How To: Back Up an Android Device [Comprehensive Guide]

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Does your Android device carry a lot of important information? Is some part of that data is vital for you? Would you be stressed in something happened to your device and you were left empty-handed? No contacts, no text messages, no passwords, no photos, not to mention games, music and movies you have stored on your Android.

Things happen, and besides theft there are gazillions of accidental or malicious events that can damage your Android device beyond repair, so that you will not be able to extract any sort of information from it. Prevent that from happening by doing a back up of your Android smartphone or tablet.

The key aspect of backing up any device is redundancy, which means you need to have more than one copy of it.

The First Backup: SD Card, Locally

It may be wise to make the first backup of your Android device as a copy of the SD card, which you then will keep on your PC or laptop. We shall list the brief instructions in this guide, but it is important you understand that instructions may vary depending on your device.

Step One

Take the USB cable and connect your Android device to your computer or laptop, or Mac.

Step Two

Your Android is supposed to prompt you with a notification to allow the USB connection, tap that. If the prompt did not appear, simply pull down the main menu by swiping down from the top to the bottom of the screen and enable USB Connection.

Step Three

You will see another page on your Android device, which will offer you to enable access to USB Mass Storage, tap OK.

Step Four

On your computer, you will see a new removable drive, your SD card, appear in the list of connected devices. Click to open it, copy its contents to the location on your computer of your choice. It is highly recommended you name the folder specifically for the backup purposes and add the date of the backup. For example, “Samsung-SD-Card-Backup-Feb-20-2014,” so that in case you need that information, you will know exactly when the copy was created.

That being done, you are very unlikely to update that backup copy very often. That is why I recommend you create a second backup using a method that would enable a more frequent updating of copied files and settings. Android offers its users more than one option to create backups of their devices, so let us see what you can do.

Up-to-date Backups

For regular backups, you can use one of the two options: use a third-party app or a do-it-yourself method. Owners of rooted Android devices have one more option, Nandroid backup system, which is not covered in this tutorial.

Using a third-party app may be free or paid, depending on your budget and skills level, and in many cases you can just “set it and forget it.” If you opt for do-it-yourself, you will need to follow some simple steps listed below. This method requires more effort from your part, but it will cost you nothing but your own time. I say it takes more time mostly because you will have to back up your Android in parts: something goes to Google, something to a free third-party app, something to your computer.

Using a Backup App

There is a multitude of backup apps on Google Play, and the ones that are really good remove all the hassle of organizing and managing your backup updates by fully automating the process.

As you can see here, the variety of apps dealing with Android backups is immense, so let us focus on several free and paid options here.

avast backupPersonally, I would go for Mobile Backup & Restore by Avast.(Free or $1.99/month, $14.99/year).

You will backup your Android device to a cloud storage by setting backup schedule for your apps, settings and data. You can synchronize your device with the cloud storage and use the latest backup to create a new phone, in case your existing device gets lost or stolen. Avast Mobile Backup & Restore free backs up contacts, text messages, call logs and photos. Premium edition allows you to back up your multimedia files, such as music, video and applications.

You will need to tweak some settings to schedule the backups, and you have options here: do a backup on a specific date, or after a phone call or sms, or after each new app installed, or after device start, plug in or WiFi connection initiation.

You can protect your backed up data by a PIN, access it online and/or restore it to a new device. You will have a personal Avast account, and this is where your contact list and text messages get backed up while photos go directly to your Google Drive, so yes, you will need a Google account to use that app.

G Cloud Backup G Cloud Backup is another free app that offers 1GB of cloud storage to back up your Android device’s data: messages, call logs, contacts, photos, music, videos, documents, settings and browser data. In addition, you can use one account to back up more than one Android device. G Cloud also offers a referral program, so that you can earn extra storage space by referring your friends or tweeting about the app. Alternatively, you can pay $32/year and get 32GB storage space. G Cloud Backup Download Link.

 

Helium backupHelium Premium ($4.99) allows you to schedule backups to a cloud storage, or Google Drive, Dropbox or Box. The app has a free version, but it does not cover the cloud storage, which is exactly what you need for backup. The app works for rooted Android devices, too. Helium Premium Download Link.

 

mybackup pro MyBackup Pro ($4.99) is a great app for backups, which also works with rooted devices. It supports scheduled backups to cloud or SD card of the following data: apps, photos, music, video, contacts, call logs, browser bookmarks, text messages, MMS, calendar, system settings and home screen with shortcut positions, alarms, music playlists, dictionary, APNs and more. It also has a migrate feature, which allows you to move system data from one device to another. All your data can be accessed online at www.rerware.com after you log in to your account. MyBackup Pro Download Link.

Piece-by-Piece Backup

Below is a breakdown of how I would approach this.

Google

One of the most obvious ways of backing up some of the data from your device is using the Google account. You can back up to your Google account the following data:

  • Apps
  • Contacts
  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Settings

Here is how to:

  1. Go to Settings and scroll down to Privacy.
  2. Toggle on two options: Back up my settings and Automatic restore.
  3. Next, from Settings go to Account & Sync.
  4. Choose Google and tap to select Sync Contacts, Sync Gmail, Sync Calendar.

To backup your photos, you can use one of the following options:

Android 2.2 owners, and later, can use Google+ Instant Upload. Here is how to:

  1. Download and install Google+ app and log in to your account.
  2. You will be prompted to enable Instant Upload. In case you already have G+ installed, go to the Settings menu and enable the feature.
  3. Go back to your home screen -> Settings-> Accounts & Sync. There, select the account you wish to sync to and tap the box next to Sync Instant Upload.

From now on, whenever you snap a photo, it will get automatically uploaded to your Google+ account to a private folder.

Alternatively, you can do the regular backups of your photos to your computer. Here is how to:

  1. Plug your Android into your PC or laptop via the USB cord.
  2. Enable mobile storage on your Android device.
  3. Open the Android device as a connected drive in your computer.
  4. In the list of the folders, look for the folder named DCIM. That is your camera’s folder, and you will find your photos and videos there.
  5. Select the files you want to backup and either drag-and-drop them, or copy-paste. I would recommend copy-pasting to a folder on your computer, and then deleting them from your Android device altogether. That way, you are more likely to sort them out on a regular basis, instead of accumulating gigabytes of fairly quality selfies.

google plus and allYou can also use third-party apps to backup your photos. Here is how to:

  1. Download the app of your choice that allows you upload photos to a cloud storage or hosting service. For example, Dropbox or SugarSync.
  2. Go to the app’s settings and enable Instant Upload feature (Dropbox and SugarSync have it). That way, every photo you take will be automatically uploaded to your storage online.

To do a backup of your text messages, MMS and call logs via a third-party app, you will need yet another app unless you are using Google Voice. The latter will back up it all for you.

Otherwise, consider some more app suggestions:

Backup to Gmail ($1.99)

SMS Backup & Restore Pro ($1.49)

SMS Backup + (free)

If you have more suggestions on easy ways to back up Android devices, you are welcome to share them with us in the comments below.