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How to back up your Android phone

Don't lose your precious files ever again!
October 15, 2021

There’s always the possibility that you’ll lose 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 it be through Google, a third-party app, or your computer, here 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

Editor’s note: All steps in this article were put together using a Pixel 4a running Android 11 and an Asus ZenBook Pro Duo running Windows 10 Pro. 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, but different data types individually.

Photos and videos

Google Photos logo on smartphone next to imaging accessories stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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 ever again 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:

  1. Open the Google Photos app.
  2. Tap on the profile imaged in the top-right corner.
  3. Select Photos settings.
  4. Tap Back up & sync.
  5. Toggle on Back up and sync.

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 15GB of free storage and will still be considered free and exempt from the storage limit.

Other files

Google Drive logo on smartphone stock photo 2

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:

  1. Download the Google Drive app, if you don’t have it already.
  2. In the app, press the + button.
  3. Press Upload.
  4. Select the file(s) you’d like to back up.
  5. That’s it!

See also: How to use Google Drive: Everything you need to know

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:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Android phone.
  2. Tap on Google.
  3. Go into Backup.
  4. Toggle on Backup by Google One.
  5. You can also go into Google Account data and select other data you can sync. This includes the Calendar, Docs, Google Fit, Keep, and much more.
  6. Go back to the main Backup settings.
  7. Tap on Back up now.

More: How to back up your SMS, MMS, and call logs

How to back up your Android phone with Amazon Photos, OneDrive, and others?

Amazon stock photo 4
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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 for free.

Elsewhere, Amazon Photos offers unlimited photo storage plus 5GB 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. 

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. Check out more options in the article linked below!

Also read: The best cloud storage services and apps for Android

Backing up to your computer

2020 MacBook Air charging review image
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Using Android File Transfer

Instead of backing up your device to the cloud or to the phone itself, you might want to back up all your files to your computer for easy access later on. 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:

  1. Plug your phone into your computer with your USB cable.
  2. On Windows, go to My Computer and open the phone’s storage.
    1. On Mac, open Android File Transfer.
  3. 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.

Related: How to transfer files from Android to Mac

Wireless sync with Syncthing

Syncthing phone sync - How to back up android

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 my photographs and additional files are downloaded to the computer. The premise is simple; install an app on your phone and select a folder to constantly keep an eye on. 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:

  1. Install the Syncthing app from the Play Store.
  2. Install the Syncthing app on your PC or Mac.
  3. It is a good idea to pair a device before creating folder pairs. Head to the Devices tab and tap the + icon.
  4. You can either enter the device name or click the bar code scan to add the device pair using a QR code.
  5. That’s it. Head over to the Folders tab and tap the + icon.
  6. Select the folder you want to keep an eye on. Select one-way sending or sync. You can even set the folder to receive data if you want to add content to your phone.
  7. Within a few moments, you will be asked to confirm the pair on your PC, and synchronization will start.

How to use Plex camera upload to back up Android phone

Plex camera upload - How to back up android

Another great option is the camera upload functionality built into Plex. This is particularly handy if you already use Plex as a media server. An advantage over other backup solutions is that the solution works remotely and even lets you browse your entire photo library.

How to set Plex camera sync:

  1. Head over to the Plex app, tap the gear icon to enter Settings, and then the Camera upload option.
  2. The next step is to select a library. You can choose to have a single library for all your phones or create separate ones for family members.
  3. Next, select or create an album. If you are backing up multiple phones, you can create separate albums for each device or sync to a shared library.
  4. Finally, you can allow Plex to back up images over mobile data. This is a good idea if you have a generous data allowance.

That’s it. Sit back and watch as Plex copies over all your images to your computer. You can also pop over to the newly created photos tab to take a look at all your pictures. Since Plex has apps for nearly every platform out there, you can now beam up your photos to the big screen, or any other phone or tablet with Plex signed in.

Also read: Kodi vs. Plex: Which one is right for you?

Other options to back up Android phone

Google Play Store on smartphone stock photo 1 - How to back up android
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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.

Unrooted phone

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.
  • You will see a list of item categories that you can back up (Pictures, Apps, etc.).
  • Select which category you want to back up.
  • Select the individual items you’d like to include in your backup.
  • Tap on Backup.

Rooted phones

While most people won’t need to root their phones to back up what they need to, rooting your phone can help you back up a few more things. By rooting your phone, just about everything on your phone can be restored, including stuff like app settings, system data, and even Wi-Fi passwords. One of the most used apps for backing up a rooted phone is Titanium Backup. While Titanium Backup certainly looks a little outdated, it’s a compelling app indeed. Here’s how to back up your files using Titanium Backup:

  • Download and open the app.
  • Tap the Menu button in the top-right corner and select Batch actions.
  • Select everything you want to back up.
    • If this is the first time you’re backing up your device, you’ll at least want to select backup all user apps and backup all system data.
  • You can also choose to back up the files to Dropbox or Google Drive, which you may want to do if you lose your phone.
  • You can also opt to create a recovery-compatible .zip backup file.
    • This ensures that even if your phone’s system files become corrupt or something else happens that prevents you from booting up your phone, you’ll be able to restore your phone from the backup.

Complete guide: How to use Titanium Backup