Photo: via Lifehacker
In an ideal world, your Android’s apps, their settings, and your system settings would automatically back up to the cloud.This is so that if you lost your phone, bought a new one, or installed a new custom ROM, setting up a fresh device with everything in place would be a piece of cake.
The good news: This utopian Android backup actually is possible. Here’s how to set it up.
We back up our computers religiously, but our phones are often neglected. There are tons of situations in which you may want to have your phone backed up.
Perhaps you uninstalled an app and deleted its settings, only to decide that you want it back. Perhaps you’ve picked up a new phone, or you’ve flashed a new custom ROM and you don’t feel like reinstalling all your apps and reconfiguring everything from scratch.
An app called Titanium Backup saves you from these annoyances and more, by backing up all your apps and settings to your SD card (or to the cloud via Dropbox) and restoring them worry-free. You can even schedule backups, set them, and forget them until you need that data back. It’s one of the best apps an Android user could have in their toolbox, and if you aren’t using it, you really should.
The biggest and best feature of Titanium Backup is, obviously backing up your phone’s data. What’s really nice about it is that it’s an incremental backup, meaning it will back up everything the first time, and then after that, back up only the apps that have updated, so you won’t need to go through a long backup process every time.
- A rooted Android phone: Titanium delves into some pretty deep settings of your phone, so you're going to root if you want to use it.
- For more information, check out our guide to rooting your Android phone, and maybe look through XDA's device-specific forums to find the easiest method for rooting your particular phone, as these methods do change from time to time on various phones.
- Titanium Backup: You can grab Titanium Backup from the Market. There is a free version, but I highly recommend you pick up a $6 Pro licence, too (you'll need to install the free version, then the Pro licence from the Market).
- The Pro version has a ton of features we're going to cover here that make it far more useful than the toned-down lite version. It's really a small price to pay, believe me.
- A Dropbox Account (Optional): Titanium Backup is going to use your phone's SD card to store backups, but it's much, much easier (and safer) if you also sync it back to your Dropbox account, which Titanium can do automatically for you.
- That way, if you accidentally wipe your SD card, your phone's internal storage, or if you just get a new phone, you don't have to worry about messing with SD cards--you can just download your latest backup from your Dropbox.
The first thing we're going to do is run a full backup of all our apps and settings. Once you've downloaded Titanium Backup, just follow these steps:
- Launch Titanium Backup and tap 'Allow' when it asks you to grant it superuser permissions.
- On the first screen, before you do anything else, hit the 'Problems?' button and hit Get Busybox. This will install some of the necessary tools that make Titanium Backup tick. Once that's done, you'll get a notification prompting you to restart Titanium Backup. Tap that, and you'll be ready to start a backup.
- Open Titanium Backup's preferences (Menu button > Preferences) and check the Auto-sync TB settings box. This will make sure Titanium saves its settings on your SD card, so if you end up wiping your data completely, Titanium will still be able to restore its own settings.
- Head back to Titanium's main screen and hit the Menu button on your phone.
- Tap the 'Batch' option.
- From here, you'll see all the batch options you can perform--right now we're going to backup all our apps and system data, shown in the screenshot above. Hit the 'Run' button next to the 'Backup all user apps + system data' entry, and then hit 'Run the batch operation'. It'll take a while, so just let it do its thing.
- Congratulations! Your phone is backed up and ready for anything that comes its way.
- Optional: If you have a Dropbox account, head back into the preferences and check the 'Enable Dropbox' button. Then, go to the main screen and tap the 'Sync to Dropbox now' button to send your backups to Dropbox.
After your first backup, you'll probably want to do things a little differently. From now on, instead of backing up all your apps, you can tell Titanium Backup to back up just the ones that have updated or are new. What's even cooler is that you can automate this process, so you don't have to remember to back it all up yourself. To set up a backup schedule:
- Open Titanium Backup and hit the Schedule tab.
- There should be a few schedules there already. Enable the 'Backup all new apps & newer versions' schedule. If you want to edit when it runs (by default it'll run every Sunday at 3AM), hit the Edit button and tweak it to your liking. Hit Save when you're done.
- Now, to create a scheduled backup of all our settings. Tap the 'Add new schedule' button, and hit the Edit button when the new schedule pops up in the list.
- From the top drop-down menu, choose 'Backup all system data' and hit Save. Those two schedules should be sufficient for pretty much any data you may want to back up on your phone..
- Note that your backups will not sync to Dropbox automatically. You'll have to do this manually by opening Titanium and hitting 'Sync to Dropbox' for right now
You can do a lot more than that, but those two schedules will keep you in good shape for a while. If you keep your phone on at night, run them when you're asleep and you won't even know they're there.
The backup method above can take up a few hundred megabytes of space on your SD card or Dropbox account (depending on how many apps you have installed). If that's more than you've got room for, you can save a little space by backing up only the really important stuff instead--say, your browser bookmarks, SMS history, or call log--instead of all your settings. To do that, we can make use of filters.
- Open up Titanium, the Menu button and go to Filters.
- Hit the 'Create Label' button at the bottom of the screen and call it whatever you want (like 'My favourite settings').
- Next, head back to the Backup/Restore tab and find the settings you want to back up. The most useful ones will be listed in green: things like Bookmarks, SMS history, and call logs, for example. When you find one you want to add to your backup schedule, press and hold on its entry, and hit the Assign Label button in the menu that comes up.
- Assign it the 'My favourite settings' label you just created
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all the settings you want to back up.
- Once you're done, head back to the Schedules tab and hit the Edit button under your settings backup schedule.
- Under the top drop-down menu you'll see another one that says 'No filtering'--change this to 'My favourite settings' and that schedule will only back up the settings you absolutely need, as opposed to all of them.
Whether you just want to restore an app you uninstalled, or you've gotten an entirely new phone or ROM and are starting with a blank slate, restoring apps and settings with Titanium is super easy. Before you start, make sure the TitaniumBackup folder on your SD card is full--that means your latest backup data is still intact.
If not (or if you're on a new phone), head into Titanium and hit the 'Sync to Dropbox' button. This will download your Titanium backups back to your SD card (but only if the TitaniumBackup folder is empty!). Then, just follow the steps below.
Restore a single app
If you just want to restore an app or its data, head into the Backup/Restore tab. Then:
- Tap the list entry for the app you want to restore.
- Hit the 'Restore' button.
- Pick the option that describes what you want to do (e.g., if you have the app but just want to restore your old settings, hit 'Data only') and let it do its thing. You'll get a notification when it finishes.
- Repeat for any other apps or system settings you want to restore, and go on with your day!
Let's say you flash a new ROM to your phone, get your hands on a new device, or otherwise need to restore all your apps and settings. You can easily save yourself endless amounts of reconfiguring with just a few taps from Titanium's main screen.
Note: If you aren't using Dropbox and have a phone with two SD cards, like a Samsung phone, an HTC EVO or Incredible, or the Viewsonic G-Tablet, you'll want to make sure your Titanium backup data is stored on the external SD card instead of the internal SD card. This process is described in Titanium's FAQ(number 14 on the list). If you're using Dropbox, this shouldn't be a problem, as you'll always have your latest backup just a click away.
- Head into the Market and install Titanium Backup, if it isn't already on your phone. You'll also want to Reinstall BusyBox here.
- On Titanium's main page, hit 'Sync to Dropbox' if you don't already have your Titanium data on your SD card.
- Hit the Menu button and go to Batch. From there, hit the 'Restore all missing apps + system data' button, and let it restore your data.
- Reboot your phone. When you come back, you should find that everything is just how you left it on your old ROM or phone. You may have to re-apply your old wallpapers and widgets, however.
There are a few cases in which Titanium Backup can't, sadly, restore a few specific settings to a new ROM. If you have a phone running the HTC Sense UI, for example, you very well may not be able to restore your SMS message history when you load a non-Sense ROM, or switch to a non-Sense phone.
The messaging apps are just completely different. You can increase your chances of restoring incompatible data by going to Titanium's Preferences and checking the 'Data Migration' option before restoring, however. Additionally, you can exclude anything you want from the backup process by unchecking its list entry when you go to back up your phone.
That said, restoring most data should work just fine. Just be careful, and if you're messing with custom ROMs, I'd recommend doing full backups through ROM Manager or Nandroid apps in addition to Titanium Backup. The two systems serve very different purposes--Titanium lets you restore specific data to your current phone or ROM, while Nandroid/ROM Manager make complete images of your phone, restoring it to exactly the way it was when you last backed up with it--ROM and all. If you're big of flashing custom ROMs, I wouldn't neglect Nandroid backups.
We've briefly mentioned this once before, but it bears repeating:. one of Android's biggest annoyances (and one of the things that can really slow down your phone) is the pre-installed 'crapware' that comes with almost every phone--things like the Amazon MP3 store, the Peep Twitter client, or games like Need for Speed.
To remove these apps with Titanium, just find them in Titanium's Backup/Restore tab and tap on its list entry. Hit the 'Freeze' button to freeze the app. This won't uninstall it completely, but it will keep it from running or slowing down your phone.
I usually stop there, since uninstalling certain pre-packaged apps can break your phone. If, after freezing it for a while, you're confident your phone will work fine though, you can go back to that same screen and hit 'Remove' to free up a bit more space on your phone's hard drive.
We've mentioned before that moving some apps to your SD card can speed up your phone, and if you're running Titanium Backup, you don't need an extra app to do this.
What's especially nice is that Titanium Backup will move them even if the app doesn't support it--which is great for big apps like games that you really, really want to get off your internal storage. To move an app, just long-press its list entry in the Backup/Restore tab, then hit 'Move to SD Card'.
Of course, I only recommend forcing the move with non-essential apps--you don't want to break anything by accident. If you find you have problems with the app after moving it, though, you can always try moving it back by going to the same menu--you'll then have an option to move it back to your phone.
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