With so much of our lives being controlled by our phones, losing or breaking a mobile can be a disaster. Fortunately, if you’re an Android fan, a lot of your data is being backed up automatically. But what does that mean for you? What exactly is being backed up and what isn’t? Today we’re taking a look at Android’s auto back up service so that you know what’s retrievable and what’s not, and what you might want to back up yourself…

Auto Back Up: The Good News

The good news here is that Android and Google automatically back up a lot of your data to your Google account. This is a default setting, though you can change how often your data syncs with your account (go into Settings, Account, Google, then choose your Gmail address to change this). So, automatically, here’s the info on your phone that’s backed up and that you don’t need to worry about:

  • Email, Contact, Calendar, and Docs: all of these are backed up to the appropriate Google tool, your contacts are in your Gmail account, as are your emails, your calendar can be found on the online version of Google Calendar, and similarly your Docs are on the online version of Google Docs;
  • System Settings and Apps or Purchased Content: some of your system settings are also saved, like wallpaper, WiFi passwords, and display settings like brightness and time out. And of course, all of your apps and purchased content (videos, music, etc.) are backed up to your Google account through Google Play;
  • Hangouts Chats: all of these are saved in your Gmail account and can be accessed by clicking on the contact you were chatting with;
  • Chrome Settings: bookmarks, web log ins, everything connected to Chrome is saved in Chrome itself (as long as you’re signed into the browser using your Gmail account);
  • Smart Lock Passwords: if you’re using Smart Lock Passwords for security, your passwords will sync across devices, including app passwords like Netflix;
  • Photos: as long as you’re using Google Photos for picture storage, everything is backed up to the online Google Photos service;
  • Some Third Party App Stuff: some third party apps will also store your data, though this generally involves you being signed into an account. Sign into Candy Crush using your Facebook account, for example, and your game progress will be saved through your account. This is not true of all apps though, so if in doubt check the developers page to find out!

Auto Back Up: The Bad(ish) News

From the above list you can see that your most important data is saved. But there are a few things that aren’t. Firstly, for security issues there are a couple of things that are never backed up. One of these is your Google Authenticator Data. If you’re a fan of two factor authentication, then you’ll need to set this up again if you change to a new phone. The same is true for Bluetooth devices (which will need to be reconnected), and security stuff like fingerprint locks. None of this security data is backed up.

The other big issue is SMS. Your SMS and MMS messages are NOT automatically backed up. For some people this isn’t a real problem, though if you prefer you can back up your SMSs to your Gmail account (a simple Google search will show you how to do this, it’s not complicated).

Finally, there are a couple of small things that won’t be backed up either. For the most part app data or game progress won’t be backed up for third party apps (unless, as mentioned above, that app is in some way connected to an account, such as Facebook). Also, custom settings like alarms and ring tones are generally not backed up either.

Full Back Up Options…

Okay, we’re going to be completely honest with you here. As techie as we are, for the most part we DON’T recommend doing full system back ups of Android products. This is simply because they’re not necessary given how great the auto back up features are. A full back up will take you a fair amount of time, and given how much data is automatically backed up for you, the process probably isn’t going to be worth it.

However, if you do insist on a full system back up, maybe because you want to save your app data and the like, then you do have options. Depending on the kind of phone you have you may be able to get a manufacturer back up program. For example, Samsung phone users can download Samsung Kies to fully back up their devices. If you can’t get a manufacturer backup, then your best bet is going to be downloading an app called Titanium Backup, which is a comprehensive back up system. Be warned though that you’ll pay for the privilege (you’ll need to buy the Pro version, not the free version to get a full back up), and using the app isn’t exactly simple.

Not too long ago we’d be the first people to tell you to back up your phone at least once a month to prevent data loss. However, thanks to Google’s awesome automatic back up system a regular system back up just isn’t really necessary any more. Most people will be more than satisfied with the auto system, and should find that if a phone is lost or broken restoring their data to a new mobile is simple and pretty comprehensive too. A missing phone doesn’t have to be a disaster, if you’re an Android user then you might be out of pocket for a new mobile, but at least your data will be right where you left it when you need it!

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