So I am using adb to copy all of my Android files to my Windows PC with this command: adb pull -a /mnt/sdcard C:\backup

And when it's done it says all x amount of files have been pulled, I can confirm that the number of pulled files matches the amount of files that reside inside the folder of my Android storage but when I check how many files are actually in the C:\backup folder, I see about 200 missing or in other words adb skipped about 200 files and did not copy them over to my C:\backup folder.

I understand that this could be due to path limit or due to some files containing characters in their filenames that Windows' NTFS file system just doesn't allow.

How can I see what files are actually being skipped? Is there a switch in adb or some trick?

  • 1
    You can instead use tar on device to create a tar archive with all files and stream that to your PC. May be tar works more reliable: android.stackexchange.com/a/194854/2241 If you device is not rooted remove the su part and adapt the path.
    – Robert
    May 23, 2020 at 11:49
  • @Robert I used adb exec-out 'tar c /storage/emulated/0/123.txt' > 123.tar but it just creates a corrupted tar archive. May 23, 2020 at 12:35
  • @alecxs /mnt/sdcard/ is internal storage and it is also the same as /storage/emulated/0 and no, I am not trying to pull things from a MicroSD, I am trying to pull all the files in the internal storage's root directory. May 23, 2020 at 12:39
  • The tar archive was corrupted (what type of corruption)? May be you are facing a totally different problem with a broken USB cable and/or port. What adb version do you use the latest from Android SDK?
    – Robert
    May 23, 2020 at 13:29
  • @Robert No matter what file or how many files I add to the tar archive with that command it always outputs a 90 byte archive that 7z can't open because it says "Is not archive". I am using the latest adb, I literally downloaded it today. Tried multiple USB cables, same issue. May 23, 2020 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


Just pulling all files via adb to a WIndows computer has multiple problems:

  1. Android/Linux allows multiple files in one directory that just differ in their case.
  2. The file-system on Linux allow characters in file- and directory names that are disallowed on Windows
  3. Some file-names are completely disallowed on Windows which are just regular file-names on Linux/Android
  4. There is a path limit as you have already mention that may cause trouble

Hence the best solution to create a full backup of the sd-card is to pack all files into one tar archive as all file-system limitation of Windows can bypassed using this method.

Via adb you create a full backup of the sd-card using the following command:

adb exec-out "cd /storage/emulated/0 && tar c * -" > sdcard.tar

This command creates the tar archive on the device and directly streams the data of the tar archive through adb to your PC and saves it there as sdcard.tar.

  • @alexs You are correct 1 is not possible but 2 and 3 are valid. Filenames with backslash are possible and reserved names like aux and com1 are also possible just as an example.
    – Robert
    May 23, 2020 at 18:39
  • oh no how stupid from sdcardfs. thought behavior is same as vfat
    – alecxs
    May 23, 2020 at 18:48
  • I wish this worked, but I simply get a corrupted tar archive no matter what. May 23, 2020 at 19:01
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    @computationalprince Right, access to that folders is only possible via adb. Hence if you really want a warking tar you have to copy the busybox binary to sdcard in Termux. Them in adb copy it from sdcard to /data/local/tmp and restore the executable flag via chmod. Then you can execute tar via /data/local/tmp/busybox tar.
    – Robert
    May 24, 2020 at 11:08
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    @Robert You were right! I did everything you said and now when I run your command with the new tar path e.g. adb exec-out "cd /storage/emulated/0 && /data/local/tmp/busybox tar c * -" > sdcard.tar I get a healthy tar archive with all the files. Thank you a lot! May 24, 2020 at 11:21

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