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How to recover iPhone photos, videos, SMS contact files from the iPhone 5, 4S, and 4

iPhone file and data recovery: important first steps
You may have lost or broken your iphone, or maybe you have accidentially deleted something important that you want to recover. This short tutorial will show you how to use recovery software to rescue, or undelete, your lost iPhone files.

Before you do anything else: Stop using the iphone and do not use iTunes. These instructions are listed first for a reason. If you keep using the iPhone or iTunes , your deleted files may be be permanently lost. Note: these instructions are for Windows users and you will need to know exactly which iPhone model you have: iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S or iPhone 5.

What are you trying to do?
The process varies slightly depending on what you are doing. The three main options are:
  1. You have lost your iPhone and don't have access to the computer that was used to sync through iTunes.
  2. Are you trying to recover something you deleted (but you still have your iPhone)?
  3. Have you lost your iPhone and want to recover your files? Similarly, have you damaged your iPhone so badly it has stopped working.
Option 1 (no iPhone, no iTunes): Unfortuantely, without either, there is very little that can be done unless you made an online backup.

Option 2: Recover deleted files (you still have the phone): so you accidentially deleted an important file from your iPhone and you want it back? Here's how.
  1. Disable the auto-sync in iTunes. Do NOT plug in your iPhone. Start iTunes. Go to Edit-Preferences and click the Devices icon at the top right. Check the option that says 'Prevent iPods, iPhones and iPads from Syncing automatically.' Click 'OK'. Quit iTunes. When you have your files back, you can follow the same proceedure to turn back on the sync.
  2. Now you are going to need a special piece of software to recover your files. Do not try to jailbreak your iPhone at this stage - you risk over-writing your files (note: using jail-break is a bit more advanced and may not suit most people. There are plenty of guides on the web about this topic but the purpose of this tutorial is to get your files back, so it won't be discussed here). The downside is the recovery software is not free, nor are there any available in the iTunes store. So you will need probably to purchase a program. More on that in a moment. The good news is that most programs perform a free scan to see if the file can be recovered. Then you can decide if you want to pay for it or not. The best program for undeleting/recovering your files is Dr Fone for Windows. Download the program and simply follow the intructions. It's easy. You can get copies here, depending on your phone's version:

    -Dr Phone for iPhone 5
    -Dr Phone for iPhone 4S
    -Dr Phone for iPhone 4
    -Dr Phone for iPhone 3G
You will be ableto recover: Photos and videos in Camera Roll, Photo Stream & Message Attachments, Voice Memos, plus text files such as Contacts, Messages, Call History, Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Safari Bookmarks.

Option 3: Lost or damaged iPhone and using iTunes for data recovery: Few people are aware that iTunes creates extensive backups for the files you have created on your iPhone. But beware, there are two general categories of files. Those you create, and those obtained through the Apple store (either purchased or free downloads). In other words, your contacts, SMS, photos and videos made on the phone are backed up when you sync through iTunes. But your music files, purchased/downloaded videos and apps are not backed up to iTunes. the backup data is stored in a special format in multiple files on your system. This can hit a thousand individual files with encrypted names like '561a8efb51d0121d65653cd865ef9e83e48a4fc1'. If you used iTunes to sync your iPhone, then these files can be recovered. Obviously files created between your last sync and loss of your iPhone will not be included. Now there are two options: do you have a replacement iPhone or do you want to simply recover the files?

Replacement phone backup: If you have bought a new iPhone, Apple has specific instructions for transferring over your data from you old (or lost iPhone) to the new one. See here (opens in new window) and be sure that your new iOS version is the same or newer than the one used for your backup.

File recovery (without another iPhone). Despite the complexities of the iTunes backup files, you can recovery your iPhone data with a recovery tool. As above, Dr Phone seems to do the best job.

This page: iPhone data recovery - how to recover iphone photo, video, SMS contact files from the iPhone 5, 4S, and 4