Recovering data from a "wet" Nokia

Let's ignore now why a phone fell in the seawater; it's enough saying that 2 years old kids don't know much about electronics. This and the following happened about one year ago, but I think it's still worth telling...

So, a Nokia 6101 had a bath on the beach and suddenly stopped working (how to blame it?); unfortunately, that model hasn't an external memory card, but an integrated chip. The owner, who wasn't me, had some important stuff in the memory of the phone, and she she was willing to pay to recover that stuff.

She first asked to a couple of electricians and phone shops, but they all said it was impossible to recover data from an oxidized phone. Then, I suggested calling a data-recovery company or Nokia itself; but three companies (yes, those companies who can recover data from a burnt hard disk for thousands dollars) said that they couldn't recover data from a proprietary chip, and at Nokia they gently said they don't deal with reparations nor recoveries. Neither a Nokia official repairman could help finding a solution.

Before throwing in the towel, I disassembled the phone to see what was inside. Nothing was really oxidized, but maybe some sea salt was still on the circuits. So, as the master told me, I put the phone into distilled water for some minutes, then I dried it with a hairdryer. The LCD display was gone, and no signal came from the USB cable (DKU-5). Here's a picture of the dismantled phone (click for a larger view):

However, that little tiny battery (highlited in red) caught my attention. The battery was soldered on the circuit and, standing at my tester, it was exhausted. Maybe that was the real problem? I broke the soldering and replaced the battery with a new one (cost: 3€). Let's replug the phone battery (with some tape) to see if the patient is alive again...

Ant it is! With Nokia PC Suite and gnokii, through the USB cable could pass all the survivor data.

And this was the simple story of the owner of a phone, who was about to lose all the data in the phone because of a lousy 3€ battery, who was willing to pay - God knows how much - to recover all, and who was completely abandoned by Nokia and by a bounch of professional (???) recovering data companies.

The moral of the tale is different depending on who you are in the story:

  • If you are the owner of the phone, and your phone absolutely has to fall in seawater, do not despair: it's still possible to recover your data, somewhere, somehow, for just 3€;
  • If you are one of the recovering-data companies: go and find another job;
  • If you are Nokia: do not design phones with little, tiny, lousy, soldered batteries without telling it even to official technical support partners.


Anonymous said...

Bel lavoretto, complimenti... :-)

Anonymous said...

Great hack! Didn't know you could backup like that.

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hard drive backup said...

Wow after dropping it in salt water and then submerging it in distilled water and the only thing that was wrong with it was the battery? Nokia must makes some pretty durable phones! I guess this technique can be tried on similar devices too. Thanks again!

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