After installing the Microsoft Authenticator in a new device, I logged on to my MS account and all my 2FA app codes are there, as expected. Perfect.

After installing Google Authenticator, no codes appear: The Transfer Accounts > Import accounts option simply shows the attached dialog asking me to go to my previous device to continue.

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Is this some kind of sick joke from Google? What happens if my "old device" was stolen, lost, dropped from a bridge, bursted into flames or otherwise destroyed? I simply loose access to ALL my 2FA accounts.

Any ideas what's the procedure in this case? This is all theoretical, I've never lost a phone, but it could happen anyway and I prefer to anticipate to this. Of course now my main 2FA codes app is Microsoft Authenticator, but the Google app should have considered the option of users losing phones somehow, otherwise the Device Locator app from Google would be pointless.


1 Answer 1


Update: As of April 2023, Google Authenticator now supports online sync.

Google Authenticator only stores secrets on-device, did not provide online/cloud sync/backup, and doesn't allow its data to be backup by Android.

Disregarding the speculation on the reasons why they only provided on-device data transfer, there are at least 2 ways to prevent the user from being locked out:

  1. Store the backup codes provided by the service and use them
  2. Do a manual backup by exporting the QR code and storing it safely (ref: Can you use a screenshot of the "export accounts" QR Code of Google Authenticator as a backup?)

Further reading: How do I back up Google Authenticator?

  • As of september 2023, Google finally decided to store the Authenticator codes on their own cloud servers. Whenever you reinstall it, codes will be restored, just like your mails are kept in Gmail when you login from a new Android device.
    – andreszs
    Sep 22, 2023 at 22:57

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