I am trying to do a full system image backup of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. It is unrooted at present, and is running Android Kitkat 4.4.2 . I have no desire of rooting it as of now.

I have tried creating a full image backup of the device using the ADB (Android Debug Bridge) method (adb backup -apk -shared -all -f C:\backup.ab), which looks like it works, but when it completes, no backup files are created (Although the backup process is shown as having been completed).

Can anyone either offer advice on why the adb method doesn't work, or present an alternative solution to this? The end result should be a full backup image (including all apps and data) that I can use to restore the device back to its exact backup state.

  • The adb backup command that you used doesn't create an image. A system image will contain a '.iso' file extension. Looks like you were creating a '.ab' which is a type of system snapshot. Basically, these will contain a list of refs to different resources plus instructions to download / install them. The difference is quite significant. In fifteen years, when the "linked list" (pun intended) is just a bunch of null ptrs to nothing, the iso should still run.
    – Nate T
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 20:20

3 Answers 3


Yes, you can, by taking a full NANDroid backup. This takes a backup of everything, including the app data, the accounts, the system, etc. with the exclusion of the files stored on the SD cards (both internal and external).

Such NANDroid backups are usually taken with the help of a custom recovery, like the CWM (ClockWorkMod) recovery and the TWRP (TeamWin Recovery Project) recovery. If any custom recovery such as the ones mentioned here, or any other custom recovery based on them; is installed on your phone, then, you can proceed to do so.

For more information, and some helpful resources you might want to see, please visit here and here.

  • 4
    i don't have either of them install, and i was under the impression that root was required for NANDroid. and root is certainly required for TWRP.
    – chenks
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 15:09
  • 1
    Yes, root is definitely required. Installing custom recoveries would definitely benefit you in one way or the other, so I would do it if I were you. Root is highly required, but if you have issues like tripping the flash counter or the Knox counter, you might ask for help on XDA-Developers or any such website. You can perform a clean unroot after you root, and Chainfire's 'Triangle Away' app might be of some help here. Having said that, do remember that taking a NANDroid backup is actually the best way of backing up, and I would highly recommend doing so before you do anything else.
    – rjt.rockx
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 15:22
  • as i said, i don't want to have to root 100+ devices.
    – chenks
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 14:58
  • You have never mentioned about 100+ devices anywhere in the question ...
    – rjt.rockx
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 15:28
  • 2
    the number is irrelevant to the original question, as i clearly stated i didn't want to root. you edited my original to change the wording as well. i never said the word "desire". it appears you chose to ignore the fact that i didn't want to root and provided an answer that required root. not very helpful at all really.
    – chenks
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 14:04

I don't think root is actually required for Custom Recoveries. You can boot into recoveries without flashing them. I've seen it done before. I don't know how to do it but Google can surely help you. A Toolkit is available for my phone which let's me boot into TWRP or CWM without flashing them and can easily do full NANDroid Backups.

  • i installed TWRP and the moment i opened the app is said root was required.
    – chenks
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 9:28
  • 3
    @chenks No, I didn't talk about the 'app' TWRP. The app is just an install of TWRP recovery. I said that there may be a toolkit for your phone model that allows you to boot into custom recoveries without rooting. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 13:44
  • i have no idea what any of that is then.
    – chenks
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 14:56
  • @chenks You would need a TWRP recovery image designed for your specific build and you can find root kits for some builds that include a handy toolkit like the one in the following example: forum.xda-developers.com/android/development/… you would just skip the su user install, do not install any su, sudo, or super user stuff to avoid rooting the device and don't install the boot image either. See here for officially available images twrp.me/Devices You will need an adb shell and fastboot preferably linux or apple.
    – mchid
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 13:03

Since, you do not want to root your phone. ADB backup are closest to the Full Backups.

I recommend using Helium Backup for taking backups to your Phone's SD card or PC.

More information can be found here.

  • An ADB backup isn't an image is it?
    – mchid
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 15:48
  • Depends on what youare trying to backup. A system backup is always an image. While apps and settings backup can be text and/or archive.
    – Rahul Bali
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 9:54
  • Rooting would be no issue if there wasn't something disgusting called "eFuse".
    – neverMind9
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 4:05
  • @Rahul Bali Wrong. A system image is an actual image file, as in you could overwrite it with a photograph. and store that instead. There are MANY differences, but the most important one is DEPENDENCIES. An .ab file only tells you where to download your apps. So running it just asks Google Play to try its best to set up an environment that resembles yours. Also, if you have an ab of android 6 env and try to install it over v 10, think again. You already know that they arent giving you 6 back...
    – Nate T
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 20:33

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