[HOWTO] Backup and Restore Data on Android Devices

This is an editable document a wiki and the document is Work in Progress. Users who have tried out other working methods of Backing and Restoring data can add / edit to this document. This includes the images - add screenshots where you have them and help make this document better.


Backup and Restoring of Data

One of the biggest issues new users have when switching to custom ROM’s is figuring out how to backup and later restore their current smartphone data.
This backup could include contact, images, music files or documents stored on the device.

In this guide we will cover some of the options available for users.

Backup and Restore using TWRP

What is TWRP

TWRP is a custom recovery used for installing custom software on an android device. This custom software can include smaller modifications like rooting your device or even replacing the firmware of the device with a completely custom “ROM” like /e/OS

Get TWRP for your device

Check for the TWRP build for your device on this page

  • You would need your devicecode to get the correct TWRP image for your device.
    (Note: add link on how to get DeviceCode )

Understand the TWRP backups

TWRP makes nandroid backups, which are near-complete images of your system.

  • You use nandroid backups to restore your phone to exactly the state it was in when you backed up: the version of Android, your wallpaper, your home screen, right down to which text messages you had left unread
  • Please be aware that most TWRP images won’t include your data (Documents, Pictures, Music, …) in backups, as explained here
  • Also, if you have installed Magisk or some other rooting tool, TWRP backups may fail with a #255 error

Flash TWRP on your device

For this document we will assume you have TWRP on your device. If not please refer this document

(Note: add link to document on installing TWRP)

Making a nandroid backup of your device

  • Boot into TWRP recovery
    To get in the recovery the Key combination may be different for each device. Refer the section on the particular device info pages for boot modes

  • For some devices it could be

    Power and Volume Down buttons simultaneously then use the volume keys to boot into “Recovery Mode”

    Backups are fairly large, so if you get an error about there not being enough space, you may have to delete some things on your internal storage or SD card before continuing

  • The backup will take a few minutes to complete, so be patient.

  • Once it is finished, you can tap “Back” to go back to TWRP’s main menu. Alternately you can tap “Reboot System” to reboot back into Android (please read below before rebooting).

  • If you want to backup your personal files (documents, Music, Pictures, …), it’s a good time to do it ! First tap on the “Mount” button, then “Enable MTP” (if the button shows “Disable MTP”, it’s already activated) :


    Hopefully will your PC show your files, so you can copy them :
    f4d724545e8af05023f99cad4011909a89ae5c24_2_690x169
    (note : this may not work with your device as some TWRP’s MTP are buggy, sorry)
    -> Alternatively, you can copy the files to a folder (on SD-Card or OTP storage) using TWRP’s File Manager, tap the “Advanced” button to launch it.

  • Reboot your device to “System” with a tap on the “Reboot” button :

Restore from a TWRP Backup

  • Boot back into TWRP, and tap the “Restore” button on the home screen

  • TWRP will show you a list of your previous backups
  • Tap the one you want and it will show you the following screen.

  • Make sure all the boxes are checked and swipe the bar to restore.

  • The restore will take a few minutes, but when it’s finished, you can reboot your phone back into Android.

Recommended reading

What should I back up in TWRP?

11 Likes

Hi @Manoj, thanks for this another nice howto :slight_smile:

What about What is EXCLUDED from a TWRP backup? ?

If you check the Recommended Reading url…TWRP folks have given detailed explanation on this. BTW the post is editable you can add sections to it.

In fact, it’s not clear to me :frowning:
The “What should I backup” doesn’t mention the /data/media partition.
Maybe is it included with latest versions ?

I have a device with TWRP 3.4.x, I’ll make some testing ASAP and post back.

Take screenshots where possible…we update all to the main guide.

First of all, thank you very much for this HOWTO.

Just to support @smu44 's point of view: my aim is to have a complete (and by complete, I mean a full backup, not a partial one, where a part of my information stored in the device is not included) image of the system, just in case something goes wrong while updating /e/OS. And, as @smu44 said, the documentation from TWRP is not clear enough to the unexperienced newbie I am… let alone that A/B slots that my device seems to have…
Is there a simple way to have such a complete backup, even better if saved externally? Not having had such a parachute (or having one beyond my possibilites/skills/knowledge) is what refrains me from updating /e/OS …

Thank you in advance

1 Like

I just made a TWRP backup of my /e/ Pie santoni test device, using TWRP 3.4.0.0.

It’s now clear that it won’t include user data :


And, while backup is running :

But that’s absolutely no reason to give up on TWRP, which is an excellent tool.
Instead, I think we should try to complement it with a simple solution for backing up user data.

The most obvious (and probably the easiest for beginners) solution would be to copy the files directly to a PC :


However :

  • this method cannot ensure a complete copy (hidden/locked files)
  • this method won’t copy some extended attributes (access times, rights, selinux, …)
  • as Android is to be running, some files may change during copy

I know a method involving GNU tar instead of TWRP’s (busybox), but it’s not meant to be use by beginners as it is far from straightforward :frowning:

So, what ?
the method or tool has to be :

  • easy to use
  • sure (in terms of content reliability)
  • usable from TWRP (to address content volatility and crash-recovery full restoration)

When I’ll have some free time, I’ll give “adb backup” (from TWRP) a try …

2 Likes

You don’t need Android for this, TWRP supports MTP mode, so you can copy the Internal Storage via a USB connection while TWRP is running.
In case the computer doesn’t recognise it right away, TWRP has buttons to switch MTP off and on.

1 Like

You’re absolutely right ! :slight_smile:
I completely forgot the TWRP MTP mode, shame on me.

So, one of the 3 problems is solved :+1:

yes, you’re right again !

But … as far as I know, problems only happens for direct-to-PC backups, am I right ?

Also, a point of attention that I forgot to mention : TWRP backups may fail when Magisk or Shelter are installed (giving a unclear “error #255” message …).

So we may add, as a per-requisite to the HowTo, to uninstall them.

Thank you for pointing out. As I have installed Shelter, I understand this is making it even more complex …

There once was a promising app called Tipatch (Play Store link) that would patch TWRP to also backup internal storage.
Last updated back in 2018 so I figure it might not be useful/usable in this age of A/B twrp-is-part-of-boot-image devices.
But for “legacy” devices it may be an option, especially if one’s TWRP doesn’t have the ability to create a system image (a feature I have yet to try).

EDIT: Oops, I forgot it is also on F-Droid.

Thanks @marcdw, very interesting ! :slight_smile:

F-Droid link is not working, however I could find the dev home kdrag0n and the xdalabs link.
Unfortunately, last post in xda-devs thread reports it is obsolete with TWP 3.4 :frowning:

However, browsing the xdadevs thread, I found something interesting. Also flagged as obsolete, but may lead to a solution … currently investigating !

Edit : hack above is not a solution for us, as it involves patching TWRP image.
I found some “newbie-proof” solutions, involving temporarily renaming the “media” directory : here and here.

1 Like

Hi,

I’ve made some testing here, none of my Shelter-enabled devices show the error.
So I think it’s worth a try :slight_smile:

Hi @Manoj !

I’ve tried to add some improvements to the HowTo, please feel free to roll them back or ask me if unclear.

1 Like

Thanks for the updates @smu44… that is the whole point of having these editable documents so that all users can add edit and update as per their own findings.

1 Like

Hello,
I had TWRP on my FP2 and I guess the installation was easier back then, because now with my FP3+ I am struggling to install it. Even reading a couple of guides and explanations, like this topic, this or this, I am not prepared to make it. Can you recommend a more detailled step-by-step installation guide for “beginners”? Thanks!