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I have been backing up my Nexus 7 with adb backup to back up all files into an encrypted backup. I see that you can restore from a backup with adb restore, but that would wipe all my existing data on the device.

How exactly would I extract one App's data from this encrypted backup file?

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2 Answers

up vote 31 down vote accepted

Just for reference of others, here is some background on the .ab file format.

The Android Backup (*.ab) file is a compressed TAR file. It is compressed using the DEFLATE algorithm. On top of that, there can be AES encryption used. This is determined when you create the backup, if you enter a password then the backup is encrypted, otherwise; there is no encryption, it is only compressed.

The HEADER of the file is a little different then a normal DELFATE archive. It contains information about the backup and looks like the following:


The first line is the "Magic" line. The next line is the version of the Android Backup file format. The next line is a boolean (true or false, 1 or 0) indicating if the file is compressed. The last line is the type of encryption. This example is not using any encryption. If there was a password, the line would read "AES-256". After that is the encryption cypher. If no password, then the DEFLATE "archive" starts.

It is compressed using the Java Deflater. Which, from a developers perspective, causes issues if you want to use anything besides Java to extract it. I haven't been able to find anything that can deflate it using the same algorithm, even though all that I have found (for like C#) are supposed to follow the "SPEC".

With that said, there is an open source project under the Apache 2.0 license, written by Nikolay Elenkov that will allow you to extract the .ab in to a tar file.


java -jar abe.jar unpack <backup.ab> <backup.tar> <password>

If you are not sure how to really use that (which is beyond the scope of this answer) the next version of Droid Explorer v0.8.8.7 (available here) will allow you to do exactly this, and more, right from Explorer. You can read more about the features on my blog (yes, i know, shameless plug. I do that when it fits the question)


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I would vote you up if I had the reputation, my god man thanks! –  BCable Aug 30 '12 at 1:41
your welcome. I only know all that information because this is a feature that I just recently added to the Droid Explorer code base, so I had to do some research on it. –  Ryan Conrad Aug 30 '12 at 1:44
Hi Ryan, tried to use Droid Explorer but it fails to start complaining about Android SDK location, even though it is installed and I'm supplying the right path. –  Umar Farooq Khawaja Jan 1 at 16:11
@UmarFarooqKhawaja Take a look at the FAQ for droid explorer. The last Q/A addresses your issue. –  Ryan Conrad Jan 2 at 1:21
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Another option is using the Perl AdbBackupRoutines from this XDA thread. They have a few requirements, though: Perl obviously, plus libterm-readkey-perl, libcrypt-cbc-perl, and libcrypt-pbkdf2-perl (if your backups are unencrypted, you can skip the last dependency by simply commenting out line 103 of backupdecrypt.pl where it's included -- worked fine for me).

Usage is quite easy:

./backupdecrypt.pl [options] <backupfile.ab> <outfile.tar>

The resulting .tar file then can be investigated like any other tarball. Its structure is quite interesting in at least one aspect: it does not reflect the real paths where the files have been taken from (e.g. not /data/data/com.app.name/databases/whatever.db, but instead apps/com.app.name/db/whatever.db) -- which indicates an app backed-up on one device/ROM might be restored to any other device/ROM without trouble, as adb restore must figure out the real paths itself.

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