How To

How to do Full Phone Backup using ADB?

There are some bad times when a phone just won’t go beyond boot animation, aka boot loop. This is common when you update your phone’s firmware. This is why and how you should keep backups of your device on NAS. Now to backup your data, ADB is the best option you’ve got.

Please note that your phone’s bootloader needs be unlocked before connecting to ADB in recovery mode.

ADB is the swiss army tool when your device refuses to turn on.

Most people won’t find writing commands in CMD or Terminal interesting but, if you follow this tutorial line by line, you may backup your Android device data into your computer.

Must read: 5 Vital ADB Commands You Must Know

How to install ADB into my computer?

First things first, get ADB (Android Debug Bridge) tools for the respective operating systems. Download from Android developer website. From there you will be able to download SDK platform tools for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Now extract the files. There you have the ADB tools right inside your computer.

How to use ADB?

  • Open Command Prompt for Windows or Terminal for Mac/Linux.
  • Now point CMD/Terminal to the directory where you have extracted ADB Platform Tools.
  • For Windows, you will type ‘adb’ and for Mac and Linux ‘./adb’ (without quotes), followed by space and command(s).Mac ADB Terminal

How to create full phone backup using ADB?

  1. First, restart your device in recovery mode and connect it your computer.
  2. Type ‘./adb devices‘ (‘adb devices‘, for Windows) to check if your device is connected. If you can see a device connected, proceed on to the third point.
  3. For full backup, type ‘./adb pull /sdcard‘. This command will copy all your phone data into the platform-tools folder. You can set another backup location with ./adb pull /sdcard <custom-location>‘.
  4. Wait for this process to complete.
  5. Congrats, you have created a full backup of your device without turning it on.

Note: If you want to backup only photos, you can modify the command to ‘./adb pull /sdcard/DCIM‘.

*If ./adb pull /sdcard doesn’t work then check for directories.

  1. Type ‘./adb shell‘.
  2. Type ‘ls‘.
  3. You’ll see a list of root directories. sdcard may be renamed as sdcard0 or sdcard1 so you have to change the above code accordingly.

Please note that this tutorial may not work for some if USB Debugging is not turned on. I tried the above method on my LG Nexus 5 with USB debugging (as well as Developer Options) turned off and the phone was not rooted too. It worked like a charm and I could perform a full backup. Feel free to post your queries in the comment box.

7 replies on “How to do Full Phone Backup using ADB?”

[…] basically pulls files from connected Android devices to the computer, as the name says. You can perform a full phone backup using this single command. Type adb pull <directory-you-want-to-pull> e.g. adb pull […]

[…] When enabled, It adds two more options to reboot your phone into. Recovery and Fastboot. You don’t need these two options right now but when something in your phone goes wrong, You can quickly reboot your device into recovery mode and do the stuff. You can do complete phone backup in recovery mode. […]

Thank you for this post. Very very useful.

I just want to confirm if this process backups all the apps, including they data, configuration and the Android system set up.


No it won’t, at least not in a recoverable way.

Apps also keep their data on the “/data/” partition (and some, perhaps, even on “/system”). Moreover, the data may change during the “pull”, so the apps may happen to be in a half-copied state.

It lets you keep your data in a “non-restorable” way, which is still useful.

Copying the sdcard I can do using linux desktop file manager. Copying root directory, getting all the installed apps & the installed apps data plus all the configurations is not covered by the article. Article only covers sdcard or emulated sdcard contents.

Hi – I’m unable to get the adb pull command to copy any files from my OnePlus 3. The error message is that sdcard is not a file which from the directory listing is correct as it is lrwxrwxrwx so a link file. But selecting a a directory like data does nothing either as the adb pull command finds no files to pull.

So, it’s NOT actually a FULL phone backup. It’s just an internal sdcard backup.

Perhaps you don’t understand Linux. I’m new to it also. Linux, especially Android, tends to do less intuitive stuff with our data. I think with Android, that’s by design, a sort of round about way of getting as close as possible to proprietary incompatibility without actually crossing the line to full on Apple-like proprietary incompatibility.

I need to know how to do an actually full backup using fastboot or adb, if it’s possible. I’ll probably just have to do everything individually.

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