Trying for the first time to root my device, using a Nexus 5 that I just got yesterday.

I'm naturally trying to back things up before doing anything that can wipe memory, but the size of the .ab files that backup programs (Nexus Root Toolkit, Holo Backup etc.) produce without root access are around the ~22MB area.

I've googled around and the consensus seems to be that it's far too small - BUT, I've only just got the device, and thrown a handful of apps (Twitter, 8SMS, etc.) onto it, no music or anything. Has this backup been performed correctly?

Also - when unlocking the bootloader and rooting the device, do I need to put the stock ROM back onto it, or does it remain there naturally?

Apologies if that last part was a bit oblivious but the places I've looked haven't been exactly clear, seeing as most of them go for custom ROMs.

Thank you in advance!

  • Why would you root a nexus? It is stock android at its best
    – IAmGroot
    Jan 29, 2014 at 10:29
  • 2
    To use apps that require root access (such as Greenify or Titanium Backup) and to use non-Google app depositories. :) edit: I'm just after root access - I don't want to put a custom ROM (eg CyanogenMod) on there. Just to clarify.
    – accipehoc
    Jan 29, 2014 at 10:32
  • You're correct, I'm using tools (Nexus Root Toolkit and Holo Backup) to produce the .ab files - I'm specifying to backup "all without system apps" as both apps warn backing up system apps is "unsafe", as from what I understand adb backup is sketchy at best. I haven't been too attached to backing up system apps as Google makes the Nexus stock ROMs available on their dev site.
    – accipehoc
    Jan 29, 2014 at 10:36
  • 2
    You might want to take a look at this answer which should allow you to see what has been backed up. Did you ask it to backup the apks or just data? If it's just data I wouldn't be too surprised at the size.
    – bmdixon
    Jan 29, 2014 at 10:38
  • I'd love to, but I'm on Australian regional internet and downloading the SDK (which you apparently have to do to install Droid Explorer) is something I've been trying to avoid. I might have to do it overnight.
    – accipehoc
    Jan 29, 2014 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


ADB backup archives are a "all or nothing" solution when it comes to restore – which is what the "unsafe warning" is about. Considering your circumstances, here are a few points to consider:

  • do one "full backup" excluding your system apps cannot hurt, so you could restore that as-is. Note, hoever, that this most likely also excludes data of system apps, which might include APNs, contacts, calendars, etc.
  • use e.g. Helium Backup (no root required) to create ADB compatible backups of all your apps separately, so you can restore them separately. This can of course also be done on the command line (specifying the package names), but this app makes it much more comfortable.
  • Create a full ADB backup nevertheless, including everything (except -shared, as data from your (internal) SDCard can be copied on file-level using any file manager). Though you probably might not wish to directly restore it, you might still have use for it

Considering you're after rooting in the first place, here's the background for my recommendations:

  • If you succeed rooting your device, and have no side effects, all the above backups just gave you a "good feeling", and you have no current need for them. But hey, it didn't hurt; could well be one of the following things happened:
  • If you succeeded rooting, but had to factory-reset the device due to some side-effects, you could either use Helium (or adb restore) to restore selected apps from their separate archives, or use adb restore to restore all of your user-space-apps in one run. But you could also use Titanium Backup to extract selected apps/data from the complete backup, and also restore some system data that way.
  • If rooting failed, and you have to factory-reset your device, you at least can restore your user-space-apps and their data from that archive, or chose to only restore selected apps as described above.

As for the size of 22 MB: That could be fine, or could be too small – depending on what apps you've installed, and how much data they have; there are no absolutes for "user-apps-only" backups (except of course for 0 byte files when you have at least 1 app installed).

  • I'll give Helium a stab and back things up one by one. I'm guessing that if it all goes to hell, a factory reset will render it just like I got it in the mail two days ago? There's no real point for me in backing it up if that's the case, but I'd like to do it so I know how to do it next time. :)
    – accipehoc
    Jan 29, 2014 at 13:40
  • No, it won't. Rooting changes the /system partition, which is unaffected by a factory-reset.
    – Izzy
    Jan 29, 2014 at 13:59

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