In this tutorial, I will guide you through the easiest and most reliable way to fully and 100% back up and restore your Android phone.
By fully back up, I don't mean backing up just your address book or your emails, or your dog. I mean EVERYTHING that resides on your phone with the exception of the SD card - what we will create is essentially a full image of your phone's current state that you can restore to at any time as if nothing happened. This image will be written to your SD card which you are then free to copy around and back up on your computer.
In fact, the backup described here is very similar to imaging your computer hard drive before you swap drives - the principle is the same.
Here are some benefits of being able to perform full backups:
- You can stop worrying about forgetting to or being unable to back up certain components of your phone, such as text messages - Nandroid backs up everything.
- You can try out new ROMs, switch between them and the original stock any time by backing up and restoring full images.
- You will be able to restore to not just your physical phone, but also to any other phone of the same model. Lost your handset and got a replacement? No problem - restore your latest backup and it's as good as the one you had lost.
Here are some things to keep in mind, however.
Things To Keep In Mind
- When you restore from a full image backup, you have to restore all or nothing. In other words, you will not be able to get back *just* the photos.
- An obligatory word of warning: there is always that slight chance that something will not work. Nandroid is stable and pretty well tested nowadays but there is a possibility that you won't be able to restore, so copy the stuff you can't afford to lose somewhere before starting and make sure you are OK with losing the rest in case something goes wrong. Note that your contacts and the list of applications is already backed up into the cloud by Google, so you don't need to back them up separately.
Here is what we will be using. The list may seem overwhelming at first, but don't fret - every step is really quite simple.
You will need anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to finish your first backup, depending on your skills.
So here we go. Ready for the big list?
Step 1. Root your phone
Step 2. Install Nandroid Backup
Aaaand we're done. That wasn't so bad, was it?
The above steps and the backup/restore themselves are explained in more detail below.
Step 1. Root Your Phone
Rooting is a process of getting full access to all of your phone's functions. Think of it as unlocking your phone and enabling it to do anything it wants (except for flying - let's not try that one).
We have a full explanation of the most important benefits that come with rooting your Android phone right here.
You will need root in order to do the full backup as an unrooted phone simply will not grant any application enough access to do it.
Because rooting each phone is different, the easiest way to figure out the right way for your model and Android version would be to just Google "YOUR-PHONE YOUR-ANDROID-VERSION root".
Step 2. Install Nandroid Backup
Nandroid is an application capable of making complete snapshots of your whole phone as well as restoring from those snapshots.
There are different ways of getting Nandroid onto your phone and here we will use the simplest of all approaches - using the ClockworkMod ROM Manager application which also comes with a whole bunch of other useful stuff. It can only be used on rooted phones, which is why step 1 was necessary.
This is the easiest part. Hrm, come to think of it, everything described here is pretty easy but installing an application from the Android Market - what can be easier?
- Access the Android Market by loading the Market app.
- Search for "ROM Manager".
- Install ClockworkMod ROM Manager.
And now you're done with step 2. Did I mention this was the last step?
Back Up Your Phone
Now we can do the actual backup.
The backup itself will take about 5-10 minutes and will produce a new timestamped directory on the SD card. This directory will contain all of the files needed for restoration - they comprise your full backup.
Here, I'll give you a preview of what a full backup looks like:
Now, before we can back up, we need to install a Recovery Image specific to your phone. Don't worry - ROM Manager does it for you automatically with only a press of a button.
This recovery image contains a boot loader which replaces your original boot loader. The boot loader gives you the ability to run Nandroid backup and restore commands outside of the OS. It also lets you install ROMs but we will not do that today. Since the OS cannot back itself up fully while running, ROM Manager will reboot into this boot loader to perform Nandroid operations.
Recovery images vary from one phone model to another, and ROM Manager automatically figures out which one you need. These recovery images are not created by one person - there is a large community effort behind them, and the ROM Manager simply brings together in one convenient package. Alright, enough ranting - let's get to it.
- Select Flash ClockworkMod Recovery.
- Confirm your autodetected phone model.
- Wait for it to download.
The one-time setup is complete.
**** Read This ****
There is a chance that you are using a phone unsupported by the ROM Manager. If this is the case, this backup solution will not work for you, at least not until the app starts supporting your phone.
ROM Manager's creator Koushik Dutta is quite active in the community and will hopefully include support for new phones as they get released.
Just for reference, as of 4/15/2010 the following phones are supported:
- HTC Droid Eris (CDMA)
- HTC Hero (GSM), aka non-US Hero
- HTC Hero (CDMA), aka Sprint Hero
- HTC Dream
- HTC Nexus One
- HTC Magic (Sapphire 32A)
- HTC MyTouch/Ion (Sapphire 32B)
- Motorola Droid
This list is included here for reference only and is subject to change. If you don't see your device here, check with Koushik's site for the latest supported list.
Your First Backup
If you have successfully installed a recovery image, you're ready to start your first backup.
This is a 1-click operation.
- Select "Backup Current ROM" and your phone will reboot and start the full backup onto your SD card.
- Just sit back and relax - there is nothing else you need to do.
After the backup is complete, your phone should boot back up normally. You're done!
The backup is located on your SD card in the clockworkmod/backup/SOMEDATETIME directory. Here is a screenshot of what it contains again:
Feel free to copy these files elsewhere and store them safely.
Restore Your Phone
You may want to restore the original full backup of your OS that you took in the Back Up step above. Maybe you forgot something in the original installation or want to go back to stock to apply an update your carrier finally published - no problem.
After you’re done restoring, you’ll be back to your original OS as if nothing ever happened (was it just a dream?)
Restoring is just about as easy as backing up:
- Load ROM Manager and select "Manage and Restore Backup", basically, repeating step 2.
- Select the backup, which includes the OS itself and all the apps, settings – everything that you backed up, from the list.
- Click Restore. You can also rename and delete your backups from this menu.
Look - the phone boots and the resurrection went just fine!
I sincerely hope that this guide was clear and helpful. Of course, if you have any questions or corrections, feel free to share them in the comments.
Support Koushik, the ROM Manager creator, by purchasing the Premium version which comes with a few added benefits that automate installing and updating custom ROMs.
In conclusion, I'm going to leave you with the screenshots of some other ROM Manager menus as well as the Recovery console: