The question arises because the best-rated backup application (Titanium Backup) requires root. So what would one use instead when getting a really complete backup is essential? Is there a file manager-type application available that enables copying the whole file system on the phone somewhere (to SD-card, online or wirelessly - doesn't matter which?)

(Samsung Galaxy S9000)


3 Answers 3


As far as I know, you can only make a full/complete backup of the phone with root. Because you need root in order to run Titanium Backup (which only backs up apps and their data) or you need root in order to flash ClockWork Recovery which lets you perform a Nandroid backup (full image backup of the entire device).

  • 3
    Can you not backup anything? Apps? Data? Nothing can be backed up before rooting? If you screw up rooting are you completely ruined?
    – Alex B
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 17:33
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    @AlexB That's the thing. You can't do a full backup without root. Your contacts, email, calendar, etc. are synced to the cloud. You can use SMS Backup to backup your texts. Market will auto download your apps. Your pictures are on the SD card. But if you just want to pull everything off the /system /data, you need admin access (root).
    – Bryan Denny
    Commented Feb 5, 2011 at 17:41
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    Context to the comment above: whatever is in /system and /data isnt that (subjective, ofcourse) important. It's only stuff like wireless access points, your accounts, and so on. Mails and contacts should be in the cloud. Apps that save stuff to /sdcard (TitaniumBackup is one) will come right back after a clean install because /sdcard is not wiped in a factory reset, only the system partitions. So yeah, bite the bullet and get root now so you can get full backups in the future.
    – pzkpfw
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 10:18
  • you don't need root to flash CWM.
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 12:32

You need root for a full backup because the system partition (among other areas) cannot be accessed with user permissions.

adb shell will allow you to browse /system/ though not /system/app/ and other areas. adb pull will let you pull /system/app/ though other files will fail with permissions errors.

Backing that up is essentially useless without root, however, because you can't restore the files! /system/ is read-only and cannot be remounted as RW without root.

  • In my not-rooted phone I was able to pull (through adb) all the system folder. What I wasn't able to pull was data folder.
    – Diego
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 16:27
  • @Diego I just tried it with mixed results, I'll update my answer. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 19:34
  • @MatthewRead what about CWM and its Nandroid backup? Some state CWM can be installed/flashed on non-rooted phones, as long as the bootloader isn't locked. Any experience with that?
    – Izzy
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 17:30
  • I can confirm adb pull doesn't work with system. Even on a rooted phone, probably because the adb daemon can not run as root. I will try again after changing permissions as root.
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 12:13
  • @jiggunjer Yeah, I think it will depend both on your ROM and version of Android. Some manufacturers seem a little more lax. I think the end conclusion holds regardless though :) Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 22:41

If you're running 4.0 or above you can use adb backup. Follow the instructions here.
After you're rooted, Titanium Backup Pro can restore the data that you need from that file.

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    It's extremely important to note that you must run adb backup with the --nosystem flag (or similar), because otherwise it will try to backup /system and it will fail. It won't be a complete backup without root, period.
    – pzkpfw
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 10:21
  • @bigbadonk420 It doesn't say so in Ryan's answer that I've linked. Why does it fail? (Also why would you want to back up /system?)
    – user13391
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 10:38
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    See android.stackexchange.com/questions/29635/… - as for your question why you would want to back up system, I'm a bit confused. There's some pretty obvious reasons why you would want to.
    – pzkpfw
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 11:00
  • Obviously it's not so obvious as I don't get it. If you're rooting you probably don't want to restore that and factory images are available on forums. Also your comment would be more useful here as that's where the actual instructions are. It's not a good idea to have tiny bits of information spread around.
    – user13391
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 12:43
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    If I'm not mistaken it's stored in /data/misc/wifi/wpa_supplicant.conf. I'm sure about the filename, but not about the path as I don't have a phone with me. But it's definitely on /data You're right that system being mounted as ro is irrelevant for backup not so for adding information during run time.
    – user13391
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 13:21

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