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How to backup and restore app data with or without root

When you get a new phone, you have to re-configure all the apps in the new smartphone. Or, you could just backup your app data from the old phone, and restore it on the new one. Whether or not you've rooted your device, there's a way to do this. In this article, we'll show you how.

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What is app data?

After you install an app on your Android smartphone and begin using it, you accumulate app data, which consists of particular configurations, chat profiles, login information and so on. These are stored in a separate directory. So that other apps can't access your private information, your app data is private - but this makes backups more difficult. Without special permissions (root access) it is hard to access the private directories of the old smartphone. So, unless an app provides its own configuration backup method, your app data will be lost when you change smartphones.

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There's still a way to backup your app data, though. Some apps allow access to app data via a debugging interface, and this is exactly the method Helium uses to export your app data, even without root access, and transfer it to your new phone. We will show you how to use Helium to backup your app data without root in the next section. There is also a manual method, but we have had bad experiences with it.

Backup app data without root access

If you want to move your app data from your old smartphone to your new on as described above, you can do it with the Helium app easily - and without having to root your phone, if you get the Helium Desktop Installer. The application is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. If you use Windows, make sure you have all the relevant drivers installed. These can be found here.

Helium - App Sync and Backup Install on Google Play
AndroidPIT Helium Backup welcome connect
You'll have to install Helium on your computer and phone. / © ANDROIDPIT
  • Start up Helium Desktop - but don't plug your phone into your PC just yet.
  • Enable USB debugging on your Android device. This is in the developer options.

Note: If your smartphone isn't detected, USB debugging may not have been properly activated. It may also be the case that the appropriate ADB drivers aren't installed on your computer yet. In the case of a Sony device, go to the Sony Developer website and get them from there. With other manufacturers, you solve the problem the same way.

andoridpit developer options 27
Tap "build number" seven times to enable developer options in the Settings menu. / © ANDROIDPIT
  • Start the Helium app on your smartphone and connect it to the PC.
  • Once your phone has been detected, unplug it from the PC.
AndroidPIT Helium Backup USB debugging connection established
Once you've paired the two devices you'll have enabled Helium backups. / © ANDROIDPIT
  • Now you can go to the app on your phone and select which apps you'd like to backup the app data for. If you want to do them all, choose Select all and tap Save.
AndroidPIT Helium Backup app data only app backup
Select all apps (right) or choose 'app data only' for smaller backups. / © ANDROIDPIT
  • Next, you decide where to save your backup to. You can choose from the internal memory, microSD or the cloud.
AndroidPIT Helium Backup backup destination cloud services
Backup destinations include memory, external SD cards or cloud services. / © ANDROIDPIT
  • Next, you wait a few minutes for the backup to complete.
  • Once it is done, you'll get a notification that the backup was successful.

Backup app data with root access

If your Android device has been rooted, backing up your app data is particularly easy. You don't even have to connect to a PC.

  • When you start up the Helium app on your phone for the first time, it will request Superuser rights. These are necessary for backups to be created without connecting to a PC.
  • Then, you can follow the same process as above to select which apps to backup and where you'd like the backups to be saved.

Restore app data, with or without root access

With or without rooting your phone, the restoration process is the same.

  • Start Helium on your Android device and go to the Restore & Sync tab.
  • There, tell the app where to restore the data from. (Restoring from a cloud backup requires the Premium version.)
  • Then you can choose to restore app data for specific apps, or all of them. Just highlight the apps, and tap Restore.
  • Now, the app data will be restored. Depending on how much you backed up, this could take some time.
AndroidPIT Helium Backup PC Download server running
You can also download your backups with Helium. / © ANDROIDPIT

Helium is constantly being improved and updated. If you want to backup your app data, be sure to get the latest version of the app. Once you have it, a successful backup should be easy.

Do you have any other backup tips for Android? Share them with us in the comments.

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5 comments

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  • D. L. 2 weeks ago Link to comment

    First of all, Google backs up most of your app data. Use Google photos for all video and pictures to automatic back up. Second, there are really good apps to back up calls & text messages. And any app that you sign into, do there own backups. So, that leaves a few loose ends, like downloads, but a good file manager app cab handle the rest. Finally, use Tasker to automate some of the functions. And now, you've taken care of most, if not all your back up needs. Don't forget about Nova launcher, which can back up & restore your setups.

    I personally, make sure I have good, recent back ups a couple times a year. Just in case I suddenly need to factory reset, or my phone is lost, stolen, or destroyed.


  • BruinGuy 6 months ago Link to comment

    I've used Helium for years. Mostly it's a disappointment. Some apps simply won't backup with Helium. Others don't restore the data properly. All in all it's OK, but be prepared for about 30% of your data not being backed up.


  • I have never ever once successfully backed up or restored using Helium for several different phones from jelly bean on. It's been a frustrating mess and I wish it weren't because Titanium is one of the reasons I still root.


  • Great Post


  • Good article

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