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I've been trying to find information on what's included in the data partition when doing a nandroid backup.

I couldn't quite figure if it includes:

  • Media files (images, videos, music)
  • User apps + Configs
  • System Apps + Configs
  • Whatever else...

Reason being, I wondered if I could just backup system and boot:

  • The media files are synced using rsync.
  • The system apps are updated anyway when flashing new ROM.
  • The user apps are backed up using titanium or whatever.

This could save some space of my backups,
since I don't have much to spare -
having no external sd slot and only 16gb of storage...

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Based on the TWRP versions I used (v2.8.7.0 in OnePlus One and v3.0.0.0 in Nexus 6), TWRP doesn't backup /data/media but everything else stored under data partition. This means:

  • media files stored inside internal SD card are not backed up. This is a noted issue with no fix so far in mainstream code.
  • user+system apps, their data and other things such as Wi-Fi configuration and credentials and whatnot are always backed up since they are not part of /data/media.

    Note: some apps store their data which ends up under /data/media/userID/Android/. After a reset of data partition, an app, if restored with its private data, might not be able to reload the public data stored under the said location. That's one of the reasons folks wants TWRP to backup /data/media as well.

  • Good, yet there are still questions left unanswered. Mostly, let's say I do a nandroid backup with only system and boot partitions. Let's say I then backup all my user and system apps using titanium backup. Let's say I then want to restore the system, by first flashing the nandroid backup and then restoring the apps. Will my system work as expected? – CrimsonKing Apr 5 '16 at 18:18
  • What do you mean as expected? You would find your apps in a state similar to what they were in prior to taking the backup. – Firelord Apr 6 '16 at 3:34
  • As expected is the system would be up and running, with all configs/wifi settings/widgets etc etc. If it does, again - why would I want to backup the data partition in the first place?... – CrimsonKing Apr 6 '16 at 15:30
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I think that the best answer is here. As an Android Expert, I couldn't have said it better myself!

To my knowledge, TWRP does a nandroid backup. As you can read in the tag wikis of the mentioned tags (nandroid, backup), a Nandroid backup takes images of your partitions. It's not a backup on the file level, but on partition level. So it includes everything stored on those partitions. Doing a full Nandroid backup of your system thus includes the entire system, one file per partition. There are only very few things not contained, such as the radio-firmware.

So to put it as a short direct answer to your question: Yes, a full Nandroid backup would include all your apps, app data, messages, contacts.

Though it might be complicated to extract them separately (Nandroid can't do that, it's always an "all-or-nothing". But e.g. Titanium Backup can read data from Nandroid backups. Just in case you'll need that :)

  • Great, but still...I'm talking specifically of the data partition, and whether I can omit it from the nandroid backup and use the above mentioned solutions instead to reduce the weight of the backup and not risk losing any data. I don't want to have my media files included, for example. – CrimsonKing Apr 5 '16 at 14:43
  • Going into my TWRP right now so see what I can come up with for you. :) Have you went into the File Manager through TWRP and tried to edit the backups by hand? Trying to think of anything I can, being new here is hader than I thought! – Serra Behymer Apr 5 '16 at 14:46

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