Android backup options are dreadful - Nokia suite needed!

Hi all, A few days ago I reset my Nokia 8 in order to try and fix a uSD card write problem, which appears to have been successful 🤞 What I did Prior to the reset I used Google's cloud backup service, Whatsapp backup to Google drive and also ADB backup to try and make sure that all of my data etc was backed up before I did the reset.

Android backup options are dreadful - Nokia suite needed!

madbilly madbilly
Super User  /  edited April 2020

Hi all,

A few days ago I reset my Nokia 8 in order to try and fix a uSD card write problem, which appears to have been successful 🤞

What I did

Prior to the reset I used Google's cloud backup service, Whatsapp backup to Google drive and also ADB backup to try and make sure that all of my data etc was backed up before I did the reset.

However, after reset when I tried to restore everything I discovered lots of things didn't come back, and these weren't errors, these are "working as intended"! 😡

Google's cloud backup covered the following things:

  • Contacts
  • Google Calendar events and settings
  • SMS text messages (not MMS)
  • Wi-Fi networks and passwords
  • Wallpapers
  • Gmail settings
  • Apps
  • Display settings (brightness and sleep)
  • Language and input settings
  • Date and time
  • Settings and data for apps not made by Google (varies by app*)

*I missed this, and it became important later...

What didn't go as planned?

I did already know that Google backup would not backup my apps which were not from the Play Store, which is why I also used ADB backup. For ADB backup, I used -apk -shared -all -nosystem. Why -nosystem? Well, I was a bit concerned that this would conflict with the Google backup of system app settings. What I did not realise is that apps which used to be in Play Store but have been removed or declared incompatible now (for whatever reason) are not restored - annoying! 😡

What went wrong with ADB backup? Well, the restore didn't seem to work properly, it kept hanging on the last app (I left it overnight more than once). The result was that no apps were restored at all, and it appeared that no settings were restored but later when I installed these apps some of their settings did come back, so it appears that the settings were restored.

This also meant that ADB did not restore any of my shared storage 😲 I used Android Backup Extractor to open up the backup file and see what was in there and found various apps (but not all that I expected to see, see * note above) and some of my shared storage, but not all 😕 This meant that I lost various things like my Downloads folder as well as custom ringtones, wallpapers, etc. Thankfully it did backup my photos and videos, although most I already had backed up anyway. Still, I was pretty annoyed about this and I don't know what went wrong - did the backup not complete or was -nosystem responsible for this?

Whatsapp backup to Google drive worked flawlessly on restore - for once I've no complaints about a Facebook product!

Back to that * - it turns out that this is very important! Many apps don't allow their settings to be backed up, including Firefox which I am mightily peeved about, because although normal Firefox can sync tabs and other info to the cloud-based Firefox account, I'd been using the new Fenix browser which didn't yet have sync-tabs enabled. So, this meant that my long list of tabs and collections (a bit like bookmarks, but not bookmarks, tbh I don't see the point of them) are now lost and no way to recover them 😟 I am a chronic tab-hoarder so maybe there is a silver lining with this! 😆

Another significant app which I hadn't appreciated would not back up is andOTP which I use for one-time-passwords. This meant that I did actually need those recovery codes! Now, where did I put them... hmmm! So, far, I've been able to recover all but one of my online accounts and I'm waiting for support with the final one. At least, that I can remember!

Various other apps didn't have their settings backed up including K9-Mail, so now I've got to go through the pain of setting up my IMAP accounts again, using app passwords, etc. 😒 And Antennapod so my podcast subscription list was lost, I now need to recreate it and redownload the one's I've not listened too yet.

What else could I have done?

Well, I suppose I could have used another third-party backup solution. I had read about Helium and Titanium backup as being the only ones really worth considering. Helium is apparently a front-end for ADB, so I thought there's no need to use it, just use ADB. Titanium is only really any use with root access AFAIK, so I ignored it as I don't have root access (you may be surprised to learn!). TWRP backup is only possible if TWRP is installed and to do this requires an unlocked bootloader, which wipes the phone, so I would need a backup before I did this, so this wasn't an option either.

After my failed attempts to restore I did install Helium to see if it could help me open my ADB backup (it couldn't, FYI), but it is Helium that made me realise that some apps don't allow backup of their settings or APKs. Included in that list are:

  • A photo manager/gallery app
  • CalDAV sync client
  • Any! Firefox product
  • A maps/navigation app
  • An email client app
  • A translation app
  • Network and broadband operator services apps
  • A firewall app
  • Nokia Mobile Tribe!
  • A couple of notes apps
  • A link-saving app
  • Various chat and video calling apps
  • Termux!
  • A DLNA/UPnP server app
  • An IoT app
  • An app which can check what trackers another app contains

That's a lot of apps which don't back up their settings to Google or ADB! Most of them I'm not bothered about but a few posed me some problems.

How does this compare?

So, the second part of the subject of my post - we need Nokia Suite back! Seriously, anyone coming from a Nokia Symbian phone, or even a Windows phone, must be like me, completely shocked and confused about the horrendous state of Android backups. As far as I remember Nokia Suite would keep a backup of everything and everything could be restored. The same was similar for Windows phone, but not quite. IIRC backups were only available via the cloud and not everything was backed up, so in fact it may be more like Android, with the difference actually being in how I used the phone and ecosystem - with Windows Phone I used mainly the Nokia/MS ecosystem whereas I stay as far detached from the Google ecosystem as possible! 😆

So, providing a comprehensive backup and restore option for its Android phones is a great opportunity for HMD to differentiate. This isn't a new idea, I think it's one that has been repeated time and time again on these forums (Vanilla and Freshdesk versions!), I hope that HMD will finally take note and provide something like this - they will find lots of willing volunteers here to test it! 😃

What are your experiences with backup on Android? I hope you had more success than I did! 😆

Cheers 🙂

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I used SMS Backup and Restore for my messages because nothing else backs up MMSes.


  • Goku Black Goku Black
    ✭✭  / 

    Same problem! Recently i formated my nokia 8.1 phone, i used Google cloud backup for full device backup, i backuped all of data which you maintioned , after formated i tried to recover, but it's not possible to recover it , i lost my all sms 😭😭 i trusted on nokia phone, google but they both are ****... Is there any way to get back that data from cloud?

    In my gcloud i can see my nokia 8.1 backup & whatsapp backup but i am unable to restore is wtf? Fix this problem...

  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 

    Hi @Goku Black,

    Oh, that's rubbish, I feel for you, especially losing your messages.

    Have you already connected your phone to your Google account since the reset? Did you enable backup again? If not then don't. If you did, go and see what date the backup is - hopefully it's from before you reset your phone, if so then disable backup in your phone settings immediately - this is to make sure that your good backup in Drive is not overwritten, although I believe it should not be, Google should keep them separate (it has on my phone). You can check the date of your last backup in the Drive app, or in Google Drive in a web browser.

    You need to reset again and during the setup process connect to your Google account and say yes when it asks if you want to restore a backup, then select the backup for your 8.1 before you first reset it. This should restore everything in that backup.

    However, if that backup didn't include your SMSes then unfortunately they are lost. In any case, MMS are lost because Google doesn't back them up for strange reason!

    For Whatsapp, it should restore when you first open it and you sign into your account if your phone is connected to your Google account (because it also stores its backup in Drive). If you didn't restore at this point then I don't think you get another chance, just like with Android backup restore. If you are going to reset the phone again as I suggested in the previous paragraph, then don't do anything with Whatsapp except open it after the reset, log into your account and ask it to restore from the backup on Google drive.

    I hope my explanation is clear and makes sense? If not then please ask questions and also post screenshots if you can. Good luck! 🍀

    Cheers 🙂

  • Goku Black Goku Black
    ✭✭  / 

    @madbilly tnks bro, i chq the date of backup of my divice its day before resetting of my device , i was done yes for restoring all of data what you explained above , but i was unable to restore it! My whatsapp data was seccess fully restored but my device data like sms which are more important , not restored , in my gdrive backup i can see my backup of nokia 8.1 than other backup nokia 8.1 (before resetting phone) whatsapp backup, i dont understand why this happened to me ,

    Also i have one question how do i download that backup / backuped sms file from gdrive??

    I attached some ss hope you ll find out , how do i download that other backups nokia 8.1 backup , plzz help me

  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 

    Hi @Goku Black,

    The only time you can restore a Google backup is when you do the first-time setup after resetting a phone. If you want those SMS back then you will have to reset the phone again.

    If you have new things you have added to your phone since your previous reset then I suggest the following. First, let's consider your April 1st backup as "backup 1" and your backup from your current setup as "backup 2", and your reset after backup 1 as "reset 1" and any following resets as reset 2, 3, etc.:

    1. Backup your current configuration as much as possible (see my post here for some ideas (let's call these backup 2):
    1. Reset your phone (let's call this reset 2)
    2. Restore your backup from 1st April (backup 1)
    3. Disable Google backup
    4. Backup your SMS using an app which allows you to restore them at a later date without overwriting existing SMSes - note I don't know which app does this, you will have to research, but I suggest checking SMS Backup and Restore and SMS Backup+, at least - let's call this "SMS backup 1.5"
    5. Backup/export/copy anything else from your phone which you were missing after the previous reset (reset 1, and let's call this extra backup 1.5!)
    6. Reset your phone again (reset 3)
    7. Restore backup 2
    8. Using the same SMS backup tool as before, backup your SMS (we'll call this SMS backup 2.5) and make sure that it does not overwrite SMS backup 1.5
    9. Restore SMS backup 1.5 and check if it has overwritten your SMSes - if not, then success! If it has then you'll need to ask the app developer how to combine two backups into one.
    10. Restore extra backup 1.5 and make sure you don't overwrite anything else you want to keep
    11. Restore Whatsapp again (this seems to be working well so no need to change it).

    Any questions? Please be careful when following these suggestions because I haven't tested them! ⚠

    Cheers 🙂

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