Last updated: Oct 15, 2021

iOS data recovery is impossible

There is a situation when you need to restore files from Macbook, iPhone, or iPad. All these iOS devices united not only by manufacturer but by the file system also. It's named APFS and here is what you need to know about it.

APFS's structure prevents data recovery

Since DiskInternals' products support APFS in reader mode, it's reasonable to ask about file recovery from iOS devices. Reader mode is self-explanatory: you can access and "read" the files, but you cannot recover deleted ones.

But why can data from APFS not be restored?

In theory, files that were deleted and haven't been overwritten can be rescued, but that won't happen in APFS.

Why is APFS so special? In short, it has had full disk encryption since iOS 5.

Encryption converts data in storage into code. To access this encoded data, you need to perform decryption. The file system does this using decryption keys. The decryption keys are stored in allocated space, and once the data is released (unallocated), iOS destroys the decryption keys.

In other words, if the files get deleted, the encrypted data block becomes unallocated, and the decryption keys are destroyed. Even if you create a disk image of this APFS or if you somehow got the decryption keys, all that would be useless. The data that was stored on these unallocated blocks cannot be decrypted in any way.

That’s how APFS leaves no chance to get encrypted data.

OK, but what if I use Jailbreak?

Some Apple users try to get what they want using Jailbreak. They may think that iOS recovery can be performed with its cheat commands.

One of Jailbreak's features is the ability to connect via SSH. With SSH, you can access the RAW disk (the old APFS-formatted disk). But you'll still find nothing. You can't get the data from the RAW disk because Jailbreak can't overcome the real problem: encryption.

So, no, Jailbreak is also useless for iOS data recovery.

iOS data recovery on SD cards in Apple devices

APFS is an Apple file system that is used not only on Macs, but in other Apple devices (iPhone, iPad). So it's worth discussing iOS data recovery on the iPhone or on the iPad using external storage like SD or microSD cards.

Because of their architecture, neither the iPhone or iPad has the ability to use an SD or microSD card. None of them have a slot for this purpose. So, you cannot retrieve files from the iPhone or any other Apple device in this way.

It also means that you cannot perform iOS data recovery on SD or microSD cards, but this time the problem is not encryption.

Is there no way to do iOS file recovery at all?

Since Apple devices store the three latest backups in iCloud, there is a chance to access permanently deleted files from it.

But that is possible for recently lost or deleted files only.


As you see, because of the peculiarities of APFS and personal data protection from Apple, iOS data recovery is impossible.

Jailbreak won't help, either.

Though you cannot access permanently deleted files on APFS, you can access non-deleted files from APFS. It is pretty helpful if you need to open files from an Apple device or a hard drive with APFS.

This can be performed with such products as DiskInternals Linux Reader.


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