I'm looking to get a copy of my personal data from some old phones and thought you may be able to help. Just some necessary info before starting. I have already tried to do this by turning the huawei device (see below) on, so standard forensic quality has been broken regardless so please don't worry about that in your suggestions, at least for that device.

I also would like to avoid doing anything, like rooting, which could erase data. Mainly because I'm not confident enough in my abilities to believe that I could do this properly, so it doesn't seem worth the risk. Obviously if it's essential, and there are ways to limit this risk, please feel free to suggest this! However, I would be happier to install something onto the device i.e: a new/modified APK to try and get data from some apps. Obviously there are degrees to this, even turning a phone on could erase data, but something like rooting would run the risk of losing every bit of data I'm after. I'd appreciate it if suggestions could highlight what the risk of data loss is for whatever's suggested.  

I've previously tried to extract data using an adb backup and then exploring data from that backup, but a lot of the data I wanted (see below) was excluded from this backup. I also found the adb file incredibly frustrating to navigate, so any advice which has simple steps or utilises programmes with a nice clear GUI would be appreciated! 

I have a Huawei Ascend G300 (aka Huawei U8815) and a Wileyfox Swift (1st version) running android. I think that they're running the latest versions of android available for these devices. According to wikipedia, for the Huawei device this is android 4.0.0 and for the wileyfox swift, Cyanogen OS 12.1. For the latter, I can't be sure if this was the final official OS update provided for the phone or not. Both these devices were purchased in the UK. I have spares for both. 

I want to extract as much data as possible from these devices from, at least, the following apps in order of priority:

  1. Hangouts- with a particular focus on messages, chat members and GAIA IDs or emails associated with accounts which as far as I know was viewable in hangouts
  2. Gmail- Email messages and any hangouts data linked to gmail
  3. Text messages- Numbers and text messages
  4. Facebook- Chat messages, post and reaction history and notifications and profiles of those I interacted with with a primary focus on those in chats. 
  5. Browser data- History, passwords etc.
  6. Google plus- History, likes and reactions, google plus connections and friends

Some information from apps may have been transferred to a now missing sd card using an app2sd service but I have been able to view old hangouts messages etc. and access old emails when turning my huawei phone on so maybe I could do something with the volatile memory?

Thank you in advance!


1 Answer 1


Data backup files created via adb backup only contains the data of those apps which allow backup.

For existing backup files files created by adb backup can be easily converted to a tar file using Android Backup Extractor and then you can view them using any archive tool with tar support (e.g. 7-Zip, WinRAR, ...).

For a full backup you need root access. If the installed ROM does not allow root access you might be able to get root permissions on-th-fly: The phones are so old they even might be vulnerable to the Dirty Cow kernel exploit. This means some of the old one-click-root tools should work.

Once you have root access you can get extract all data from /data/data. Unfortunately this only means you have the app data files. As most of the apps you want to extract data from are closed-source apps this will get complicated as the file-format apps use is not documented anywhere. Also the app version matters, the app file format can change at any time so the older versions may store data in a different way than recent apps.

If you are lucky the files are SQLite database which you can open using common database viewer applications. But in the end this will still be raw data tables.

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