Android Security

How to Back Up Your Android Device Properly

Ben Stegner Updated 19-09-2019

You’d be heartbroken if you lost all the data on your Android phone, right? Years of contacts, photos, documents, texts, and more are impossible or time-consuming to replace.


Unfortunately, Android doesn’t include an easy one-tap backup option to protect everything on your phone. We’ll show you how to back up your Android device properly so you don’t lose anything precious.

First: Back Up Android Settings to Google Drive

Android does offer a simple toggle to back up some of your preferences, so we’ll start with that since it’s quick. Navigate to Settings > System > Backup and you’ll see a Back up to Google Drive button. Make sure you’ve enabled this; you can tap the Back up now button to run a backup if you’d like.

You can see the categories of data this backup includes in the below list. It will protect data from certain apps, as well as your call history, contacts, and various device settings like your wallpaper and display options. On Pixel devices, backups will also include SMS and photos/videos.

Inside Google Drive, you can slide out the left menu and tap Backups to view the devices linked to your account. Tap one to get details on what’s backed up and when it was last run. This is also where you can delete backups, if needed.


You can’t restore this data individually like with other backup apps. Instead, when you sign into your Google account during the setup process of a new Android device, you can choose to restore it. This will reinstall many of your apps and restore your saved data.

How to Back Up Your Photos on Android

Photos often hold priceless memories, so losing them stings more than other types of data. Thankfully, you’ll find many Android apps to back up your photos 4 Ways to Sync and Upload Photos to Cloud Storage on Android Here are the best apps to automatically upload Android photos to the cloud so you never lose precious memories. Read More .

Our favorite choice for this is Google Photos. Google offers free unlimited photo storage at high quality, or full-quality backup that counts against your Google account storage. Install the Google Photos app if you don’t have it already, then sign in with your Google account.


To enable the backup feature, slide out the left menu and go to Settings > Back up & sync. Make sure you have Back up & sync enabled; you can choose your quality level below this. Take a look in the Back up device folders section to back up non-camera photos like screenshots, social media images, and similar.

Once everything is protected, you’ll see a Backup complete message on the home screen. After this, you can use the Free up space option from the left sidebar to remove the images from your device. They’re safely backed up in Google Photos, so you can view them anytime you’re online.

How to Back Up Your Android Contacts

The easiest way to back up your contacts is to save them to your Google account instead of only on your phone. That way, they’ll be available on any device where you sign in with your Google account.

Where your contacts save by default depends on your phone manufacturer. Open the Contacts app and look for a Default account or New contacts save to option, and make sure you have it saved to your Google account.


If you don’t already have it installed, we recommend using the Google Contacts app to easily move everything over. Once installed, open the left menu and head to Settings > Import and choose the SIM card option to copy any contacts saved on your device over to your Google account.

Once they’re all imported, you can also use the app to make a local backup of your contacts. Choose Export in this menu, select the Google account you want to use, and hit Export to .vcf file. This is a small file that contains all your contact info. You can important it into other services if you need.

Now you can visit Google Contacts on the web to view and manage all your contacts.


How to Back Up Text Messages on Android

You probably don’t need to reference old text messages too often, but it’s still good to have a backup of them in some situations, such as as receipts or for sentimental value. One of the easiest ways to back up text messages is using the free SMS Backup & Restore app.

Fire up the app, and it will walk you through the process of setting up a backup. You’ll choose what to back up, where to save the backups too, and how often to run it on a schedule. See our guide to backing up and restoring text messages How to Back Up, Restore, and Transfer Text Messages to a New Android Phone Here's how to back up SMS text messages on Android using one of several apps and transfer those messages to a new phone. Read More for more info.

In addition, you might consider using Pulse SMS, our favorite Android texting app. Subscribing for a small fee lets you send text messages from your PC and other devices. As such, it backs up your messages to the cloud so you can access them on any device you sign into. We wouldn’t recommend counting on this as your only SMS backup, though.

Backing Up Music, Documents, and Other Local Files

The above covers the most important types of Android data you’ll want to back up. However, you may have other files on your phone, such as music and documents, that you want to protect. In addition, you might want to back up data from certain apps.

For backing up a few files here and there, you can use a cloud storage service like Google Drive. Open the app and tap the Plus icon, hit Upload, then locate the file you want to back up to cloud storage. If you have many files to back up, see the below methods for more efficient ways of doing so.

You don’t need to worry about backing up anything that’s cloud-based, such as your Spotify library. That will all be in place when you sign in on a new device. However, if you use apps that save locally (to store notes, for example), you should transfer them to a service like Google Keep or Simplenote so they’re backed up to the cloud.

Some apps offer their own backup options in the menu; WhatsApp is a notable example of this. Head to Settings > Chats > Chat backup to back up your WhatsApp messages to Google Drive, and set up an automatic backup.

A final type type of data not included in most backups is voicemail. Depending on your phone manufacturer and service provider, you may be able to export voice messages from the voicemail app.

If not, you can use the slightly clunky method of playing the messages through your device’s speaker (or an audio cable) and recording them on your PC using an app like Audacity.

Back Up Using a Dedicated App

If you find the above solutions too scattered, or you’d like to introduce some redundancy with an additional backup method, you’ll find plenty of Android apps that back up your device for you.

One of the easiest to use is G Cloud (which isn’t a Google app). Once you create an account, the app lets you choose to back up photos, messages, your call log, music, documents, and more. It’s a great all-in-one solution if you’re worried about missing something manually.

G Cloud offers a limited amount of storage, but you can get more by completing simple tasks or signing up for a subscription. It feels like the missing backup solution for Android. If you don’t like this one, have a look at Super Backup & Restore for a similar utility.

Back Up Your Phone’s Contents to a PC

A quick and dirty way to back up the rest of your phone’s data is copying everything on your internal storage to your computer. This is useful if you have lots of files scattered around and don’t want to miss any of them, or if you’re hitting cloud storage size limitations.

First, connect your Android device to your computer with a USB cable. You may need to open the notification titled USB file transfer turned on and change it to File transfer before it shows up in This PC on your computer. After this, simply open your phone from This PC and copy the entire folder to a safe place.

Because Android doesn’t let you access everything on your phone without root access, this won’t back up everything. Thus, we recommend pairing it with the backup methods described above. You might also look at some tools to back up your Android data to your PC 4 Tools to Back Up Your Android Device to Your PC Backing up your Android device to a PC is the best way to ensure you don't ever lose precious data. Here are the best solutions for backing up your phone. Read More .

Rooted Device Backups

Those with a rooted Android device have access to much more powerful backup tools with no restrictions. While we don’t advise rooting your device just for backup purposes, it’s worth knowing about this functionality if you’re already rooted.

Take a look at Titanium Backup if you have a rooted device. While the base app is free, you need to purchase the Titanium Pro key for $6 to unlock everything. The app suffers from extremely outdated visuals, but it’s still a trusted name in power user backup.

Back Up Everything on Your Android Device

Now you know how to back up the various types of data on your Android device. Thinking ahead and protecting this information will prove vital if you ever lose or break your phone.

For more protection, have a look at the best Android anti-theft apps The 7 Best Android Anti-Theft Apps to Protect Your Device If your Android phone gets stolen, you'll need a way to get it back. Here are the best Android anti-theft apps. Read More .

Related topics: Android Tips, Cloud Backup, Data Backup.

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  1. 919263
    September 27, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Your article seems dated...
    Android 9 is the norm, I guess, and the GUI does not look anything like you have shown...
    Settings > System > Backup... Does not exist on my S10....

  2. Doc
    September 27, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Regarding: "Those with a rooted Android device have access to much more powerful backup tools with no restrictions. While we don’t advise rooting your device just for backup purposes, it’s worth knowing about this functionality if you’re already rooted."

    You've apparently never lost everything you had on a phone, and non-rooted backup options don't come close to getting everything. In my experience, EVERY phone needs to be rooted for no other reason that to be able to use Titanium Backup, because it makes recovery from a phone fatality about as painless as such a thing could be.

    Regarding: "The app suffers from extremely outdated visuals, but it’s still a trusted name in power user backup."

    Suffers??? Really? The app uses a screen layout from before the design world lost its collective mind and decided that most of the screen should be white space and we should all be content to have to spend four times as much time and effort as we used to scrolling to try to find something. I personally wish "Material Design" had never reared its ugly head because having more available on the screen makes it easier to be productive, something the world, especially so-called tech journalists, seem to have forgotten.

  3. Mark Tristan R. Ocampo
    September 23, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Great article. Thanks.

    I hope you can next create an article regarding transferring or moving data from one phone to another (same or different brand or between Android and iPhone and vice versa). I use Samsung Smart Switch as I only use Samsung and it never failed me.

  4. Annonymous
    September 22, 2019 at 8:09 am

    I have a Samsung 4 mini, it is over 4 years old but seems to be working. But now it has turned off in the night and won't turn on. What to do?

  5. Lior
    September 22, 2019 at 5:14 am

    Just updating Geekaphone no longer exists.

  6. Daniel Escasa
    June 8, 2016 at 8:37 am

    I think it's more accurate to say that Contacts are synced with Google's servers. Saying they're simply stored implies that you need to be connected to the internet to access them, which isn't true

  7. Jeffrey Li
    May 20, 2016 at 9:31 am

    I used to use Titanium Backup frequently to back up all my apps and data, but now that pretty much everything is backed up in the cloud, there's very little that I actually need to back up.

    Text messages was definitely something I forgot to backup when resetting my phone and have used SMS Backup ever since.

    The only things I can think of that weren't covered in this article are: Downloads folder, Nova Launcher layout settings (I have to manually save and sync to Google Drive), podcast downloads that you were planning on listening to and wallpapers from various apps.

    Can anyone think of anything else?

  8. Musa Simiyu
    May 10, 2016 at 2:12 pm


    • Riley J. Dennis
      May 11, 2016 at 7:15 am

      glad you liked it!

  9. Knight
    May 10, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Good info for people that don't understand the necessity of backup. Just a small comment on texting. Yes, sms is like a prehistoric dinosaur that refuses to lie down and die. But there is a very good reason for it. It's STANDARD. Every phone has it, unlike the plethora of other messaging apps that exist. Some people use Whatsapp, some Skype, Facebook messaging, others Viber. I have a friend that has got at least six messaging apps, and they all crave for attention in his phone by using up processor cycles and battery like nothing on this planet. He has to charge his phone everywhere he is, otherwise it dies.
    When I want to send an important message to somebody, and I have NO CLUE what messaging app he otherwise prefer, i just send an sms. And if I need to send a pic or recorded movie an mms.
    Until (if it ever happens...) there is an app that EVERYBODY uses sms will rule like the gray old tired king it is.

    • Riley J. Dennis
      May 11, 2016 at 7:15 am

      yeah true, good point! it is useful as a standard