Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Using Helium to copy data to another phone

Note; if you're using a Lollipop phone, look at the "Tap & Go" feature.

One very nice feature of the BlackBerry smartphones were the ability to perform a "real" full backup of your phone.  This way, you can either reset to factory settings or change phone without losing a single bit of data.  Now that we're using Android phones at work, I had to find an alternative and of course, it would not have to require the phones to be rooted.

I decided to try Helium (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.koushikdutta.backup&hl=en) and it did a good job.  However, I haven't found a good tutorial on how to use the free version.  I don't mind spending 5$ for a great application, but I thought I'd try the free version first.  The local backups were quite easy to do, but since my goal was to transfer the data to another phone, it was getting quite complex.  You cannot use cloud-based storage for your backups with the free version and you cannot tell Helium to send the data to the "real" sd card instead of the default location.  So here is what I did:

  1. Perform backup (many steps required here... well documented on the 'net)
  2. Copy "carbon" directory from my phone's storage to the SD card
  3. Removed the SD card from my current phone
  4. Inserted the SD card to the new phone
  5. Copied the carbon folder from the SD card to the new phone's storage
  6. Opened Helium on the new phone, went to the "Restore and Sync" section, selected "Internal Storage"
  7. Failure: Helium could not find any backups
I found another way which is quite simple: Use the Helium integrated web-server to perform backups and recovery from your PC.

Backup:
  1. Once Helium is working, launch it an go to the three dots on the upper-right corner
  2. Tap "PC Download"
  3. Take note of the Helium Server's address (example: http://192.168.0.197:5000)
  4. Open a browser on a computer that is on the same network as the phone
  5. Enter the address (http://192.168.0.197:5000 in this example) in the web browser
  6. You should see a web interface with a Restore and a Backup restore
  7. To perform a backup, you simply select the apps you'd like to backup, and then click "Start Backup". Note: your phone's messaging and calls history is located in "Messaging Storage"
    1. Make sure you make the right apps choice, because I don't see a way to decide what apps you restore using this restore (while using the app you can)
    2. I recommend leaving the "Backup App Data Only" box unchecked.  This way, the .apk are also backed up.  A lot easier when copying to another phone.
  8. This action will create a backup.zip file on your computer.
Recovery:
  1. Peform steps 1-6
  2. You can either drag'n'drop a file in the grey window that is in the "Restore" section, labeled "Drop backup file here."
  3. You will see the list of the apps that will be restored
  4. Click on "Restore"
  5. You will probably be prompted by your telephone to allow the change of the messaging application, say yes.
  6. Wait.  It is quite long but you should get a message on your phone when the restore is completed
Pros of using Helium:
  • Does not require root
  • Free version usable for most scenarios
  • Backups of applications and data
Cons of using Helium:
  • Not very instinctive
  • Does not backup all the phone's settings
What does the Pro version offer?  According to what I've read:
  • Cloud storage for backups/recoveries
  • Scheduled backups

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