Thursday, 9 February 2017

Backing up and Restoring your data on Windows 10 Mobile

Recently I needed to reset my phone (Lumia 640) as there was an issue on the particular Insider build that I was on which I hoped the reset would fix. It didn’t as it happened but that’s not relevant to this article. Anyhow, I dilly dallied for a month before I reset my mobile because I was worried that I had no backup for my text/sms messages as the Microsoft App I had used to back them up (contacts+messages backup) wouldn’t work and I couldn’t get any confirmation that messages did backup natively.

Realising there was a lack of conclusive information online, I thought I’d write this quick article to let others know what I didn’t know until recently.

What is backed up on Windows 10 Mobile?

Warning: I am on the latest fast ring insider build so I can’t be 100% sure this will apply to every Windows 10 Mobile version in history, so bare that in mind please.

However, the following should be backed up if you’ve enabled the relevant settings:

·         Text/SMS Messages

·         Call history*

·         Edge favs, reading list

·         Windows Settings**

·         Some of your installed Apps User Data

You don’t need any extra apps from the Windows Store as the above data is backed up natively (inbuilt) in the Windows 10 Mobile OS.

* I’m not 100% sure if call history was restored on my phone due to the inbuilt backup or because I have the TruCaller App installed (whose data is in the app user data backup. See Step 5). So, my recommendation would be to make sure you have everything done in this article before you reset your phone in order to maximise what you get back afterwards. Be prepared to loose some data even if you do all these steps.

** Not all Windows Settings are backed up

Step 1: Things to do as well as backing up

1.       Personal Data Storage Locations

As well as everything else in this article, it’s well worth moving all your personal data to an SD card (hopefully you have one) and changing storage settings so that all subsequent items of personal data automatically get saved on the SD Card. This way when you reset your phone, you can tell Windows to keep everything on the SD Card before it resets.

Under Settings/System/Storage you’ll see a section titled ‘Save Locations’. Make sure all the drop-down lists are changed from ‘This Device’ to ‘SD Card’.

This doesn’t move any existing data so you’ll need to load the ‘File Explorer’ app and moving every folder that you see to the SD Card in order to be sure that you miss nothing out.

2.       Upload all Photos to OneDrive

Open the Photos app, put all your photos into albums and upload them to OneDrive. You can then open up and view your photos there to confirm what’s been uploaded.

One can also use the OneDrive app (available in the Store) to have it automatically upload all Photos to OneDrive for you.

3.       Backup Messages using Microsoft App

The ‘contacts+message backup’ app by Microsoft (available in the Store) is a very good extra way of backing up your messages to the SD Card for safe keeping. If you’re extra paranoid about your messages, it’s worth using.

Step 2: Text/SMS Messages & Call History

In Windows Mobile 8.1 this section was much more obvious but in Windows 10 Mobile I found it all a little ambiguous as to what the OS was actually doing with my messages.

Go to the Messaging App, under settings, and first and foremost sign in with your Microsoft Account.

There is a toggle button option, as shown below, under the wording ‘Sync Messages between devices’.

This wording is confusing but also correct. If you open the messaging app on any other windows device where you are signed in with the same Microsoft account and syncing is on, your messages should appear. This is very handy in order to check your messages from your phone on your Windows 10 PC, for example. However, in reality, I’ve found the messages that appear on my other Windows 10 devices aren’t as up-to-date as they should be. Exactly when a Windows 10 device actually synchronises these messages is a mystery to me. Possibly you may want to make sure you turn off any metered connection setting you may have for your Wi-Fi for 24 hours prior to any reset on your windows devices if you use that setting in order to make sure everything syncs in background. Sadly, I’ve found that turning the sync off/on makes no appreciable difference to messages appearing on other devices.

Anyhow, the important thing to remember here is that if you have turned on the sync button in the Messaging app, you have effectively turned on the ‘backup my messages’ button.

There’s some more official information from Microsoft here

When I reset my phone and logged back into messaging app afterwards, the messages did slowly start to appear in the app. It’s slow and staggered, so come back after 15-30 minutes to check everything is restored.

The Call History in the Phone App was already restored after the reset but I don’t know if that’s something including in the app backup section (Step 5 in this article) in Windows 10 Mobile OS or because the Messaging App had the sync button turned on.

Step 3: Windows Settings

Under Settings/Accounts there is a ‘sync your settings’ option which you should make sure is on well before you reset your phone.

What’s being sync’d here? Again, it’s not totally clear. The url link on this screen takes you to a bing results page that refers to syncing and ‘other windows settings’ which isn’t even an option on this version of Windows 10 Mobile. If you do turn on all three sync buttons here, the text on the screen and on the webpage suggests that all sorts of settings including passwords, themes, web browser settings, device settings, file explorer settings and notification preferences will be sync’d.

Whether these are all actually sync’d based on these three toggle buttons I’m not convinced but there’s no doubt that it’s very much worth turning on as many sync options as possible before a reset so it’s best to turn all these three on in order to maximise what you have when you log back in to your phone after a reset.

Step 4: Edge Settings

Everyone’s favourite Windows 10 Mobile web browser, Edge, has some sync options that (in my experience) work between Windows 10 devices quite well.

Make sure you have this toggle button in Edge/Settings turned on long before you reset your phone:

The sync in Edge between devices isn’t perfect; the reading list is rather unreliable in terms of syncing everything perfectly between devices but favourites sync nicely. Either way, even if they don’t sync 100% between mobile and PC, the chances are that when you reset your phone and you have had this sync setting on, you’ll get a reasonable amount of your mobile edge favs/reading lists back. I can confirm that I got my favourites and reading list back as they were before the reset on my phone.

Step 5: App & OS Data

Under Settings/Windows Update there is a backup option. If you turn all of this on, it will backup data from certain apps to OneDrive as well as certain Windows Settings. I say ‘certain’ because not all apps are supported, plus Microsoft’s wording is vague on exactly what is backed up.

The wording says settings like start menu layout, accounts and passwords, which seems to be very similar to Edge’s sync settings and also vague on what other settings are backed up. Given my personal experience of using these various backup settings, resetting my phone and restoring the data, I’d say a lot is backed up but you’ll still have to do some minor tinkering after you’ve restored data. Minor settings for Wifi, Storage etc certainly don’t get backed up or restored. Over on it also mentions ‘Conversation History’ in the same breath as this backup.

This backup section is VERY IMPORTANT as it appears to be this backup that Windows Mobile 10 looks for after it’s reset your phone.

Before you reset your phone, make sure you have both options ticked on the initial backup screen for ‘back up content from participating apps’ and ‘back up settings like start screen layout, accounts and passwords’:

Then click on the ‘More Options’ link below the latter toggle button and you’ll see a screen like this:

Make sure ‘Schedule backups’ is on and that every toggle button below for each corresponding app that you care about is on.

Then, just to be doubly sure, click the ‘Back up now’ button and wait 5-10 minutes whilst it sends all that data to OneDrive. If you wish to view that the backup is on OneDrive, follow the link towards to bottom of the screen called ‘Go to’. Annoyingly you can only view this backup via this method on your phone. You won’t be able to see this backup in OneDrive on your PC.

When you log into your phone with your Microsoft Account for first time after a reset it’ll ask you if you want to restore backups from OneDrive. You’ll likely need to verify your identity during the restore (I.e. email to your backup email account with a code you need to enter on phone). This particular restoration refers only to the OneDrive backup for settings and app data, not Messaging app backup/sync.

Step 7: Checklist to maximise your backup before a reset

So, here’s everything in one easy list to tick off and implement at least 24 hours before you hit that ‘reset your phone’ button:

1.       Change Storage locations to your SD Card and use ‘File Manager’ to move all folders to the SD Card.

2.       Use the Photos App to create albums and upload all photos to OneDrive.

3.       Use the ‘Contacts+Messages backup’ app to backup text/sms messages to your SD Card.

4.       In Messaging App on phone, log in with your Microsoft account and turn on the sync button.

5.       Under Settings/Accounts enable all three buttons under the ‘sync your settings’ option.

6.       Under Edge/Settings, enable the ‘sync your favourites and reading list’ button.

7.       Under Settings/Windows Update/backup enable both toggle buttons, then click on the ‘More Options’ link, turn on the ‘Schedule Backups’ button and all toggle buttons for each app further down the screen. Press the ‘back up now’ button to back up to OneDrive.

PS – When you do hit the ‘reset your phone’ button it will ask you if you want to keep your data on the SD Card. Obviously you do!

DISCLAIMER – I can’t guarantee that this article is 100% accurate and you’ll get 100% of your data back after resetting your phone.

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