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What Android data is automatically backed up

We use our devices for everything these days, with many of us likely not being able to do our jobs or get through our lives without the help of a smartphone or tablet. Contacts, emails, notes, apps — they have them all, and we rely on their presence more than we’d probably like to admit.

Just thinking about it, it’s tough to imagine how we would handle life if everything that was stored on our phone suddenly disappeared. Hopefully, you never have to worry about it, and because our devices do such a good job of backing things up on their own, chances are even if disaster struck you wouldn’t lose it all.

For the most part, Android devices back up a lot of important information on their own, so there is nothing to worry about there. Other things are backed up only if you choose for them to be, and some generally can’t be backed up at all.

What you deem to be important is, of course, a personal decision, but regardless, here is a look at what falls into which category:

Android’s got your back(up)

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With help from the cloud (and a Gmail account that you must set up and add to the device when you get it), Google will automatically store plenty on its own:

  • Contacts, email, .docs and calendars
  • Some system settings
  • Chrome browsing data
  • Hangouts chat logs
  • Apps and other purchased content
  • Some third-party app data
  • Smart lock password data
  • Photos

Should your phone be lost, destroyed or anything in between, you will not need to worry about any of these being gone forever. What’s best is you will not have to do anything to back them up, since it is an automatic feature of Android devices.

Everything is saved and associated with the corresponding Google service, so, for instance, your bookmarks, passwords and everything else associated with your web browsing would be saved in Google Chrome, whereas your photos would be stored in Google Photos.

Other services, like Hangouts, store chat logs within Gmail, while apps are linked to your Google account.

What it comes down to is the things you could least-afford to lose will not be lost. No matter what happens, you will be able to move on to a new device and pick things up pretty much where the old one left off.

To save these, you will have to do some work

  • Text messages
  • Google Authenticator Data
  • Custom settings, Bluetooth pairings and security data

In some ways, it’s probably for the best that these do not automatically get saved. That’s not to say you cannot back them up — because you can — just that they’ll require some work from you.

When it comes to text messages, you will need an app like “SMS Backup & Restore” or “SMS Backup+,” both of which are highly-rated and free in the Google Play Store. There are other options, of course.

When it comes to things like authenticator data, Google does not store that online simply for security reasons. Therefore, should you have to start anew, you will lose the ability to perform two-factor authentication until you set it up again.

You will, however, be able to authenticate through SMS or a printed authentication code, which will allow you to then set up a fresh device with updated Google Authenticator codes.

As for your custom settings, Bluetooth connections and other security data, there’s not much you can do there. That shouldn’t be the end of the world, though. Just make sure you remember your passwords.

And then there are these

  • Game progress
  • App settings

Certain things can be saved, though it’s more of a case-by-case basis. Games that make use of the Android Backup Service or require a Facebook or Google-type login will be remembered by whatever Android device you play on, but some will see your progress come to a halt the moment you change. It really depends on the game.

As for apps, some will back up by default, but others will have a setting you will need to change. If saving what you have is important, you will want to go into the app and browse through its settings to see if that option exists.


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