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How to back up your Android phone
There’s always the possibility that you’ll misplace your phone or drop it in water and lose everything. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to back up Android devices, ensuring that even if something happens to your phone, you won’t lose all those embarrassing photos of your kids you were going to show at their 21st birthday.
Whether through Google, a third-party app, or your computer, there are multiple ways to back up phones to make sure you never find yourself in a situation where you end up with lost data.
Also read: The best Android backup apps
Back up Android devices using Google One by going to Settings > Google > Backup and toggling on Backup by Google One. You also tap on Back up now if you don't want to wait for your phone to update automatically.
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Editor’s note: All steps in this article were put together using a Pixel 4a with 5G running Android 12 and a custom PC running Windows 11. Remember, steps might differ depending on your device and software.
How to back up your Android phone with Google
Backing up most of your data is pretty easy with Google, and it has gotten far easier over the past few years. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a one-stop backup method for Android phones through Google. You’ll have to use different Google services to back up different data types.
Photos and videos
If you’re not already using Google Photos, you should be. The service automatically backs up every photo and video you take to the cloud, so you’ll never have to back up your media manually. If the Photos app isn’t already on your phone, you can download it. Once it’s installed, you’ll need to make sure Photos is set to back up your files automatically.
How to sync your images to Google Photos:
- Open the Google Photos app.
- Tap on the profile image in the top-right corner.
- Select Photos settings.
- Go into Back up & sync.
- Toggle on Back up & sync.
- Also, make sure to go into Upload size and choose your preferred upload settings.
Just keep in mind uploading to Google Photos is no longer completely free. Starting June 1, 2021, any new photos and videos you upload will count toward the free 15GB of storage that comes with every Google Account. Of course, you can pay for more storage.
Other options: These are the best Google Photos alternatives
Worry not, as any photos or videos you may have uploaded in high-quality before June 1, 2021, will not count toward your Google storage and will still be considered free and exempt from the storage limit.
Google has a great way to backup your music to the cloud, then listen to it from any device. You can use YouTube Music, which allows you to upload up to 100,000 songs.
How to upload songs to YouTube Music:
- Open your browser and go to music.youtube.com.
- Click on your profile image in the top-right corner.
- Select Upload music.
- Pick the songs you want to upload and select Open.
- You can now play the songs from the YouTube Music app or website. Go to Library > Songs > Uploads.
Google Drive lets you store your other files in the cloud, which means they’ll be accessible from any connected device.
How to store your files in Google Drive:
- Download the Google Drive app, if you don’t have it already.
- In the app, press the + button.
- Press Upload.
- Select the file(s) you’d like to back up.
- That’s it!
Settings, apps, SMS, call history, and much more!
Google Drive and Photos make Google’s backup solutions fragmented, but things get much more seamless with all other essential data. Android’s native cloud backup solution can store settings, apps, SMS messages, and even your call history. This makes it easy to restore everything on a new phone.
How to back up Android to Google One:
- Open the Settings app on your Android phone.
- Tap on Google.
- Go into Backup.
- Toggle on Backup by Google One.
- You can also go into Google Account data and select other data you can sync. This includes the Calendar, Docs, Google Fit, Keep, etc.
- Go back to the main Backup settings.
- Tap on Back up now.
How to back up your Android phone with Amazon Photos, OneDrive, and others?
Cloud services are a dime and a dozen, and Google isn’t the only one offering oodles of storage. Microsoft’s OneDrive is a very competent alternative. If you subscribe to Office 365, the company tosses in 1TB of online storage.
Elsewhere, Amazon Photos offers unlimited photo storage plus 5GB of video storage with a Prime subscription. Meanwhile, 100GB storage is a mere $1.99/month or $19.99/year, making it an affordable, albeit not as tightly integrated alternative. There are plenty of other cloud storage solutions out there; check them out by clicking on the link below.
The biggest downside of straying from Google’s ecosystem is the effort required to make sure all your content is copied or synced. These aren’t as tightly integrated to Android, so they need a bit more work.
The process of using these apps is relatively simple. You have to download them and follow the instructions during the setup process.
Backing up to your computer
Manually transfer files to Windows
Sometimes it’s best to do everything yourself, manually. If you feel more comfortable moving all your files to your Windows computer, the process is super simple.
How to transfer files from Android to Windows:
- Plug your Android phone into your computer using a USB cable.
- On your Android phone, slide down the notification menu, and you should see an Android System message saying Charging this device via USB. Tap on it.
- Under Use USB for, select File transfer / Android Auto.
- On your Windows PC, open This PC in your folders or explorer.
- Look for your phone and double-click on it.
- Look for the files you want to transfer. Highlight them, right-click on them, and select Copy.
- Create a folder where you want to store your files and open it.
- Right-click on any empty space and select Paste.
Read more: How to back up your Samsung phone
Using Android File Transfer for Mac
Instead of backing up your device to the cloud or the phone itself, you might want to back up all your files to your computer for easy access later. Luckily, this is pretty easy to do, and the process is pretty much the same whether you’re a Mac or PC user. Mac users will need to download and install the Android File Transfer app, though.
How to back up your Android device to a computer:
- Plug your phone into your computer with your USB cable.
- On Windows, go to My Computer and open the phone’s storage.
- On Mac, open Android File Transfer.
- Drag the files you want to back up to a folder on your computer.
Yes, the Android File Transfer app is quite clunky and doesn’t always do the job. If manually copying over files is your preferred option, it might be a good idea to invest in a better app. Commander One is an excellent app that lets you do just that. Android Authority’s Oliver Craig gives us all the information on the best way to transfer files between an Android phone and Mac.
Wireless sync with Syncthing
What if you could automatically back up all your images and files to your computer or NAS drive without having to connect a cable? That’s where sync utilities come into action.
Syncthing is a great utility to ensure all your photographs and additional files are downloaded to the computer. The premise is simple; install an app on your phone and select a folder to keep an eye on constantly. Meanwhile, a client runs on your computer, allowing you to link up with your phone.
Now, whenever the app on the phone detects a change or file addition in a watched folder, it immediately sends over a copy to the computer. Simple and reliable. It just works. Of course, you can use it as a standard sync utility too, but I prefer to have all my files sent one way to the computer to have a copy available even if I delete something from my phone.
How do you set up Syncthing:
- Install the Syncthing app from the Play Store.
- Install the Syncthing app on your PC or Mac.
- Follow instructions to set up Syncthing on both your Android device and your computer.
- You’ll need to create a connection between your Android device and your computer. On your PC, select Add Remote Device.
- On your Android phone, open Syncthing and tap on the three-line menu button. Hit Show device ID.
- Enter the device ID on your computer, name the device, and select Save.
- Go to the Windows Syncthing app and hit Actions. Then choose Show ID.
- On your phone app, tap on the Devices tab. Then select the + icon. Enter the Device ID from your computer and tap on the checkmark.
- On your phone, go back to the Folders tab. Select the folder you want to share or create a new one and move files to it. When done, go into the folder and toggle on your PC.
- Go back to Syncthing on Windows, and you should see a request to sync the folder. Select Add and hit Save.
- The folder should sync. Now you can go to wherever you’re syncing your Syncthing files, and everything will be there!
Other options to back up Android phone
Google’s services are excellent, but if you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution — one that backs up everything at once, that is — you might need to use a third-party app.
There are many great apps for backing up your data, and one of the best is Super Backup & Restore. It allows you to back up individual items on your phone, such as apps, contacts, SMS, calendars, voice calls, and more. Users can define where the backups go for easy locating later, and you can also schedule automatic backups along with backing up to cloud storage.
How to back up Android using Super Backup & Restore:
- Download Super Backup & Restore.
- Select the path you want to back up your files to. This could be an SD card, or you can back up to your internal storage and transfer the files wherever you want. You can also use the Cloud Backup function in the main menu.
- You will see a list of item categories that you can back up (Pictures, Apps, etc.).
- Select the individual items you’d like to include in your backup.
- Tap on Backup or Backup all for every selection.
Does backing up to Google count against my storage?
Yes, it does. The only exception is with YouTube Music uploads, which has its own limit of 100,000 songs.
Which is the best way to backup my Android phone?
Backing up to any cloud service will probably be the easiest method, but it may come with some storage limitations, which can be a problem if you have a lot of phone files. Additionally, you’ll need plenty of data to upload all your files. Those who like keeping control of their files locally might prefer backing up to a PC or an external hard drive.
What if I didn’t backup my files, and they got deleted?
There is still hope! We have a guide on retrieving lost Android files. Check it out for more details.
If you’re looking to backup your Android phone in order to transfer all your files to another Android handset, we have a specific guide for that. It will give you better directions and might save you some hassles involved with the steps in this guide.