How To Upgrade To A New Android Phone And Take Everything With You

Congratulations! You just got a brand new Android phone. If you’re lucky, you got a great deal and a huge upgrade form your old Android device. Even so, your old handset has been with you for years and it’s set up exactly how you like it — with all of your apps, contacts, and settings just so. Here’s how to move all of that precious data to your new phone.

For some people, setting up a new phone is fun, but if you just want to get started with your new Android phone and donate the old one or put it in a drawer as a backup, here are some ways to get everything from the old phone to the new one.

We’ve broken this guide into two categories: The first section is for rooted phones, for users who know their way around under the hood of their Android device; the second section is for stock devices, for users who don’t want to go through the hassle of rooting their old phone, or who have a new phone that hasn’t been rooted yet.

Rooted Phones

If your old and your new phone are both rooted already, the process is straight-forward. If you haven’t rooted your device, especially the old one that you’re leaving behind, now is a great time to do it. Check out our guide to rooting any Android device to learn how to root your phone.

Once your phone is rooted, the tools you need will depend on whether you’re moving to a new Android phone that’s the same model or if you’re moving to a new device entirely:

If your new phone is the same as your old phone: Replacement devices are easy. You could pop out the SD card and put it in the new phone, but you’ll find your new phone missing data that lived on your old device’s internal storage.

An easier way is to just take a entire backup of your phone, ROM and data and all, and save it to the SD card or Dropbox, put it on the replacement device and then flash the new phone with the image from the old device. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Head to the Android Market on your old and your new phone and install ROM Manager.
  2. Open ROM Manager on the old phone and select “Backup Current ROM”. You’ll be prompted to give your backup a name and give ROM Manager root access. Your phone will then reboot and begin the backup.
  3. When the backup is complete, your phone will reboot and the backup file will be on your SD card.
  4. Transfer the backup file from the SD card on your old phone to your new phone. You can copy the backup file to your Dropbox account and download it on the new phone, or swap SD cards, or connect both phones to a computer and copy it — whatever’s easier for you.
  5. Open ROM Manager on the new phone, and select “Manage and Restore Backups”. Select your backup file. Your phone will reboot, and the ROM you just created — complete with all of your apps, settings and data-will be restored to your new replacement phone.

It’s worth pointing out that this process essentially images your old phone and then images the new one, assuming the same configuration. If there are significant differences between the old phone and the new phone, or if you’re having problems with the old phone at all, you’re moving them to the replacement device. You should only do this if you’re wiping temporarily, or you’re moving to a replacement phone of the same model due to a hardware issue.

If you’re upgrading or moving to a new device: If both your old and new phone are rooted, the app you need to install is Titanium Backup. We love Titanium Backup, and have discussed how it’s a really powerful tool for automated, hassle-free backups of your Android device.

Shell out $5.76 for the pro version, and you get additional features like the ability to verify your backups, save your backups to Dropbox and a no-click batch restore. You don’t need the pro version to back up your old Android phone and restore to a new one, but having it will make the process much easier and less time consuming — we recommend it.

Once both devices are rooted, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Head to the market and install Titanium Backup on both devices. If you’ve paid for the pro version, make sure you push it to both phones.
  2. On your old Android phone, open up Titanium Backup and grant it superuser rights if prompted to do so. If you paid for the pro version, head into the preferences to enable Dropbox, so your backups can be stored there.
  3. When the app loads, tap the menu button and select “Batch”.
  4. Choose “Backup all user apps + system data” from the batch operations list. Make sure all of the apps you want to back up are selected (or select any that aren’t) and tap “Run the batch operation”.
  5. The backup job will run (and it will take a while,) and when complete you’ll be dumped back to the welcome screen. The backup job will be dumped to your SD card in a Titanium Backup folder. If you have Dropbox configured, tap “Sync to Dropbox now” to upload your backup job to Dropbox.
  6. Transfer the backup to your new phone. If you’re using Dropbox, as long as you have it configured in Titanium Backup, you’re done here. If you’re not, you can transfer the data by copying the folder and its contents from the old phone to the new one via USB-however you do it, make sure it goes into the Titanium Backup folder on the SD card.
  7. Once the data is in the right place on your new phone, head to the welcome screen and tap “Batch.”
  8. Choose “Restore all missing apps + system data”. This way you’ll restore only the apps that aren’t already on your phone, and the data for them. If you have the pro version, the process will take place automatically. If you don’t, you’ll be prompted to authorise each install, one at a time.
  9. Reboot your phone: all of your apps and their data should be right there, the way they were on your old phone.

This method works really well if you’re moving between ROMs, or if you’re moving from one phone that you have set up nicely to another with a number of apps that are already installed that you don’t want to mess with (or that has some newer or different versions of the same apps you had, and you don’t want to disturb them).

Non-Rooted (Stock) Phones

If you picked up your new phone on day one and it hasn’t been rooted yet, or if you just don’t care to root your device at all, you have options too. The tool for the job for you will be Rerware’s MyBackup Pro, available in the Android App Store for $5.07. You could pick up the free version of MyBackup, but it’s a 30-day trial for the pro version, and you can take backups but you won’t be able to restore them. MyBackup Root is also available if you ever choose to root your device, but it’s not necessary for what we’re doing. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Head to the Market and install MyBackup Pro on both your old and new phones.
  2. Tap “Backup” from the welcome screen. You’ll be prompted to back up “Applications and Media” and “Data”. Start with “Applications and Media”.
  3. MyBackup Pro will ask you whether you’d like to back up the data to the SD card, or to Rerware’s servers. We’re going with your SD card, so tap that to move on.
  4. The app will then ask you whether you want to back up just apps or just photos, or both. Check each item you’d like, and tap OK to continue. You’ll then see the name of the backup file that MyBackup is about to create, and you can edit it if you choose. Tap OK to start the backup job. It’ll take a while.
  5. When it’s complete, the app will show you a backup summary of all of the items it’s backed up successfully and where they’re stored.
  6. Repeat the process for “Data”. This time, you’ll be asked if you want to back up your contacts, call log, bookmarks, SMS messages, MMS messages, system settings, home screen, alarms, dictionary, calendar or playlists. Check the items you’re interested in and tap OK to continue.
  7. Again, you’ll see the name of the backup job (which you can change) and you’ll have to tap OK once more to kick off the backup job.
  8. When your backup jobs are complete, it’s time to move them to your new phone. Again, you can transfer the data by swapping SD cards, copying them from one phone to another over USB, or by manually uploading them to Dropbox from your old phone and downloading them on the new phone. However you go about it, make sure they’re in the right folder on your new phone’s SD card (probably in the /rerware/MyBackup folder.)
  9. Once your backups are in the right place on your new phone, open MyBackup and tap “Restore”.
  10. You’ll be prompted to restore either “Applications and Media” or “Data”. Start with “Applications and Media”. The app will search for available backup files on the SD card to restore from, and it should find the one you just copied. Tap it to restore, and the app will restore your previously installed apps, and your music and photos back to their respective directories.
  11. Repeat the process for “Data”, and when that restore is finished your phone should be set up the way your old one was. You may have to re-add widgets and wallpaper to your home screen, but that should be all.

MyBackup Pro is also a great backup application for non-rooted phones. While it doesn’t have the power that Titanium Backup has for rooted devices, it can still back up your apps, data, photos, and other media to your SD card and to the cloud on a regular basis. If you’re leery of rooting your device or your device isn’t supported by any of the one-click root tools (and you’re similarly wary of getting under the hood yourself and rooting it manually) MyBackup Pro is your best bet for a backup app aside from Titanium Backup.


By the time you finish each of these steps, your old device should be intact, and your new device should have all of your apps that you had on your old phone, along with all of the data you’ve saved in those apps. Your text messages, photos and even your call log and history should be populated on the new device, the same way it was on the old phone.

If everything goes smoothly, you’re finished, and you can happily use your new phone the way you used to use your old phone. However, keep in mind that the backup and restore processes may take a long time depending on how many photos, videos, music files or other data you want to back up and copy. Make sure your SD card or Dropbox account (in the case of Titanium Backup) has the space required to hold your phone’s backups before starting, and make sure your phone is plugged in before you start a backup or restore operation.

If something happens on your new phone during a restore, you’re in pretty good shape: you can always revert the phone to its factory settings and try again. If something happens to your phone during the backup process, it’s usually because you ran out of space on the SD card and the app will quit or stop in the middle of the backup. You may have to attach your phone via USB or open your favourite file management app (we like our App Directory pick, ES File Explorer and many of you also suggest File Expert) to free up some space.

All of the apps mentioned above have pretty solid compression when they back up your data, so unless your SD card is crammed full already, you shouldn’t have a problem. I tried all of them on an old OG Droid with the stock 8GB SD card inside and had enough space for all three apps to back up all of the apps and data.

Image: Clive Darr.

Next Steps

Once you have a good, solid backup of your phone, it’s worth stashing that away somewhere just in case you have problems and need to do the restore again. Even better, if your new phone is rooted, grab ROM Manager and do an android backup of your phone when it’s in it’s brand-new, perfectly-configured state the way we’ve outlined above.

This way, if you ever have serious problems with your phone, do something to it so it doesn’t boot properly or need to restore it to a known-good state, you can use the ROM you created after your phone was set up the way you like, complete with your photos and media, instead of restoring it to factory settings.

Option 3: The Long Way

Of course, you don’t have to use an app to migrate your data from one phone to another. System data, like your call log, dialer history and SMS messages, is stored locally on your phone’s internal storage. All of the apps mentioned above will do it for you piecemeal if that’s what you prefer. The same applies for photos, videos, music and other files you may have on your phone’s removable SD card. You can always take it out and move it to your new phone, or just copy that data piecemeal using one of the apps or methods above.

Similarly, a lot of information is stored in your Google Account, including your wallpaper and many of the apps you have installed. If you log in to that account on a new phone, you can go to the Market and push all of the apps associated with your Google Account to your new device. Still, this guide is designed for someone who wants to spend less time setting up their new Android device and start using it as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Do you have a preferred application to get the job done? Perhaps you just prefer to install your apps and set up your new phone by hand? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments below.

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