Sometimes, It Pays to be A Total Geek. And Some Advice for Android Owners

So a while back, I was playing around with mirroring my android phone screen on my PC, really for no good reason.  But to do so, and really to do a lot of PC control tasks on an android, USB debugging mode needs to be turned on.  So I did that.  And then after playing around with it, forgot about it for months.

Then, last night I dropped my phone and lost the screen functions.  The phone functions and digitizer are just fine, but the screen is black.   Thanks to the cloud, I have backups of all photos, email, calendar, contacts and such.  (Android has a better cloud approach than Apple on photos, mail, and calendar but an inferior approach on apps, messages, and general settings).

I wanted to get into the phone to wipe the memory.   How if the screen is black?  Aha!  I could mirror the phone screen onto my PC.  Which I did and I got everything accomplished.  It would have been impossible to do this, though, if I had not previously set USB debugging mode on, as that requires a bunch of screen taps.  I did have to hit one OK to get the mirroring started (after that the mouse worked on the computer to make selections) but I took a similar phone and mirrored it, found out where the confirmation message was popping up on the screen, and was able to hit the right spot on the broken phone when I needed to.

So here is my advice for android owners.  Broken or blacked out screen is probably the #1 smart phone failure mode.  Go into your phone right now and turn on usb debugging mode while you still can.  There is an odd process involving tapping a certain button 7 times to turn on developer mode, but it is explained here.  The screen mirroring is a chrome app called vysor, which also requires some downloads of special drives but that is explained by the app.


  1. NotUniqueMan?:

    Thanks for the tip.

  2. slocum:

    An alternative that doesn't require a PC or debug mode is an MHL (micro-USB to HDMI) cable. I find it handy to have around anyway for watching streaming video on big screen TVs (for me I've found it's less trouble and the quality is better than wireless screen mirroring).

  3. LoneSnark:

    There is, of course, a downside to having USB debugging turned on, such as if your phone is stolen.

  4. irandom419:

    Sounds like you loaned your phone to TechRax:

  5. Jonathan Stanwyck:

    Another option is using Android device manager. If you lose the phone or just break the screen, you can send an order from your Google login to wipe the phone the next time it connects to the Internet.

    You can also use it to activate a loud ring tone if lost or stolen, or put a new lock screen with a custom message on it.

  6. bigmaq1980:

    Recently converted to Android. ADM was a frequently cited must have for the reasons you mention.

    I'd be afraid that USB debugging mode might be a security hole exploitable by the most junior of hackers.