How To Backup Your Android

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A long, long time ago I worked for a local (and now defunct) computer manufacturer. I worked almost every position the company had to offer, but one of the more adventurous was “bench tech”. A bench tech is a computer technician who is tasked with diagnosing and repairing computer problems — hardware and software. Fixing hardware problems is relatively easy and relatively quick: find the parts that are malfunctioning or damaged and replace them.

Fixing software isn’t always that easy. One of the best questions to ask in this situation is “when did the problems start?” Generally speaking, if you can roll back to just prior to this date, the problems will be resolved – so long as you have a backup that predates the problem, and data backed up elsewhere.

Lucky for us, Android is really no different than desktop computers. If you have a hardware problem, you replace the faulty component. If you have a software problem, you restore your last working backup.

In both desktop and Android scenarios the hard part is actually doing the backups. Backing up isn’t the difficult part, learning how to go about backing up the device, then having the discipline to backup regularly – that’s the hard part.

I can’t help you remember to backup your Android, but I can tell you the tools you’ll need and how to go about making those backups. Let’s get started!

Tools You’ll Need

You’re going to need a rooted Android phone. If you don’t have a rooted phone, please read my disclaimer, then head over to your favorite search engine and search for “how to root your phone name here“.

A Terminal Emulator or Telnet app for typing commands into (for you Windows people, this is similar to “command prompt” or “dos prompt”). Don’t worry, if you’ve rooted your phone, you have this app already installed.

Next, you’ll want to get a good Recovery ROM. What’s that, you ask? A Recovery ROM is a little piece of software you can boot into to do various low-level tasks: flashing a new ROM, performing a data wipe, and what we’re after backing up (and restoring).

Where Can I Get a Recovery ROM?

I personally recommend Amon_RA’s Recovery ROMs. He has versions for the Nexus One, HTC Dream/G1, HTC Magic/MT3G, HTC Hero, and Sprint Hero.

How to Install Your New Recovery ROM

For simplicity we’ll assume you’re flashing the Nexus One version 1.6.2 version of the ROM to your phone. If you’re not, you’ll need to adjust the following steps to match your ROM.

1. Copy the .img file (recovery-RA-nexus-v1.6.2.img) to the root of your SD card

2. Start your terminal app (I use Terminal Emulator)

3. Type su (then press enter)

4. If asked, answer Yes to grant superuser privileges

5. Type flash_image recovery /sdcard/recovery-RA-nexus-v1.6.2.img
(then press enter)

6. Type reboot recovery (then press enter)

Keep in mind, things you type into Terminal are case-sensitive.

You phone should reboot into recovery mode and you’ll be able to see all the cool new tools at your disposal.

Running Your First Backup

Once you’ve booted into Android system recovery (or “recovery mode”) use your scroll-ball to select the “Backup/Restore” option, then press scroll ball.

Choose Nand backup, press the scroll-ball, and press the Home key to confirm. Your backup should take a minute or so, depending on how much stuff you’ve got loaded on your phone.

Once the backup is complete, press the Back button to return to the main menu, and select Reboot system now to, well, you get the idea.

There you go! You can now restore to that backup anytime you want to (like after flashing a ROM or theme).

Just remember to do the backups. After all, you can’t restore from a backup that you didn’t do. Take a few minutes to backup before any major system change, and on a regular basis.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.