How to backup apps and app data on your rooted or non-rooted Android phone or tablet

by Jared Peters on
tagged , , ,

backup-options

We’ve all been in a situation before where we needed to either factory reset our phone, send it in for a warranty replacement, etc. Not a big deal by itself, but you’ve got 3 stars on 80% of Angry Birds levels, and who would want to lose that accomplishment? You want to be able to keep that data forever. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do, and this guide will help you get started. You’ll even be able to start transferring some app data to new phones when you upgrade.

carbon_backup_google_play_banner

Carbon – No Root Method

Carbon is an application by popular developer, Koushik Dutta, who has also developed ClockworkMod Recovery, ROM Manager, and a recent Superuser application. Needless to say, he’s made some extremely useful applications that are very widely used. Carbon is no exception, and it allows any device running Android 4.0 or higher to back up their applications and data without root. All you’ll need is your device, a computer, and your USB cable. (It’s worth noting that according to its Play Store page, Motorola devices are not supported due to a bug on Motorola’s part.)

First off, you’re going to need the free companion desktop application to use the backup features (for non rooted users only).  There are versions for Windows, OS X, and a Linux shell script, so regardless of what kind of computer you’re using, you’ll be able to take advantage of Carbon. If you’re using Windows, you’re also going to need specific drivers for your phone. There’s a link on the download page (above) with a list of drivers for easy access and installation, and just about every major OEM is covered. OS X and Linux users don’t have to worry about the driver issues.

Once you have that all set up and running, start the Carbon desktop app, connect your device via USB to your computer, and start Carbon on your phone or tablet. Wait just a few seconds, and Carbon will be fully enabled so you can start backing up your apps. You can now disconnect your phone/tablet from your desktop and utilize the app itself. You won’t have to reconnect your phone/tablet again, but if you reboot your device you will have to connect it again to re-enable the app. It’s an inconvenience, but a minor one when you consider this is the only option for backing up app data for non rooted devices.

There’s a few cool features and tricks you’ll probably want to take advantage of while using Carbon, though, so poke around and look at some settings before you back up your massive stockpile of apps. Let’s say you really only want to back up your Angry Birds data, but you don’t mind re-downloading the app from the Play Store first. If you swipe up the bottom tab in Carbon, you’ll see a check box that gives you the option of backing up only the app data, and it does exactly that; your bigger apk will not be saved, but the data that goes along with it will be saved. You’ll have to download the app from the Play Store before you can restore that data, but if you want to save some storage space on your phone or SD card and don’t mind the extra step, that can be a pretty helpful option. There are also quick options to select and deselect all available apps in this window.

If you don’t mind going for the paid version of Carbon ($4.99), you’ll get a really cool feature; the ability to back up your data to cloud storage. Carbon supports Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, and it can seamlessly get your data on your favorite cloud service. That’s extremely helpful if you’re switching over to a new phone without an SD card, or just to make a backup in case you were to ever lose your phone.

So let’s fast forward a bit and say you’ve got your warranty exchange, you’ve finished your factory reset, or you just brought your shiny new phone home after upgrading. Restoring those applications is quick and easy, and all you’ll have to do is download Carbon from the Play Store. After downloading, run Carbon, connect it to your computer again, and you’ll be able to restore all of your apps and data. That precious Angry Birds is still completely intact. You’ll never have to worry about losing data again.

You can also use Carbon as a rooted user  and you don’t need to bother with the desktop companion software. Everything else works the same, but I prefer the next option, Titanium Backup because it’s more feature rich, but Carbon is still a great app.

QR Code generator

Play Store Download Link

QR Code generator

Play Store Download Link (Premium)

titanium-backup

Titanium Backup – Root Method

Carbon is useful, and if you can’t or don’t want to root your device, its backup capabilities are fantastic. If you are rooted, however, it’s hard to beat Titanium Backup’s extremely rich feature set. It essentially works the same as Carbon but with a bit more flexibility and automation. It also works on any device that can be rooted, regardless of manufacturer or OS version.

First off, with Titanium Backup, you must be rooted. There’s no way around it. If you need some help on that, we do have a guide to rooting to get you started and answer most of your questions. If you’re already rooted, just download and install the app and start it. It will prompt you for root permissions, which you will want to grant, of course, and you’re ready to start backing things up.

Titanium Backup has three tabs you’ll be looking at; an overview page, a backup/restore page, and a schedules page. For this guide, we want that middle tab to start backing up applications. You’ll see a long list of every single application that’s installed on your phone, including system applications and data. This is the biggest difference from Carbon, and it’s extremely important to remember. Backing up and restoring system applications and data can cause serious problems. As a general rule of thumb, it’s much safer to manually sign back into accounts and adjust settings instead of restoring a backup for those settings. In some cases, restoring system data will be fine, but more often than not it will cause problems. Restoring system data from one device to another will definitely cause problems.

Now that we’ve got that friendly disclaimer out of the way, tap the “Click to edit filters” button above your app list. For safety, we want to uncheck the boxes under “Filter by type” except for the User option. Only the User box should be checked, and the System and Uninstalled box should be blank. Tap your green checkmark at the top right of the screen to go back to your app list that’s been completely filtered to only user apps and no system apps. Here you can manually select which apps to backup and restore, so if you really only wanted to keep data for your games when moving to a new device, it’s easy to do so.

Now let’s say you want to run a full backup for your apps. That button on the top right of the screen, next to the magnifying glass, is your “batch” button in Titanium Backup, and that’s where the magic happens. Tap that and it will give you a long list of actions you can take. For this backup, we want to run the “Backup all user apps” action. This pulls up a list of your user apps where you can individually check each app you want to back up, or you can simply select all of your apps. After figuring out what you want backed up, tap the green checkmark at the top right and the batch action will run in the background.

Restoring your apps again is pretty much the same thing. When you go to your batch actions list, scroll down a bit until you find the action for “Restore all apps with data.” This list will show each app you’ve backed up so you can batch restore everything you need, data included. The free version of Titanium Backup will make you press a yes dialog box for each app you want to restore, so it’s not totally automated, but the paid, premium version does it all behind the scenes. And, like Carbon, you can set up schedules to back up at specific times and, if you opted for the paid Pro Key, sync your local backups to cloud storage. So if you’re in one of those situations we mentioned earlier, like moving to a phone without an SD card or just making backups in case your phone is lost or stolen, Titanium Backup supports the same three major cloud storage services for backing up your data.

QR Code generator

Play Store Download Link

QR Code generator

Play Store Download Link (Premium)

Like always, there’s plenty of Android apps available that do what Carbon and Titanium Backup can do, (although Carbon is the only app that can fully backup nonrooted devices) so if neither of these seem like your cup of tea, it’s easy to find an alternative. Both of these apps have relatively simple, easy to use designs that most users can figure out to do something that we’ve all needed to do once or twice with our phones.

» See more articles by Jared Peters


  • http://www.yepi-yepi.com/ Yepi Friv

    Thanks for sharing with us

  • Gordon Simmons

    Has anyone tried G Cloud key for root?

  • http://www.facebook.com/JayJohnRobert Jay Robert

    Very good article thanks for clearing a lot of the fog around back ups for me. A little more explanation of the benefit of Titanium over Carbon would be helpful especially if users are advised to steer clear of system apps & data, what’s the point in Titanium (if you are rooted) over Carbon? Or perhaps I should say, is it worth me rooting to use Titanium?

  • Jenny

    Carbon doesn’t work on my HTC Wildfire S (Not compatible message from Google Play)

    • Anonymous

      Please, get a Nexus 4 from Google Play. The reason your phone is incompatible is because it isn’t running Android 4.0 or higher. The Nexus 4 from Google Play can be rooted, will get updates to the latest Android version for quite a while, and it runs stock Android with no carrier / manufacturer interference.

      That having been said, I’m afraid that I haven’t found any other option to back up your data without root. But if you root, you’ll wipe that data (and I’m not even sure if your device CAN be rooted.) So delete that data this time like I had to, get a Nexus 4, root it, and then you won’t have to worry about this anymore.

  • nutwood

    Thanks for the article. One thing I’m not clear on is whether Titanium will work on an older phone. Mine is forever limited to 2.1. I have some apps on there that I can no longer get as they’ve moved on so I’d like to back the whole phone up in case of mishaps.
    Any suggestions?

    • androidgeek

      hi nutwood, what phone do you have?
      you can try cyanogenmod 7 based on gingerbread (2.3.X) or cyanogenmod 9 based on icecream sandwich (4.0.X).. if you phone is slow i suggest you use cyanogenmod 7..
      search for “cyanogenmod 9/7 [your phone make and model]”
      you also need to root your phone

  • Chris

    There’s an app I’ve got on my existing (rooted) android phone that isn’t available any more. I’ve got a Titanium backup of it.

    I’m shortly due to get a new phone and am a bit reluctant to root it if I don’t need to, is it possible to restore an app backed up with Titanium backup with Carbon (my existing phone is running Android 2 so not compatible with Carbon.

  • droidone

    try AppsTomosaic, simple and cool

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003829104576 Renita Ghosh

    Like
    nutwood, mine is stuck at froyo, I found trubackup at the play store, its
    cloud based and lets me pick the apps/ data I choose to backup. I’m not
    embarrassed to say that my 100% 3 star angry birds record is my pride and joy
    ;) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfl.tbp

  • http://www.9kizi.com/ 9kizi

    AppsTomosaic,

  • Tam Nguyen

    Now I would like to backup the folder where it keep the backup. do you know where the folder is locate on Windows 8?

  • David Balažic

    My phone has no v4 update. What choices do I have?

  • motormouthsays

    The app is no longer called Carbon. It’s Helium now.

  • http://www.yepididi.com/ Yepi Didi

    Thanks for sharing with us

  • Chuck Cartia

    Carbon *was* working on my Motorola Xoom. Helium won’t work. No response from developer since I sent e-mail back on April 3. Uninstalled and looking for replacement for unrooted tab. Want to backup and restore app user data only and selectively. Was able to do this with Carbon.

  • http://yepi4u.com/ kizi1990

    i tried but it’s not done, maybe it need update

  • Edward

    I had a problem restoring Apps with this app
    after full factory reset. It always crashed. Tried to restore from SD card and
    CLOUD. No use. Thankfully G cloud had my back.. Sticking with it.

  • http://most.yepididi.com/ Yepi Juegos

    thanks for share

  • Glenn Urrea

    Just out of curiosity, what is the advantage of having something like Titanium? Doesn’t your apps already get backed up by your Google account?

    • s14sh3r

      Titanium backs them up EXACTLY as they are. You don’t lose any settings or data. Restoring from your Google account only replaces the app itself.

      • Gokul Deepan

        thanks for this information…i just wanted to know if my google account restores only the app or together with its data…so now i have to download some backup app to backup my app data…again thanks for your useful information..

  • bonnie

    i have titanium but it wont let me reinstall any of my applications nor will it let me backup and reinstall anthing froim goole play and all what can you do to help me please i am so ready to destroy my phone ive beein trying to do this so for 5 plus hours now thankyou ill be waiting for you reply sprint samsung galaxy s3

    • nik

      Is ur phone rooted?

  • Dibaraut

    how can i use titanium backup for backing up data on my pc??

  • Goo Smoo

    Thank you!!! <3 <3 <3 I am currently backing up app data and hopefully this process will save me hours during the restoration. I really didn't want to lose my Bard's Tale progress. lol

  • ash

    Im on android 235 and im looking for some app like carbon, but not successfully. My HTC Desire S cannot run on higher android like 235. I dont have problem root it and use titanium, but problem is that i want move to new HTC One (with Subway Surfer) and this new device i will not root because of warranty… Some help for me ? Thanks alot

    • radiotrib

      You don’t need third party backups for the HTC One – HTC Backup comes as part of Sense 5 and it will automatically and regularly back up your data to dropbox or other locations. Restoring is just as easy.

  • http://www.problogbooster.com/ Vinayak Sutar-Patil

    So I have a quick question. Does this backup restore saved data for my apps? Such as my saved games, sign in name, etc… I have to replace my phone under warrenty and i would preferr not to lose my saves and stuff.!

    Go backup is also there but its useless..

  • sunnygreen2013

    The vast majority of us have probably, at some point, backed up the data on our devices—whether it’s in the form of a Nandroid backup or just using Titanium Backup (other backup apps are available) to preserve your applications and their relevant data. There are many reasons why you might want to do this, whether its for restoration after flashing a new ROM or just for posterity in case of disaster while tinkering around.
    Another reason you might want to backup data is because you want to unlock your bootloader, and doing so often requires your device’s /data partition to be wiped. However if you haven’t unlocked your bootloader then chances are you don’t yet have root access, which makes backing up significantly more difficult.

  • Faraaz

    When you backup with titanium backup, does it also backup the apps as well or just the app data? So when I restore on another phone, do I have to re-download the apps or is it already backed up?

    • Jared Peters

      Titanium Backup will back up the apps, as long as you choose the option to back up apps *and* data. To save space, you can only backup the data then redownload the apps, but I prefer doing both to save myself a trip to the Play Store on a clean install.

      • Faraaz

        What’s the difference between “backup user apps” and “backup user apps + system data” in titanium backup? Thanks in advance!

        • Jared Peters

          System data includes things like your built-in browser data or data for apps like all of Samsung’s S-apps. Generally not a good idea to back those up and restore them. It can cause issues across devices and ROMs.

  • ImTherious

    NB: It only works for the primary user, and not for any other apps/data stored under profiles on the same phone/tablet.

  • Scott

    How could you not mention My Backup Pro? This will work on Root and non-root phones. And it supports more items than Carbon/Helium

  • Minis3b

    of course Helium doesn’t work with Sony devices, i have a sony xperia S and i want to save data to my new xperia Z1, i’m fucked.
    “Some Sony devices have issues with Helium. This includes the Xperia S and Xperia Z”

  • Mike T.

    Hi. I have a samsung galaxy grand and it’s been hanging and lagging lately. I brought it to a service center and they said the phone needs to be reprogrammed. I decided to root my phone and use titanium back up. My question is, can I restore my apps including its data to a new unrooted phone? The service center said If I reprogram my phone it will become unrooted again. Appreciate your replies. Thanks.

    • republic84

      Titanium ONLY works on rooted devices. If you root and backup your phone, after they give it back you would need to root it again before you could restore your data