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How to Back Up Data on Your Android Smartphone

How to Back Up Data on Your Android Smartphone

Some phone manufacturers and carriers provide secure cloud storage for wirelessly backing up and syncing device content. Open the app and then follow the prompts to sync the data to the cloud. When you want to access the data in the future, open the app and then choose the content type, such as picture or music. Find the file in the list and touch and hold the file-name label to select and download it.

By Patrick Nelson
11/06/13 5:00 AM PT

We all back up our PCs, right? Okay, well, we should back up our PCs, right?

Well, smartphones and tablets have become so ubiquitous that we need to back them up now too. It's time.

Important photos, videos, contacts and music are now strewn across small, easy-to-lose, easy-to-break, highly pilferable devices. Fail to back up this stuff at your peril.

Conveniently, there are a number of ways to approach this possibly overwhelming task. They include some free methods -- like allowing Google to take care of settings backups -- and using your wireless carrier's cloud options. Or, simply using a device-included cable to make copies of multimedia.

For the more adventurous, there are apps that can be purchased to handle the task.

Option 1: Google

Let Google manage some of your user-data backups. Google backs up application data, WiFi, passwords and other settings if you allow it to.

Step 1: Open the Settings menu by touching the Settings icon in the device's app drawer.

Step 2: Look for a Backup & Reset option, or a Privacy option, depending on your version of Android.

Step 3: Check Backup My Data to allow Google to collect settings and other data over time. Then check Automatic Restore, which will allow automatic settings to be restored when you reinstall an app.

Now, when you migrate to a new device, your Google-retained settings will load to the new device when you sign in on setup.

Option 2: Phone network

Let your carrier back up documents, images, videos, music and contacts.

Step 1: Look for a "Cloud" or "Backup" adjective in any of your preinstalled apps in the app drawer on your device.

Some phone manufacturers and carriers, like Verizon, provide secure cloud storage for wirelessly backing up and syncing device content.

Step 2: Open the app.

Step 3: Follow the prompts to sync the data to the cloud. When you want to access the data in the future, open the app and then choose the content type, such as picture or music. Find the file in the list and touch and hold the file-name label to select and download it.

Tip: Verizon and others let you manage your smartphone data on a PC too. In Verizon's case, download the Verizon Cloud app to your PC and choose Manage My Content.

Option 3: Cables

Perform a manual backup of media like documents, images, videos and music if your carrier or phone manufacturer doesn't provide any obvious cloud options. Google can handle the settings backups (see Option 1).

Step 1: Remove the included smartphone USB charging cable from its included wall transformer plug.

Step 2: Connect your smartphone to a PC with the cable. The smartphone will mount as a drive -- a bit like an SD card does.

Step 3: Copy and paste files from the smartphone to Windows using the Windows Explorer interface.

Option 4: Google Play store apps

Rerware's My Backup Pro, priced at US$2.99, lets you back up files to a local SD card within the phone or the cloud and then migrate data to a new device. Backups can include applications, photos, music, videos, contacts and so on.

Titanium Backup Pro Key Root, at $6.58, is similar, but geared towards rooted users. Rooting is a form of phone unlocking that allows access to the phone's ROM file system.

Step 1: Browse to the Google Play store on your device by selecting Play in the app drawer.

Step 2: Choose a backup app by searching for My Backup Pro or Titanium Backup.

Step 3: Allow the app to install and then follow the prompts to configure it.


Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.


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