Is there any way to recover the photos from an iPhone which has been "erased" after several consecutive failed passcode attempts?

Unfortunately, these photos were not backed up. Apple techs grudgingly suggested that the data was still there...

5 Answers 5


Which iPhone OS and model do you have? The newer ones encrypt the data and the erase deletes the key. The chances of DIY recovery are slim. If you pull it off, you probably can get hired for iPhone forensics and make some serious salary doing that professionally.

Older devices are more amenable to typical recovery efforts. Either way you will need a forensic tool like PhoneView to access the filesystem. Once mounted you could try something like Data Rescue. Neither tool was designed for this, so you should try the free versions first before spending money on them.

The professional data recovery houses will likely charge an arm and a leg to get your data back - but at least you can get a quote if you really need them back at all cost.

Be sure to double check your camera roll isn't backed up to iTunes or on Time Machine. It would be far simpler to restore the device to an old backup and get the photos off intact. You would lose any photos taken after the backup time, though.

If you have enabled data security (iOS 4.3 and iPhone 4 are one combination that enables this security), you're likely deep in the hurt locker. See iOS 4: Understanding data protection to tell if you enabled data protection. In a nutshell, that means the filesystem was encrypted and the erase destroyed the key to the encrypted files. You will need industrial grade forensics to get things back if the phone was powered off immediately after the erase. Using it after the erase will rapidly overwrite the scrambled data irreversably.

  • iPhone 4, iOS 4.3.something
    – pilcrow
    Jun 2, 2011 at 19:15
  • 2
    Sadly, you're in the hurt locker with iPhone 4 and iOS 4.3 or higher. See support.apple.com/kb/HT4175 - you enabled data protection which means the filesystem was encrypted and the erase destroyed the key. You will need industrial grade forensics to get things back if the phone was powered off immediately after the erase. Using it will rapidly overwrite the scrambled data irreversably.
    – bmike
    Jun 2, 2011 at 20:03
  • move that comment into your answer and you win.
    – pilcrow
    Jun 2, 2011 at 20:11

If you sync your iPhone with iTunes and do routine backups of it, you can restore it with just a single click (using iTunes). Connect your iPhone to iTunes, and right click it from the devices list and select "Restore from backup". Your photos should then, be recovered from the backup onto your iPhone, up to the date of the backup.

However, if you did not sync and backup, it would pretty much be very very difficult to recover.

  • Sadly I do not sync after every photo. :) My question is in the "difficult" category.
    – pilcrow
    Jun 2, 2011 at 19:14

You can try an application like iExplorer, which should give you access to your photos. If that doesn't work, pull out the heavy artilary and jailbreak the iPhone to gain root level access to the file system. The full path to the Camera Roll directory on iOS is:


Once you are jailbroken, enable your Mac's sshd server

enable ssh

ssh into the iPhone and copy the entire directory back to your (hopefully you have a) Mac, and can use the Terminal:

pilcrow@mac:~$ ipconfig getifaddr en1
pilcrow@mac:~$  arp -a
? ( at (incomplete) on en1 [ethernet]
? ( at 63:22:a:5b:50:dc on en1 ifscope [ethernet]
pilcrow@mac:~$ ssh [email protected]
root's password:                          # note: pw is alpine
iPhone:~ root# scp -r /private/var/mobile/Media/DCIM [email protected]:~
pilcrow's password:                       # note: pw is passw0rd123 (jk LOL!)
DCIM          0%       0KB          1.2KB/s        00:00  
DCIM          100%      12242KB       60.8KB/s     25:42
iPhone:~ root# exit
pilcrow@mac:~$ exit

If you are using a mac, you could use this program that lifehacker suggested. http://lifehacker.com/5806189/picturescue-recovers-iphone-photos-from-itunes-backup-files

  • I'm afraid I do not have a backup of these photos.
    – pilcrow
    Jun 2, 2011 at 19:17

If you backed up the iPhone on your computer, Access the backup file with a program that allows such filetype.

Here is an example of a program that does such. http://www.iphonebackupextractor.com/

If you dig a little deeper than I did to answer your question, I am sure you will find a free solution to your problem here. Goodluck mate.

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