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Can anyone recommend a good way to backup Android devices?
Ideally I would like to do this wirelessly and, not only backup my data, but also my user settings. Is it possible to backup an image of an Android device - so that one doesn't even need to reinstall apps?
It would be particularly useful to hear from users that have restored backups, as to how easy, and complete, their processes were. Thanks

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Please specify rooted/unrooted. Rooted is easy to backup, unrooted is where the real question comes in. –  Dmitriy Likhten Sep 15 '10 at 18:58

6 Answers 6

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The requirement being that you must be ROOTED, you could get Titanium Backup and back up your phone using that.

The reason for using Titanium Backup is so that you can selectively restore parts of your data if you were to install a different version and/or build of Android. NANDROID backup is good for having a safe image to fall back on but it isn't good for restoring data on top of a new OS installation (there are side effects sometimes).

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If you don't have root, you can use MyBackup. It can save applications & media (photos, music, videos), and it can save data (contacts, SMS, MMS, alarms, ...).

Unfortunately it requires internet connection (for MyBackup / Rerware account) even for local save and restore (e.g. on SD card), and free version is single phone only (you cannot copy backup to other phone).

Note that non-root version is less powerful than e.g. Titanium Backup or MyBackup Root.


There is also Helium (formerly Carbon), which also doesn't require root.

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If you want to do what is essentially a 1-to-1 backup of your device, you can use a custom recovery to create a "nandroid" backup. Doing so effectively creates disk images of your NAND partitions (hence "nandroid") that you can restore from at a later point. This is going to vary a bit by device and recovery system, but in general if you want to perform a full backup of your phone's internal memory you would need to:

  • Root your device and install a custom recovery. The most popular recovery is probably ClockworkMod. How you install it will vary widely by device, but ROM Manager can do it for you on most popular devices. You simply launch ROM Manager and select "Flash ClockworkMod Recovery" from the main menu.

  • If using ClockworkMod, open ROM Manager and select "Backup current ROM". This should do all of the work for you.

  • If not using ROM Manager or if you use a recovery other than ClockworkMod:

    • Reboot your device into recovery mode. This again varies by device, but ROM Manager has a "Reboot into recovery" option that works regardless of what recovery you have installed. Another option is to issue adb reboot recovery from a connected PC with ADB configured and set up. There may be other requirements for getting into recovery depending on your device (e.g. the Kindle Fire is very different from others).
    • Navigate to the "Backup/Restore" or "Nandroid" menu (or similar).
    • Select "Backup" and (if needed) select which partitions you would like to back up. Some recoveries will also give you the option to compress the backup.
    • Select "Perform backup" (or similar) and wait for the process to finish.

Once the backup has been performed you should be able to use it to recover from many "soft" bricks. However, the two situations you would not be able to recover from with a backup alone would be:

  • Your bootloader is invalid/corrupted/etc
  • Your recovery partition is invalid/corrupted/etc

In both of thse scenarios, you would first need to fix the offending partition (bootloader or recovery) before being able to restore the backup. Basically, anything that prevents you from accessing your recovery partition will also prevent you from using your recovery to restore your backup. Such situations are, I would say, fairly rare. You can use a backup to recover a bad /boot or /system partition, so flashing a kernel or ROM should have an extremely small likelihood of permanently bricking your device (unless it modifies your recovery or bootloader, as noted above).

You may be able to flash an uncompressed backup from fastboot but this would depend on what recovery you are using and how it performs its backups. As I recall, ClockworkMod simply uses dd to create the image and they actually will flash correctly on some devices. However, I would strongly advise researching this before trying as a bad fastboot write could soft brick you as well. Of course, as long as you don't try to overwite your bootloader you won't lose access to fastboot, so in some ways this could be a "nothing ventured, nothing gained" situation.

To actually restore a backup you can:

  • In ROM Manager select "Manage and Restore Backups", then select the backup you wish to restore from.
  • If not using ROM Manager or not using ClockworkMod:

    • Reboot into recovery
    • Select "Backup/Restore" or "Nandroid" (or similar)
    • Select "Restore"
    • Pick the backup you would like to restore from (if more than one)
    • Select the partitions you would like to restore (if givent the option)
    • Select "Restore" and wait for the process to finish

Nandroid backups are, by default, stored on your external storage device in pretty much every situation. Some exceptions may be devices with no separate external storage (e.g. devices like the Galaxy Nexus) where the /sdcard directory is actually on the physical internal storage. In any case, though, it will save to your /sdcard directory, which is readable from a PC as USB mass storage or adb. You can copy a nandroid backup off of your phone and onto a computer for safe-keeping, then copy it back over later if you need to restore.

To do this you can simply plug in your device and look for a path like /sdcard/nandroid (or /sdcard/TWRP for TeamWin recovery, possibly elsewhere for others). Then you can copy the contents of the folder over to your computer. Alternatively, you can pull it with adb by plugging in the device and issuing something akin to:

adb pull /path/to/backups

...from a PC shell.

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A good way to back up app data if you're not rooted is to used adb from the Android SDK. For example, to back up the data for Locale, you'd do something like the following:

adb pull /data/data/com.twofortyfouram.locale/ C:\backup\locale\

And to restore, just use adb push with the same arguments in reverse order, i.e.:

adb push C:\backup\locale\ /data/data/com.twofortyfouram.locale/

You should be able to back up apps from /data/app/ the same way.

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Is there a way to browse /data? Are there any other directories besides /data/data that need to be backed up? –  Shoan Aug 26 '11 at 11:25
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@Shoan Yes. Start adb shell then cd /data/data/ then ls. Back up /data/app/ if you want to save the applications to avoid re-downloading them. There's no other fixed data locations AFAIK :) –  Matthew Read Aug 26 '11 at 15:19
    
Is there a way to backup the preferences/settings of the applications as well as the OS? –  Shoan Aug 26 '11 at 16:48
    
@Shoan You could try backing up /data/system/ but I don't know if it will work. –  Matthew Read Aug 26 '11 at 16:56

There are a number of apps you can use but many will already have the ES File Manager

Note: Turn off as many apps as you can. Some apps will not backup while running.

  • Launch ES File Manager
    (When you open it you are normally in the file manager mode)
  • Tap the second icon from the right to switch to Application mode
  • Long press on any icon. Select "Select All" from the context menu
  • Press Menu. Select "Backup"

While the backup is running, you can watch its progress by opening the notification bar

The applications will be copied into backup/apps

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Is this just backing up the apps? Can similar process also backup data files, such as photos and voice-recorder files? –  NealWalters Feb 5 '12 at 19:09

Depending on your phone is the complexity of this task.

HTC Evo (and supported phones) you can use unrEVOked root tool to get root access. Install Titanium Backup and back everything (system included) up onto the memory card (and can copy it to your computer for extra backup).

Otherwise you need to either get something similar to unrEVOked to root and use Titanium.

If not possible, you need to root your phone and do a NANDROID backup. This backs up everything on the phone's memory as an image and can be restored at any point to fully replace anything on the phone with what it was, even if you installed another version of android.

Otherwise... HTC PC Sync? By that is kinda crappy compared to the other tools.

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