How to back up smartphone data

How to back up smartphone data

Our smartphones tend to become indispensable companions, accessed dozens of times every day and packed with personal information.

They quickly evolve into repositories of personal settings, media files and historic communications – some instantly forgotten, others irreplaceable.

Most people only realise how heavily they rely on smartphone data when the device is lost, stolen, broken or due to be replaced.

To prevent any of the above scenarios spiralling into a full-blown crisis, it’s vitally important to understand the basics of backing up smartphone data.

Below, we consider the best ways to copy information off Android and iOS devices, both online and via desktop/laptop computers.


There’s a granular approach to backing up smartphone data on Android, using the ubiquitous Windows folders with their thumbnail file icons.

Plug an Android device into a Windows computer, and it should invite you to share media files or connect (some phones default to USB charging unless instructed otherwise).

Having approved access, the phone will appear as a separate device on the desktop, ready to be explored with a few mouse-clicks.

Files can be dragged and dropped onto the computer individually or in batches – all your video files, or the last month’s PDF downloads.

Android parent Google also offers a more basic version of Apple’s iCloud online storage service, for backing up smartphone data.

Photos and videos can automatically be copied to Google Drive, while files and folders may be manually uploaded.

Everything from display settings and wallpaper to contacts data and calendar events is suitable for backing up.

Media files can be dragged and dropped into a dedicated folder at, while it’s also possible to install Google Drive onto your PC for even greater simplicity.

Uploading data directly from the device to Google Drive is simpler still. It involves installing the app, selecting Upload and then tagging the requisite files.

You could also use an alternative online storage platform, like Microsoft’s OneDrive.

Always conduct uploads via WiFi, ideally when nobody else is using the internet.

(Broadband providers prioritise download speeds over uploads, so each gigabyte of personal data might take some time to complete).


The walled garden of Apple’s iOS operating system makes backing up smartphone data a simpler process – in theory.

On the plus side, automatic synchronisation through iCloud means your information disperses across your iPhone and other Apple hardware via WiFi.

Even if your phone spontaneously combusts, you’ll be able to view key information on other Apple devices.

However, you can’t hardwire an iPhone to a PC or Mac and drag-and-drop individual files.

Backing up smartphone data via USB involves connecting the phone to a computer with the latest version of iTunes installed.

Choose Back Up Now, and everything on your phone will be copied – whether you want every file saving or not.

(The only exception is Health and Activity data, which only copies across if the backup is encrypted with a password).

The iCloud environment also relies on WiFi and a half-decent internet connection.

If you’re stuck with 11Mbps Fibre to the Cabinet broadband, it could take hours (or even days) for the contents of a 64GB iPhone to transfer into the cloud.

Once everything’s online, go to iTunes Preferences – Devices, to view the date and time of your latest device backups.

If you’d rather not use iCloud, online storage solutions like Dropbox provide an alternative. However, these only accept media files – text messages, apps and settings are off-limits.

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