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How do you restore data from a backup on a Samsung Galaxy phone?

restore data from a backup on a Samsung Galaxy
Need backup: but can you get all your data back?

Good question. And one I was forced to answer for myself when my phone suddenly turned into a nuclear reactor last week, massively overheating and burning through my battery at a rate of 10% every half hour. It seemed some Google process got stuck and it was time for a complete factory reset. But how do you restore data from a backup on a Samsung Galaxy phone? Strap in. Here’s how.

Make sure you’ve got a backup

The first question to ask before you attempt to restore a backup is have you got a backup in the first place. Samsung Galaxy owners are (confusingly) presented with two backup options: the Google backup offered to all Android handsets and Samsung’s own cloud backup. In the end, it was the Samsung backup that (partially) came to the rescue for me, although I’m not sure whether having both backups running was the root cause of my borked restoration.

To check which backup services are running on your phone, go to Settings, Cloud and Accounts, Backup and Restore. Here you will see two options: Samsung’s and Google’s.

Samsung Galaxy backup

You can see whether the Google backup is switched on from this screen. To check Samsung’s backing up everything, click Back Up My Data and make sure all the things you need to be backed up are ticked.

Samsung Galaxy backup

The general rule of thumb is stick with one backup service to avoid conflicts. Samsung provides no warnings about having both switched on, though. If I had to pick, I’d go for Samsung’s, as the recovery process on Samsung’s handsets is (surprise, surprise) geared towards its own service. However, I if I were planning to move to a new handset manufacturer, I’d back up on Google, as you can’t restore a Samsung backup on other people’s devices.

Restore data from a backup on a Samsung Galaxy

Now for the crunch: restoring data once you’ve reset the phone or moved to a new handset.

In theory, Google’s backup is meant to restore all your contacts, messages apps and their data automatically. There’s meant to be an option to choose which device to restore from when you go through the setup procedure on your new or reset phone. While I distinctly remember seeing this option when I upgraded to this handset last year, it wasn’t there this time. The only option presented to me was to restore from a Samsung backup. I reset the phone twice to make sure.

Eventually, then I decided to restore from the Samsung backup. But here too I hit problems. Attempting to restore all the data repeatedly ended in server error messages. These not-so-helpfully reminded me to re-attempt restoring the data before the handset took another backup or my data would be lost. Thanks a bundle, Samsung.

In the end, the only way to get some of my data back was to do it piecemeal. Instead of choosing to restore all data, I ticked only the boxes to restore apps, contacts, messages and phone history and did each of these individually.

This retrieved all the phone/contacts/messages data, but the apps were only partially restored. Many of the apps I had previously couldn’t be restored (WhatsApp, Ring, Waze amongst many others).

It wasn’t a massive hassle to go back to the Play Store and retrieve them. And given that most apps store their data in the cloud these days, nothing hugely significant was lost. But was this a seamless backup and restore? Absolutely not. I hope you fare better. Let me know how you get on in comments.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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