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While there was no integrated backup functionality in Windows Phone 7, things have changed for the better with Windows Phone 8.

Windows Phone 8 uses SkyDrive to automatically backup your device settings to the cloud, similar to how your Windows 8 settings are backed up, when you use a Microsoft account for login. (See: Your life, connected through the cloud)

With such a backup you can restore your previous configuration, which for example can be necessary after a reset of the phone, a firmware upgrade, buying a new phone or if your Windows Phone 8 doesn’t work or respond as expected.

Microsoft provides two short and easy to understand articles in the Windows Phone How-to that you should read:

Unfortunately you will not get a full backup of your phone, here is what gets saved:

  • App list and settings
    • The list of apps you’ve installed on your phone.
    • Your call history.
    • Your theme color.
    • The accounts you’ve set up on your phone.
    • Your Internet Explorer favorites.
    • Settings from around your phone, including photos, messaging, email and accounts, location, Internet Explorer, lock screen, Speech, and more.
  • Text messages
  • Photos and videos

Microsoft is also very clear about how the backup works:

  • Your phone will wait for a Wi-Fi connection to automatically save backups. If you don’t connect to Wi-Fi for a week, any changes to your App list and settings will be saved using a cellular data connection.
    • Read: If you do not connect to a Wi-fi network, your backup can be up to 7 days old.
  • Backup saves the apps on your phone, but it doesn’t save any data associated with the apps.
  • Start will reset to its default set of pinned Tiles when you restore.

Things that annoy me about Windows Phone 8 backup

The Windows Phone 8 backup and restore process has still a lot of room for improvement.

  • There is no option to store your backup on a local hard drive. You can only use the cloud.
  • Except for photos and videos you have no control about the location where your data is stored. You wont’t even see it in SkyDrive. The only option you have is to delete it completely via the settings menu on your phone.
  • Although every file transfer from and to SkyDrive is encrypted via SSL, no encryption is imposed at rest. (See: SkyDrive Review on Encrypted File Storage)
  • Microsoft automatically scans your uploaded pictures using its PhotoDNA scanning tool to ensure that no illegal files are stored on SkyDrive or files to are non-conform with their Code of Conduct (nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga, content that is protected by intellectual property laws, …)
  • After initial setup / restore (when you see the home screen) you should go to Settings > WiFi, otherwise all the re-downloaded apps will be downloaded over your cellular network. The phone will not ask you for WiFi settings, like the iOS setup process does.
  • You will have to re-enter passwords for some of your settings. For example for these accounts:
    • Facebook
    • Exchange Accounts (Gmail, Office 365)
  • In my test with a Nokia Lumia 920, not all settings were restored, following was missing:
    • Nokia Account
  • If you have Apps, they will loose their settings / passwords, for example:
    • 4th & Mayor, Mehdo, Nextgen Reader, …
      • However there are apps like CNN that use SkyDrive directly to create their own backup.
    • Authenticator (!) – You better have your backup codes for Google 2-step verification at hand.
    • Authenticator – You may need to scan a personal document with photo and send to the Blizzard support.
    • IE default search provider will be reset to Bing (was Google when I backed it up) while bookmarks (favorites) will be restored just fine.
  • You will have to re-select and re-download the maps the had been stored for offline usage.
  • You will have to re-select and re-download the files for voice support.
  • Wallet still knew my payment options (restored via Microsoft account) but had forgotten the PIN that I had set up for protection.
  • In order to have a backup of your start screen, you will have to create screenshots of it and then restore it manually, step-by-step.

I hope that at least some of this annoyances will get addressed in a future update for Windows Phone. It should work more like the iPhone backup. 😉

8 Responses to “My experience restoring a Windows Phone 8 backup”

  1. Hasan

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Apple really have a good backup and restore experience. It’s like a complete image of your phone.

    I really hope Microsoft will enhance their backup to include applications’ data too.

  2. Andy

    Thanks for that – Saved me a long time trying to work out how to do the things it doesn’t!

    Do you know if the 8.1 update does it any better?

  3. John Mark

    How can i restore my backed up stuff on my HTC 8x windows’ phone after the initial reset process.

    I need to retrieve my messages, photos and app listings that i backed up before the phone reset.

  4. ubuntu

    Your way of explaining the whole thing in this paragraph is actually fastidious, every one be capable of effortlessly understand it, Thanks a lot.

  5. Nico Viergever

    The Restore was impossible to do. I had to receive a text but the Phone was obviously not fully operational when in the restore mode. So I could not receive/read the text containing the code. Not well thought through!

  6. Chris Bates

    What an awful experience. Just had a replacement 930, but the staff involved completely misrepresented the backup, so I lost a whole load of music, and didn’t get my home screen as it was…. Although they had said I would. Cannot wait to end my contract and go back to iPhone. Should never have moved away….

  7. Paul I

    Restore really needs to be accessible without having to reset your phone everytime, for some reason all sms threads have been wiped from my phone for the second time in just over a year, cannot restore from backup, tried on a spare phone and although there is a back up it doesn’t seem to include the texts, very frustrating, I was considering the 950/XL but feel like downgrading back to my PureView 808 after this! Paul


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