Please help me recover the pictures of the birth of my child

Hi there, I hope someone with some deeper tech knowledge can help me, I got a rather important problem (important to me). Because it contains the pictures from the birth of my child and I really want those recovered.

Two weeks ago my Fairphone 3+ stopped working. While in my pocket it started doing the reboot loop. It reached the splash screen and then restarted. I somehow interrupted it by pressing power and volume until I reached the recovery mode, I think. Android on his back with a warning sign above his open torso. From there it rebooted once more and seemed to work again. (I don’t think I did anything during the recovery screen, it just rebooted). The battery was at around 20% so I charged it a little, to around 50%. On my way to the car I deleted a few bigger apps because it thought that might be the problem. In the car I charged it some more. When I arrived at home the phone was dead. No reaction when charging, doesn’t turn on, not visible when plugged into a PC. I tried removing the battery for a while without success.

Now I’ve contacted the support and I can send it in. But the phone will be wiped when it arrives there, no matter what. I want to keep those important pictures but I don’t want to void the warranty. I know by way around a Linux terminal.

Can anyone offer any advice how I could maybe access the files on the harddrive before sending it in? Fixing the phone myself is less important then getting the pictures. I don’t mind sending it in once I have my images.

Thanks in advance!

@MrMovl do you have a Google account? If you have taken your photos with the standard camera app, there is a possibility that the photos are still available as a backup in the Google Cloud.

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@MrMovl

These are my ideas:

  1. Disassemble and reassemble the FP to rule out some connector problems. However, I intentionally wrote “my ideas”, you should probably ask the FP support before dissassembling, especially in regard to guarantee, etc.)

  2. Can you try booting into fastboot mode and check whether fastboot / adb is able to detect a device? If yes, you may recover files via adb.

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That’s what the support kept telling me. Problem is,I backup my photos using Dropbox but that doesn’t upload instantly. And the photo broke literally minutes after the pictures where taken.

How would I boot into Fastboot mode?

This might help you

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  • Can you see the notification LED when the phone is plugged in, which would indicate that it is charging?
  • what happens when you press Power button and Volume - button for 5-10 seconds until the phone vibrates? This should take you to the bootloader.
    From there, you could try to boot the OS or, if that doesn’t work, boot an alternate recovery like TWRP. However, this will only work if the bootloader has already been unlocked. With TWRP, you can access your files from your computer on your Fairphone.
    You could try the same with the stock recovery, but I don’t know if that recovery supports mounting partitions…
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No charging led and the phone does nothing when I press the buttons for 10 seconds. I was hoping to access the files directly, but I guess is it doesn’t turn on at all it’s impossible to connect to the hard drive via USB, hardware wise, right?

I’ve seen that page, but it seems I need to be able to enter the phones settings and mine doesn’t turn on anymore. Also it states that my data will be lost, which is the whole point. Or is there a way around those two issues I missed?

nope, this will not work if your bootloader has not been unlocked before.

If your phone doesn’t turn on at all it’s not possible to access any files saved directly on it.
EDIT: unless your pictures are saved an an sd card.
I’d suggest that you open your FP and clean the battery contacts. It might be a hardware issue with some loose contacts or whatever.

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I was really hoping for the sd card but apparently my photos aren’t saved on there.

I’ll try cleaning it, that’s a good point.

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Sounds like flash went poof because of e.g. heat or many writes on the same sectors. Often occurs when one of the flash is very full, or with consumer grade flash, or when flash becomes extremely hot.

I had it as well on my FP2. But the one time it was still able to boot I exfiltrated the most important data.

You say the pictures are more important than your phone. What you can do is send your phone to a professional data recovery / digital forensics. They would desolder the flash, solder it elsewhere, do a dd (or equiv) and then solder it back. If you want to follow this path, prepare to shell out an amount of EUR with three zeros. You also need to stop touching (writing) the media ie. stop attempting to fix the problem. I know it is expensive but I am also a parent, so I know how precious the moment is, henxe I wanted to mention it.

Should you not want to persue this path we can try to fiddle with it ourselves. Are you using microSD? If yes, try removing it. Then try to boot the machine.

Otherwise what you could do is keep trying until it boots and then exfiltrate the data.

PS: given the issue, under no circumstance let your device (and therefore flash) become very hot or deplete the battery.

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Hi all,
Just a thought, but I’m not sure it’s a good one, so someone may have to confirm if it’s a good or bad idea before @MrMovl does anything:
Could it help to disassemble the phone and to put back the main board into another FP3+? If you could find someone near your with a working FP3+ (maybe a Fairphone Angel?), it could be worth a try, in case of bad contacts or problem with the battery or the screen.

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Nice idea. I would rule out the screen because then the charging led should at least work. And if it is the battery/power unit exchanging that might help. But I’m not sure if that voids the warranty.

  • Yes a #fairphoneangel may help with testing the modules and if the photos are on the core module that may work.
  • You mention an SD card but think the photos are not on it. However if you formatted your SD card as Internal, the first option, then it will be encrypted and data not be retrievable via another phone or PC

Given the above as mentioned by @JeroenH you do have the option of a specialist retrieval. Ensure you get a reputable one, as it will cost a bit and you won’t want some dummy making this worse.

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A FP3 should work aswell. Can you start your phone while USB cable plugged in without your battery inside?

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Thank you, I was hoping for a techie answer :slight_smile:

Soldering the flash onto something else is not an option, I’m not sure I want to pay that amount and also it’s a company phone, they won’t be happy if I do that :wink:

I was hoping to dd the files our without turning the phone itself on, but I guess that’s not possible

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If the company value you as an employee maybe they will help?

Maybe, or maybe they might go “You have private pictures on your company phone? Interesting.”

ADB doesn’t work in fastboot mode, only the fastboot command does.

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Haha, no they don’t be mad, but in also but sure how they could help. It’s a small company, I don’t think they should pay a specialist to retrieve stuff.