How to back up Android apps and app data with or without root

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Without its own iCloud-style service backing up app data on Android is harder than it should be. It’s possible, though, with third party apps. In this tutorial we’ll use Helium to make a backup of not only app data but the apps themselves, on rooted and non-rooted devices.

Helium in hand

It’s important to be able to make a backup of your app data. If you’re upgrading to a new phone, or have to do a factory reset on your current one, you need an easy way to restore all the info stored in your apps.

Many apps have their own cloud sync support so will automatically restore the data when you reconnect them, but many don’t. Games in particular are lacking in this area, and being able to restore game data is essential if you don’t want to have to start playing from the beginning once again.

With Helium you can also transfer that data between a phone and a tablet, so you can play from the same spot on both devices.

Helium also allows you to make a backup of the app itself. This can be useful if you want to restore an older version of an app for any reason.

Let’s get started!

Back up Android apps and data with root

Backing up with Helium on a rooted phone or tablet is easy as it runs entirely on the device.

Download the Helium app and install it. When you launch it grant root permissions when prompted. You’re now good to go, so skip ahead to the section below labelled Backing up with Helium.

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Back up Android apps and data without root

Backing up using Helium without root works on the same principle, but the process requires a desktop companion app.This is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Windows users will also need Android device drivers installed. These are linked from the same site.

Install the Helium Android and desktop apps. Launch Helium on your desktop.

Connect your phone to your computer via a USB cable and launch the Helium app on the device.

You might see various error messages on your phone’s screen saying you need to switch the connection to PTP mode. If so, follow the instructions on screen to do this.

Helium enable ptp

The message in the desktop app window will change to say that the app has been enabled (the message refers to the app’s original name, Carbon). You can now continue with the backup process.

Helium desktop

Backing up with Helium

The main Backup tab in Helium is split into various sections.

System enables you to make a backup of your text messages, wi-fi connection settings, user dictionary and other system features.

In Applications you can choose which apps and data to backup.

There’s also a section called Backup Disallowed, listing apps that cannot be backed up due to restrictions placed by the developer.

Select your apps

Tick the boxes next to the apps you want to backup. You’ll see their icons added to the backup section at the bottom of the screen. Alternatively, tap Select All to include every app in the backup.

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Helium select apps

To remove an app from the backup list just tap its icon.

When finished swipe up from the bottom of the window to expand the backup selection panel.

Helium app data only

Ticking the options marked App Data Only will backup only the data. This will make the backups smaller and faster.

Android app backup

If you wish to make a backup of the APK file—the app itself—deselect the App Data Only box.

Backing up

In the Remember Groups of Apps you can add a name for the apps you’re backing up (e.g.. Game saves if you’re only backing up your game data).

Finally, tap Backup to begin.

You’ll now be prompted as to where you want your backup to be saved. If you’re using the free version of the app you must choose Internal Storage. If you want to backup directly to cloud services like Google Drive or Dropbox then you need the Premium version of the app.

Helium backup

The backup will now begin.

Restore a backup

To restore your backup swipe over to the Restore and Sync tab.

Helium backup restore

Choose the location of your saved backup—either one of the cloud services or internal storage. Pick the apps you want to restore by ticking on them, then tap Restore to begin.

  • eveeve

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