Rescuing a Shattered Nexus 4
Help! I Lost My Photos!

A little while ago, before I’d done the smart thing and got myself a case for my Nexus 4, I dropped it a couple of inches onto a hard surface at the wrong angle. The screen promptly shattered – and this was bad because without the touch screen, I couldn’t interact with it, I had some photos on it from son#1 birthday party that hadn’t been copied off, and I hadn’t got round to enabling USB access to the filesystem or any of the debug/developer options.

So what to do? I really didn’t want to lose those photos. A couple of hours searching the Interwebs and a little bit of experimentation later, and I managed it. Basically, download and apply the clockwork mod bootloader, and this turns on the developer options that allow access to the filesystem via the Android SDK tools. To find out the details, read on…

First, download the recovery image: bash $ wget http://download2.clockworkmod.com/recoveries/recovery-clockwork-touch-6.0.3.1-mako.img

Next, install the Android SDK – I’m on OSX using [Homebrew][] so I do: bash $ brew install android-sdk

Now, power off and disconnect the phone! Then boot it into fastboot mode by holding down power and volume-down. Once it boots you should be in the fastboot list – the volume keys will cycle you through the list. You should now also be able to see the device once connected to USB, and you can then OEM unlock it:

$ sudo fastboot devices -l
04f02d4bdcd3b6e2       fastboot usb:FD123000
$ sudo fastboot oem unlock
...
OKAY [ 17.937s]
finished. total time: 17.937s

Having unlocked it, you can now install the clockwork recovery bootloader you downloaded (assuming it’s in the local directory):

$ sudo fastboot flash recovery recovery-clockwork-touch-6.0.3.1-mako.img
sending 'recovery' (7560 KB)...
OKAY [  0.526s]
writing 'recovery'...
OKAY [  0.448s]
finished. total time: 0.975s

When you now use the volume keys to cycle through the list, you should now see recovery mode as an option – select it, and you should be able to see the device listed in the usual way via adb:

: mort@greyjay:phone$; sudo adb devices -l
List of devices attached
04f02d4bdcd3b6e2       recovery usb:FD123000 product:occam model:Nexus_4 device:mako

Finally, pull all the contents off the sdcard:

$ adb pull /sdcard/0 ./sdcard/
$ adb pull /data/ ./data/
$ adb pull /system/ ./system/

…and that’s it – you should now have a local copy of everything off the phone, and you can send it away for repair (or whatever you feel like otherwise), possibly while sobbing quietly.

Copyright © 2009–2016 Richard Mortier