How to Retrieve Contacts When a Cell Phone Won't Turn On

by Michael Jones
Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Even if your phone's off, you can still retrieve contacts that are saved on your subscriber identity module, or SIM card. Every phone has a SIM card, which stores the subscriber key that identifies the mobile user. Most phones automatically save contacts to the SIM card. If you don't have them saved on your SIM card, you're out of luck. Several third-party tools can restore your contacts, but if you have a SIM card and access to an extra cell phone, you can get your contacts in a few steps.

Step 1

Charge up an old cell phone

Charge up an old cell phone or borrow a friend or family member's cell phone to retrieve your contacts from the dead phone's SIM card. This will not harm a borrowed phone.

Step 2

Remove the battery

Take off the dead phone's back cover and remove the battery. Underneath the battery you will see a tiny card either slipped or clipped into the back of the phone.

Step 3

Remove the SIM card from your phone

Slide the card out of its place by pushing down on the side that is opposite the direction you are sliding the card and gently pull. If the card is clipped in, unclip the mechanism and then slide the card out of place.

Step 4

Remove the SIM card from the borrowed phone

Take the SIM card out of the borrowed phone the same way you took it out of yours. All phones use the same removal process for SIM cards.

Step 5

Make sure the SIM card is secure

Slide or place your SIM card into the extra phone. The electronic chip embedded into the card should be facing down and lined up with the sensors on the phone. If the phone has a clip to hold the card, close the clip until you hear a click.

Step 6

Put the back cover back on

Make sure the SIM card is secure, replace the battery and put on the back cover.

Step 7

Turn on the phone and go to the contacts list

Turn on the phone and go to the contacts list. Your contacts will be displayed on the cell phone.

Step 8

Write down your contacts for saftey

Write down whatever contacts you need and remove your SIM card for safekeeping. When you buy a new phone, you will be able to use this card to download all your contacts to the new phone.

Return the borrowed phone's SIM card to its place

Return the borrowed phone's SIM card to its place, replace the battery and put the cover back on.


  • If your contacts aren't saved on a SIM card, you have no way to get to them if your phone won't turn on. Try everything you can to turn your phone on. If you have an extra battery, put it in. If your phone won't turn on because it is soaked, wait a few days to let it dry out. It is likely that your phone will turn on once it is completely dry.
  • You can look at all of your previous cell phone statements if you can't find any other way to get your contacts. The numbers of your most recently dialed and received calls will be listed on the statements. You will usually find the numbers that you use the most.
  • Back up your contacts on a computer if you don't save them to a SIM card.


Photo Credits

  • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

About the Author

Michael Jones reported campus news stories for The University of Southern California's student newspaper, "The Daily Trojan," for four years before graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in journalism. He has since gone on to write for several publications both in America and abroad and has an idiosyncratic knack for translating the most intricate tasks into layman speak.

More Articles