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Android device backup to Google account is worthless. Are there any viable alternatives? (Also rant about Android built in backup)

Howdy :slight_smile:

Rant warning:

Last week, my android tablet went from working to being a flat glass brick in a few hours.
When I realized something weird was up, I quickly began evacuating all the files on it, that I knew wasn’t on my nas. (everything except music files)
I got the download, document, camera & screenshot folder copied out, and 60% through the picture folder, it froze. And never turned on again.
The picture folder contained roughly 14000 files - pics, funny gifs, dank memes - a little over 8000 was copied, and so I lost ~ 6000 files in that folder.
Two years of hoarding and curating from 9gag and so on. Nothing critical (like family pictures etc), but very very annoying. And my first ever data loss. Hard lesson learned from this.
Google photos hadn’t picked up the folder, so the files aren’t there.
I acknowledge that I carry a good portion (or most of it…) of the blame for my situation.
However, the device backup has barely restored anything!

I didn’t expect the device backup to bring back my files (though I had a very tiny minuscule hope), but apps, settings, etc - I had to do set the tablet up again from the scratch!
Half the apps I had to download again, I had to redo all settings, placement on the home screen, etc.

This is the worst device restore I have ever had to deal with.
Calling it a device backup is even misleading, imo…

I remember from back when I used iPhone, when I upgraded from a 4 to a 6, I did a system backup on the 4, logged into my apple account on the 6, and hit restore. EVERY file, system setting, app etc was transferred.

I realize this has been a rant. I’m pissed at myself for not exercising proper backup on my tablet, but damn it Google, your device backup is worthless…

The authorized repair shop (still under warranty), said the main board had managed to short circuit itself. Somehow…
No wonder it wouldn’t turn on…

I’ve decided to not keep any files what soever on the tablet (and my phone) going forward. I’ve paid for fx files, so I can connect to my freenas box over smb, and move every files that enters my devices, to it. But this is manual. I’d like to get something automated, in case it slips my mind some day.

And I’d like to be able to do a proper system backup of my tablet ((and phone) both android devices).
Does anyone know of a backup program or method? :slight_smile:

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Root /unlocked boot loader makes things easier

Like with windows… Leave the boot drive the boot drive and store your data on another if possible.

You are going to have to do the research on your device to see what is possible in regards to these tools.

XDA developers is good place to start.


Besides rooting I tested few sync/trans apps. The Samsung switch was the most stable and capable of transferring apks and the data available to an app.
There is a problem of backing up SD as a normal memory, but that can be addressed.

I also use Termux, which supports rsync and that can be useful for specific backups.

tl;dr: True backup is only possible with root. The next best thing is ADB and developer mode (not something for a BFU) and after that you can only sync data stored as files

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I’m in a similar-ish boat. It amazes me how a proper Device backup (without root) is not a thing. Like, none at all. And no, rooting was not an option, because I used that phone for 2 years already and rooting would have reset the device. So no. Just no.
And rooting is not always an option either. For one thing, device manufacturers don’t exactly like it and make it harder and harder, for another Google is annoying the shit out of you as well when rooting, because certain things just don’t work anymore (OTA Updates come to mind). Besides, rooting is something for the enthusiast. I wouldn’t trust my mother with a rooted phone, but she might need backups as well. Solution? None.

In theory there is adb backup, but that is worth shit as well.
I got a new phone in November, but didn’t start using it until January because I couldn’t figure out any way to backup the old device and restore all the settings from it on the new one. adb restore would just cancel somewhere down the road, with no error message whatsoever (the restore process on the phone just quit and the console on the PC looked as if it were successful, but it wasn’t).

Looking into adb logcat I could at least figure out that some (but not which) setting apparently couldn’t be ported over to the new phone. But instead of throwing a warning and continuing it just cancels the whole process.

Worse even, I looked for a way to backup the old phone with that specific app excluded, but there is apparently no command to exclude an app. There is a specific command to include only specific app however, which would mean I’d have to type out 50 full app names, and probably still miss a ton.

The backup situation is ridiculous at best.


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That makes it a no for me, sadly. I decided I don’t want to root my mobile devices a long time ago. I just want them to work, and not tinker at all. I tinker with some of my computers :slight_smile:
But for mobile, I just wan’t the damn thing to work.
Thanks for the input tho :slight_smile:

This might be a viable option. both my phone and tablet are Samsung. And my next phone will also be a samsung.
I’ll be looking into this one.

Looks like it’s a little too deep for my feet.
I’ve begun transferring all downloads, pictures etc to my nas with fx File Manager. ((It easily connects to my smb share from freenas. It is a manual process though, and I’d like to have som automatic backup as a fallback, in case of sudden death (or theft). And for when I’m not on my home network.)
Fx is a paid file manager. And they advertises privacy. I’ve decided to trust them on that, with the reasoning that since they charge for the software, they don’t have to make money on spying. But the device is Android, so privacy is a bit moot in the end (Looking at you, Google).

It baffled me when my Tab S4 had “restored from backup”. I was like, “is that it?!”
And root isn’t a option for me either. I don’t want to tinker with my phone, I wan’t it to always work.

I remember my iPhones doing that without breaking a sweat. And when I switched from my iPhone 6 to my S7 Edge almost 4 years ago, Samsungs setup manager got almost everything.
I had emptied the iPhone as much as I could beforehand manually, to my pc though.

Indeed. That google doesn’t make their built in backup a snapshot backup of everything is beyond stupid, imo.
They could at least make it an option to do it to a local machine via usb. Like I used to do with iPhones and iTunes. True device nackup of EVERYTHING. I do however not wan’t to switch back to Apple.

I had no idea there was an Android version of that. That’s definitely something I’ll look into, and from what I’ve skimmed on their website, it looks like a excellent fallback solution.

Thanks for the input everyone :slight_smile:
I’ll look into Samsung Switch & Acronis, they seem like a good duo solution to me :slight_smile:

And I’ll report back when I’ve decided on a solution :slight_smile:

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I think SyncThing is on FreeNAS, and it works well.

Which seems to be true:

There’s also alternatives like Amaze though, which is Open Source.

Yes, the Apple Backup situation is good, if you like having all your data “in the cloud” :face_vomiting: If you can deal with that, it works well.

Yeah… they have it, but don’t care about it and don’t seem to maintain it either. I don’t think anything has been done for years on that. It just sits there as a half-assed option that doesn’t even work with most apps.

Neat :slight_smile: Another thing I’ll look into.

Not inparticular. the iPhone backups via iTunes was local and ecrypted though :slight_smile:

Sigh, damn it Google…

Samsung switch works with other phones and PC. Each manufacturer has one, but the other ones are unstable at best.

Using File Managers like Total Commander is not a bad idea.
Syncthing is also quite robust.

Termux is a solution for linux people - it is a single thread linux.
However it does offer the most flexibility.

I use it to download videos (Just clicking share the video to an app Termux)
I use it to sync data to a server with 2 profiles: Metered connection and WiFi
I use it for SSH clients and related unix tools.

It is truly the closest thing to the terminal emulation on the last good Android. (2)

EDIT: And to be clear Google Backup is a worthless tool. Your rant is understood by anybody with a brain.

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Good to know. My S7 is backing up to my pc as i type this. This satisfies me for a manual backup. The Tab S4 is next.

I think I tried this some time ago on my phone, I decided against it for some reason though. Can’t remember why. I use Fx now for manually moving files. Are Total commander open source?

I’ll have to setup Syncthing on my nas, or more likely another machine. I know, that freenas can run vm’s, but I like to keep it strictly for file storage and nothing else. My tin foil brain is more at ease, when I know my nas focus on only one thing.
I have some low power pc parts in storage, so that’l be something to setup :slight_smile:

I flip flop between using my windows gaming pc and my older retired gaming pc running Ubuntu for everyday tasks.
The right tool for the job or something.

I’m glad to hear that I haven’t gone insane. But man was I furious when my tablet had “restored from backup”

Apparently I am weird cause without root … android is awful…

We’re all weird here :slight_smile:

There is a way for having a rooted device and still being able to get OTA updates. Might depend on the device , tho.

Probably, but that just makes it more annoying to get that set up, which is exactly the point. It should be possible to have backups without the hassle.

I certainly agree with that :slight_smile: Android only wants to allow recovery from stock and everything else backed up in the cloud so google can rifle thru it . For some people that is fine… if it works.

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I just looked a bit more into what rooting does for android, and it confirms that it’s not something I need for my phone.
I can certainly see the benefit of having root acces to everything on the phone, and true power over it.
But it’s the case of great power comes great responsibility.
And I don’t want to risk destroying something.
I’m perfectly happy with a file browser :slight_smile:

But the true backup possible with root access does sound nice.
But Samsung switch seems to be capable of that :slight_smile:

Great thing with having root, Twrp , and magisk is that I can iterate. Rollback at to any point if I misstep . In my quest for the perfect build :slight_smile:

I just save everything straight to the micro SD card and back that up every once in a while to make sure I lose as few things as possible in case of a catastrophic failure of the SD or my phone gets stolen.

Other than that you can just use a different cloud storage provider and check off all the folders you want to keep backed up. I apps I don’t think matter that much, you can just reinstall them and contacts gets backed up fine I think (never had issues with them or any Google backup for that matter).

Does that carbon backup thing still work?

The stuff on the SD card is mostly “just” your data though which you can easily back up anyway. This does not back up any App settings though, which is really annoying.

A lot of apps have an option to export/import settings, but it says a lot when that’s even needed in the first place, because it shouldn’t be.
That backups don’t necessarily backup the apks and reinstall them on a restore is fine with me, cause installing them manually is not a big deal. Loosing all your settings in the process with no native way to restore them is though.