Uh-Oh! How to Recover Data from a Water-Damaged iPhone

Last updated: Apr. 21, 2017

Water and electronics don't mix — but of course you probably already knew that. Whether you went swimming forgetting your phone was tucked into your pocket or your toddler is going through a lets-toss-everything-into-the-toilet stage, your iPhone had a mishap with some water and you are (understandably) panicking.

While water is certainly bad for your iPhone, there's still a chance that you can fix it — or at least retrieve some of the data. Here's how.

How to Fix a Water-Damaged iPhone

The most important step to repairing a water-damaged iPhone is to avoid the temptation to turn it on. The phone needs to dry out before you can turn it on, or you'll fry the circuitry inside. After your iPhone gets wet, turn it off and towel dry it.

The simplest way to dry out your iPhone is to put it inside a bag of uncooked rice, since the rice helps to draw out the moisture. If you can, take the phone into an Apple store first and ask them to remove the back, battery and SIM card — this will help speed up the drying process and prevent frying your data — or try disassembling the phone yourself if you have nothing left to lose. Add a few cotton balls to the rice mixture, and when they are wet, you'll know the rice has done its job of pulling the moisture out. The process usually takes two days.

How to Recover Data from a Water-Damaged iPhone

Couldn't dry your iPhone out and rescue it? While that's a bummer, you may still be able to retrieve your data, like photos, contacts and other files.

First, try to recover data using a backup, if you've made one. Most iPhone users take advantage of the automatic iCloud backups — even if you set it up the first day you got your iPhone, you still may be able to recover recent data. You can retrieve data from icloud.com using your username and password, or if you get a new iPhone, during the set-up process you can choose the "Restore from an iCloud backup" option.

Log into iCloud.com to restore your iPhone data

An iTunes backup is another option for recovering your data — if you saved a backup in the first place. An iTunes backup is just as good as iCloud, but since it's not automatic, it's not the simplest way to backup your files. Plug in your iPhone to the computer and follow the steps from Apple to restore your iPhone from the backup.

No backup?

You may still be able to recover data, but it's not going to be free. You can send your iPhone into a data recovery service (which will likely cost a few hundred dollars). Or, you can try a third-party iPhone recovery software that will run you less than a hundred dollars (and cost you nothing if it doesn't work).

Stellar Phoenix iPhone Data Recovery is one of the most popular options and it's free to see if it can recover the data you are looking for. While I haven't used it myself (frankly I'm surprised that with two kids under four the toilet fiasco at the beginning wasn't from personal experience), it is highly recommended program.

When you do get that new iPhone set up, make sure you backup your iPhone regularly using either the iCloud or iTunes. A waterproof case isn't a bad idea either.

A mishap with some H2O — or any other liquid — is pretty gut-wrenching, but not necessarily fatal. Depending on how long the iPhone spent in the water, you may be able to dry it out without any lasting damage. If your iPhone did send its last text, you may still be able to recover the data from a backup or with a recovery program.

Hillary is a technology writer and photographer based in Michigan. While her favorite tech brands are Apple and Nikon, she enjoys exploring all but the most frustrating new devices.

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