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Question: All data-recovery solutions I can find on this site are from 6 or more years ago. Similarly, commercial solutions (such as Dr. Fone) are only good up to android 4. Are there any tools or techniques that still have a reasonable chance of success on Android 11?

Background: I have an ASUS Zenfone 6 that I recently updated. After the update, I was asked for the lock pattern, which I somehow forgot (I usually use the fingerprint scanner). Without bypassing the lockscreen (or somehow reactivating the fingerprint without the lock pattern) the only option I see is to reset the phone (which I understand will delete the user partition). If it is possible to create an image or recover data after the factory reset, there is at least a chance I can recover the contacts and a few months worth of photos that defaulted to internal memory after a previous update. I know that android has encrypted the user partition by default since Android 5, so maybe recovering data is no longer possible.

Perhaps a successful method would include rooting the phone, although I don't intend to keep it rooted. At this point any method is better than no method.

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Since about Android 6 all devices come with enabled user data encryption. I think since about Android 8 Google enforces that this encryption is hardware backed, which means you can't export the used encryption key and once the key has been deleted all data are gone forever.

These measures have been introduced to protect user data e.g. of a stolen device. Unless the thief knows the unlock code the device does not allow user data access.

There were a few cases were you could trick the lock screen to bypass it, however this only affects devices that were already running. If you boot the device you need to provide the lock screen PIN/password/pattern otherwise the user data encryption key is not released (the exact way this works was changed with every Android version a bit).

From the device perspective you are not the device owner unless you have authenticated using the required password/PIN/pattern. Therefore it now protects the data from any access.

There is no way to bypass this protection, otherwise a thief could do the same and in the get access to your data:

rooting: Requires an bootloader unlocked device or for an device with a vulnerability access to the UI is required. Unlocking a bootloader locked device automatically performs a factory reset which deletes the encryption key -> data gone. And that you don't have UI access to the device is obvious.

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  • I suppose it's a good thing that my phone lock screen is more secure than my windows lock screen. There are all kinds of ways to get around that. Thank you for your answer, even if it was not what I hoped to hear. I hoped there would be an exploit out there somewhere. Apr 7 at 14:57
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If you ever enabled Google's "Find My Device", you might be able to unlock your phone by locking it there with another password. You can check if your device is listed in Find My Device. There you should be able to set a new temporary password to unlock your device. However, it seems like that's not always the case. Or that even the right password doesn't always work. But maybe it's worth a try if nothing else works.

See also this question about unlocking after locking with Find My Device.

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