Support to confirm. The next person I spoke with also said that the adapter would be compatible (which I still don't believe), but he also admitted it would not help with a broken screen since you need to tap a notification to allow it to connect. (...) He then passed me onto another support person, who I then asked about the Cloud Sync issue from earlier that was never really addressed. Then the guy just logged off and left me hanging. (WTF!) The Samsung Support chat bot suggested I call their Support number, but it was already midnight and I didn't feel like staying up another hour so I called it quits for the night.
Overall, I felt it was incredibly frustrating how Samsung Support would always insist I was doing something wrong or just not following directions whenever I would report a problem to them. I understand they probably get a lot of people who are not very tech-savvy, but it is frustrating to still be treated like that even after I explain my situation. To make matters worse, I am often passed to multiple support people who don't bother catching up on previous conversations unless I specifically ask them to (and even then, some still don't). A less tech-savvy person would not make it half as far as I have with any one of these issues: The Cloud Gallery going down. The email verification bug. The Cloud Sync issue. The useless HDMI adapter that THEY suggested to me. Not to mention that these are all secondary issues to my actual issue, which is simply to recover the data from my old phone. I ended up going through nearly a dozen Support agents in total (7 chat sessions and 5 phone calls), and who knows how many hours that I will never get back.
I finally gave up on Samsung Support and decided to go back to the repair shop this week — COVID be damned — it cost me $100 and 3 hours of my life but at least I can put this whole ordeal behind me now. So fucking tired of all this BS.
submitted by stav601
Top 5 Reasons to Make Your Site ADA/WCAG Compliant