I wanted to clear & restore WhatsApp to make sure it deploys encrypted Google Drive backups. I've never done a Drive backup, only local. I made a local backup on the fly, then wiped WhatsApp data using app settings.

I re-registered to WA, but my chat history was totally blank! I found that the local directory /sdcard/WhatsApp was missing in Google Files app.

Panic again. I am now restoring a NAS backup of my WA directory, but I am surprised to see that, while the last synchronization occurred one week ago, all backup files are dated April 25th, 2021.

Does WhatsApp still store data in /sdcard/WhatsApp? Does it get deleted automagically when you clear WA data from settings? If I have to format my device and don't have Google Drive backups, what directories should I back up? Have I lost months of chat history?

If it matters, the device is Google Pixel 5, Android 12.


1 Answer 1


In the end, it was because the Android file system policy has changed. I'll share it for reference.

Before Android 11, WhatsApp saved files under /sdcard/WhatsApp.

Starting from Android 11, and anyways since someday around April 25th, 2021, WhatsApp now stores data under /storage/emulated/0/Android/media/com.whatsapp/WhatsApp to comply with A11 storage APIs.

I had FolderSync to sync all my /sdcard directory. In my own case, except for /sdcard/Android because of file permissions issues. So while the /sdcard/WhatsApp folder was already gone on my device, the last sync was made on April 25th (WA backups chats every day).

In the end, I lost 6 months of chat, not 10 years.

More, there's a pitfall. Deleting app from settings wipes /storage/emulated/0/Android/media/com.whatsapp, wiping backups and media. Uninstalling WA prompts for keeping or deleting data, but when you uninstall/reinstall WA, you have to register again.

In the end, I'll have to open another question why WA didn't deploy e2e encrypted backups.

  • "*Deleting app from settings wipes.. *"... How do you delete an app from settings? Guess you meant Uninstall). This and the next sentence need clarity (when you say uninstall which prompts you to keep data, are you uninstalling from Play store?)
    – beeshyams
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 23:21

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