What Is A Nandroid Backup and How Exactly Does It Work?

Danny Stieben 11-01-2014

Did you know that making backups of your Android device can be just as important as making backups of your computer? It certainly is if you tend to mess around with it, such as by installing third-party ROMs How to Find and Install a Custom ROM for Your Android Device Android is super customizable, but to fully take advantage of that, you need to flash a custom ROM. Here's how to do that. Read More . What if you install a ROM, and something breaks during or after installation? You need that backup at the ready. Long story short, you need to make a “Nandroid” backup.


What’s a Nandroid Backup?

Nandroid, sometimes written as NANDroid, is a portmanteau for NAND flash memory, the type of permanent storage memory that your device uses, and Android. A Nandroid backup is a de-facto (by the hacking community) standard directory structure for backing up a perfect mirror image of your Android device. By doing this backup, you can save literally everything, from your own personal data to the system files.

Don’t believe me that it saves everything? It includes:

  • The operating system itself (so you can make a copy of your stock or custom ROM and return to it if desired)
  • All apps (including those you installed yourself or that came with the device)
  • All games and your progress in them
  • All pictures
  • All music
  • All videos
  • All text and picture messages
  • All wallpapers
  • All widgets
  • All ringtones
  • All login and account settings
  • All system settings
  • All stored passwords, including WiFi passwords

Yes, everything.

Once you have a backup created, you can save yourself from the following:

  • When you accidentally load malware onto your device
  • Accidental sudden loss of personal data
  • Non-working Android system — could be because of various crashes or a failed flash attempt
  • The need to return to your stock Android image (such as if you’d like to go back to the version of Android that the manufacturer/carrier supplied with it)

Nandroid backups can be used to restore your device to an exact state (which is about as good as a backup could ever get), so it’s really important to have them made and accessible in case something goes wrong (especially when you’re tinkering away with it).


Creating And Restoring Nandroid Backups via Recovery

There are a few ways which you can make a Nandroid backup. The recommended way is to use a custom recovery to create one, and it’s the only way to restore from one. You should be able to use any custom recovery that offers Nandroid backup capabilities — if you don’t want to search around, the best choices are CWM [No Longer Available] and TWRP [No Longer Available]. Once you’ve flashed a custom recovery onto your device, you can boot into it and choose to create (or later on, restore from) a Nandroid backup. It’ll go through the process and create a backup file on your microSD card or other equivalent storage location. This is the recommended method because it can create and restore backups without having Android running at the same time. Doing it this way can avoid any issues that might arise from files that could change during the process of backing up or restoring.

Be aware that Nandroid backups are quite large, so you’ll need a large microSD card to store them (at least temporarily until you can move them to another location such as your computer). The large size of the backup files comes from the fact that your system is up to a few GB large, and all your installed apps and data can add several more GB on top of that. Be prepared. If you have issues finding your backup file, check /data/media/clockworkmod/backups or /0/TWRP/Backups.

Also, please note that Nandroid backups aren’t compatible across different recoveries. CWM Nandroid backups only work with a CWM recovery, TWRP Nandroid backups only work with a TWRP recovery, and so on.

Creating Nandroid Backups via Android App

Your other option for backups would be to use an app such as Online Nandroid Backup [No Longer Available]. This app can run while Android is active, and can make backups that are suited for various recoveries so you can pick the one that you have or would be most likely to use. Note that you have to pick which recovery to make the backup for, as backups created by/for different recoveries aren’t compatible with each other. The advantage to this method is that you can keep using Android and don’t have to reboot to perform the backup, but other than that it does essentially the same thing. The app is completely free, but it does require that you already have your device rooted so that it has the system permissions it needs to make a full backup.



Long story short, if you’re thinking about making any sort of modifications to your device Should You Really Flash That ROM? 5 Things To Consider First Custom ROMs are powerful and allow you to get the latest version of Android without any manufacturer-installed junk and with advanced features and tweaks. But they have downsides, too. Read More , it’s vital that you install a custom recovery and make Nandroid backups before performing any changes. Plus, while you’re at it, it’d be a good idea to make backups regularly so that you can always have a relatively new file to restore from in case things go downhill. Last but not least, making regular backups can also make it easier for you to test nightly images of your favorite third-party ROM — while they can come with new features and fixes, they’re also untested and require that you have a good recent backup at hand in case major bugs appear.

If you’re modifying your phone, don’t forget to read Kannon’s 6 key tips to avoid bricking your Android device 6 Key Tips To Avoid Bricking Your Rooted Android Device When you own a rooted Android phone running a custom ROM, you need to take some precautions or risk "bricking" (destroying) your device. Read More .

How have Nandroid backups helped you? What’s another nifty feature you wish stock Android would have? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: TeamWin


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  1. Susheel
    October 14, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    I didn't take nandroid backup of my device so how can I restore stock rom please tell me I am in probpem...

  2. Susheel
    October 14, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    I didn't take nandroid backup so now how I can restore in stock rom please tell now I am in problem

  3. BerndUwe
    December 10, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    This article is bullshit:
    Just to clarify, a nandroid backup will only backup device root files, and NOT the (internal) sdcard, nor the extenal sdcard files.
    So to do a complete backup of ALL phone data, you should perform
    a) the nandroid backup to extsdcard and then
    b) copy this file and all other relevant data (like photos, whatsapp folder, music, etc.) to your computer.

    • jelabarre
      September 4, 2019 at 9:45 pm

      Actually, this article is *ALSO* BS because the handful of tools it says to use are marked "No Longer Available". So you can't even **DO** any of the things it talks about. This article should be DELETED.

  4. Haroon Sattar
    October 26, 2016 at 8:44 am

    I am a new bee and found this post really useful in understanding custom recoveries. Thank you.

  5. Simone
    September 9, 2016 at 2:07 am

    Hello I am new to android

    I just got a mate 8
    What if I want to upgrade to a newer stock rom?
    Can I use nandroid to restore all my settings to a new rom or when I restore it will restore everything ?

  6. Gavin Phillips
    April 8, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Love it when I arrive back at MUO :D

  7. Nitesh
    March 25, 2016 at 10:22 am

    in case anyone still wondering how to create nandroid backup safely, follow this step-by-step tutorial. ''
    Its very usefull. I have explained everything the end of backup process you will also get custom recovery for your device...which you can use to restore the backup

    • jelabarre
      September 4, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      That's nice.. Could you actually *WRITE* your directions so I don't have to fiddle & fuss with a YouTube video?

  8. Dan
    November 19, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    I wanted to ask something. So I changed countries and was using my previous number on my Whatsapp. I had already done one backup before.
    Now a problem occurred in the phone and I had to re-flash the ROM (not the backed up one). I was forced now to use a new number for Whatsapp.

    I want to ask if I can get my full functioning Whatsapp back with the previous number if I flash the backed up file. Help would be appreciated

  9. Anonymous
    October 24, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    What if we install a nandroid backup created by CWM using TWRP

  10. ashwin
    May 7, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I backed my data into the cwm folder,then I installed twrp later I went into the recovery mode and did a factory reset ,wipe delvik cache and cache partition now I'm not able to find my backup in twrp

  11. Samuel
    May 2, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    The article is misleading. I reckon you should put a disclaimer up

    My OPO is 64GB of which 50GB used. My NANDROID backup is only around 10GB. No its not magic compression.

    The fact is that even though the OPO has no external sdcard capacity, Camera Pictures, Videos, User downloaded files/media etc all sit on the /sdcard partition (android standard) and this is NOT backed-up by Nandroid.

    Word of warning - A user may do a Nandroid backup and move it to a computer for safe keeping, and then perform a full factory reset/wipe thinking everything is saved in NANDROID but the user will only end up LOSING precious data pictures etc

    • Anonymous
      August 22, 2015 at 9:14 am

      It's because u just have 10 gb left.. 64-50 = 14 gb

  12. Pranav Maheshwari
    March 15, 2015 at 1:58 am

    I accidentally wiped my whole system. So when I reboot it says "NO OS INSTALLED!". I have TWRP installed on my OPO. Can I transfer the backup to my OPO using a USB cable and restore it using recovery mode's option "restore". Or Do I need to have a custom ROM on my phone and install it? Please help!

    • Sylos
      May 1, 2015 at 8:30 am

      Yes, you should be able to use ADB (Android Debug Bridge) to restore a backup from your PC via USB cable (Use the USB cable that was originally delivered with your phone). You'll probably find an option in TWRP called something with "adb sideload". This "adb sideload" is the command that you can use from your PC to transfer flashable ZIPs to your phone.

  13. rudy
    March 4, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Can I flash a nandroid backup from xda for example if I want to return to stock? Yes- why do i need to look for. No- why ?

  14. kevin
    March 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    hi something confuzed me about this i noticed you named the backup "stock unrooted" how did you get twrp on your phone if it was unrooted ????

    • Adam Mingledorff
      March 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      I noticed that too. I know you can Odin CWM via a tar file. It may have been the same process.

    • Isaac
      January 24, 2019 at 6:35 am

      Likely he flashed twrp to his phone using a USB cable and the Odin software on a computer, doing it this way, only the recovery partition is modified, leaving all other partitions unmodified and therefore root is not required, hence the system remains unrooted.

  15. abrar mazhar
    March 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    if i made a nandroid backup n during a installation a custom der i wipe the data also so does my nandroid backup also erases? as it is in sd card i use Xperia S

    2)wat if during a ROM installation sum error coocurs n i already have wiped out everything? n i am left wit no OS?

  16. mariano
    January 15, 2014 at 12:09 am

    it saves all EXCEPT for SD card, a nandroid backup doesnt include the sd card, important tip if you have pictures or apps moved to the SD

  17. Robert Ruedisueli
    January 14, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    You can also make backups like these using Fastboot or ADB. On Samsung devices you can also use their Odin recovery mode. Odin and Fastboot produce bit for bit backups. I recommend compressing them with gzip, 7zip or some other compression utility, because they contain a lot of zero space. ADB can create a copy of your directory structure.

    • avin raj
      May 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      I have installed cm11 . I have created a nandroid backup of cm 10.2,.. I hate cm11 & want to go back to cm10.2 ..Is It possible to restore to cm 10.2 using this backup.

  18. Jeffrey L
    January 13, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Is there a difference between doing this versus backing up everything via Titanium Backup?

    • Swaminathan V
      January 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      TiBu is used to backup your applications (user/system) and their data. TiBu can be used for all the things in Danny's list in his article except for the first item, which is "The operating system itself (so you can make a copy of your stock or custom ROM and return to it if desired)"

      If at all you are stuck in a boot loop or soft-bricked your device, nandroid restore will be of help and not TiBu. Upon restoring your ROM, you can use TiBu to restore your applications with/without their data. It also has a feature of creating flashable backups, so you can flash that right after you do a nandroid restore or flash a ROM.

      Titanium Backup was the first Android app I bought about 4 years back and till date, it is the best. But be aware, it is not a replacement for nandroid backup.

  19. Tom W
    January 11, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Thanks for writing this, I had no idea there was such a comprehensive backup system built in. My SD card corrupted recently, unfortunately, but once I get a new one I'll be sure to make a backup before I do anything else.