Backup And Restore Your Android Phone With ADB (And rsync)

Based on my previous scripts and inspired by two blog posts that I stumbled upon I tackled the “backup all my apps, settings and data” problem for my Android devices again. The “new” solutions both use


  instead of

adb pull

  for file transfers. They both use ADB to start a rsync daemon on the device, forward its ports to localhost and run rsync against it from your host.

Simon’s solution assumes your phone has rsync already (e.g. because you run CyanogenMod) and can become root via

adb root

. It clones all files from the phone (minus






  etc.). He also configures udev to start the backup automatically when the phone is plugged in.

pts solves the setup without necessarily becoming root. He also has a way of providing a rsync binary to phones that don’t have any (e.g. when running OxygenOS). He also has a few tricks on how to debug the rsync daemon setup on the phone.

I’ve tried to combine both methods. My approach doesn’t require adb or rsync to be run as root. It’ll use the the system’s rsync when available or temporarily upload and use a backup one extracted from Cyanogen OS (for my OnePlus One). Android won’t allow you to 

chmod +x

a file uploaded to


, but in


it works. ?

The scripts will currently only backup and restore all of your 


directory. Assuming you’re also using something like Titanium Backup you’ll be able to backup and restore all your apps, settings and data. To reduce the amount of data to copy it uses rsync filters to exclude caches and other files that you definitely don’t want synced (


  files anyone?).

At the moment there’s one caveat: I had to disable restoring modification times (i.e. use


 ) because of an obnoxious error (they will be backuped fine, only restoring is the problem): ?

mkstemp “…” (in root) failed: Operation not permitted (1)

Additionally if you’re on the paranoid side you can also build your own rsync for Android to use as the backup binary.

The code and a ton of documentation can be found on GitHub. Comments and suggestions are welcome. ?

Build Rsync for Android Yourself

To build rsync for Android you’ll need to have the Android NDK installed already.

Then clone the rsync for android source (e.g. from CyanogenMod LineageOS) …

git clone
cd android_external_rsync
# checkout the most recent branch
git checkout cm-14.1

… create the missing


build file (e.g. from this Gist) and adapt it to your case

… and start the build with

export NDK_PROJECT_PATH=pwd ndk-build -d rsync

You’ll find your self-build rsync in


. ?

Update 2017-10-06:

  • Updated sources from CyanogenMod to LineageOS.
  • Added links to Gist and Andoid NDK docs
  • Updated steps to work with up-to-date setups

If you get something like the following warnings and errors …

./flist.c:454:16: warning: implicit declaration of function 'major' is invalid in C99
                        if ((uint32)major(rdev) == rdev_major)
./flist.c:458:41: warning: implicit declaration of function 'minor' is invalid in C99
                        if (protocol_version < 30 && (uint32)minor(rdev) <= 0xFFu)
./flist.c:467:11: warning: implicit declaration of function 'makedev' is invalid in C99
                        rdev = MAKEDEV(major(rdev), 0);
./rsync.h:446:36: note: expanded from macro 'MAKEDEV'
#define MAKEDEV(devmajor,devminor) makedev(devmajor,devminor)
3 warnings generated.
./flist.c:473: error: undefined reference to 'makedev'
./flist.c:454: error: undefined reference to 'major'
./flist.c:457: error: undefined reference to 'major'
./flist.c:458: error: undefined reference to 'minor'
./flist.c:467: error: undefined reference to 'major'
./flist.c:467: error: undefined reference to 'makedev'
./flist.c:617: error: undefined reference to 'major'
./flist.c:619: error: undefined reference to 'minor'
./flist.c:621: error: undefined reference to 'minor'
./flist.c:788: error: undefined reference to 'makedev'
./flist.c:869: error: undefined reference to 'makedev'
./flist.c:1027: error: undefined reference to 'minor'
clang++: error: linker command failed with exit code 1 (use -v to see invocation) 
make: *** [obj/local/armeabi-v7a/rsync] Error 1

… you probably need to update


and change





Android Backup and Restore with ADB

Updating my OnePlus One recently to Cyanogen OS 12 I had to reset my phone a few times before everything ran smoothly … so I wrote a pair of scripts to help me copy things around.

It uses the Android SDK’s ADB tool to do the copying since the Android File Transfer Tool for Mac has a laughable quality for Google’s standards.

Update 2018-11-22:
Since the scripts became more sophisticated I moved them to a proper project on GitHub.

Android Headphones With Volume Buttons

N=2 is a important milestone in any empirical data set. I’ve now successfully tried two “Galaxy compatible” headphones with volume buttons with my Nexus 5 and I can now say with confidence:

All “Galaxy compatible” headphones work with a Nexus 5. 😉

I’ve actually tried the following headphones:

  • Samsung EHS64
  • Sennheiser MM 30G

Both the call/mute and the volume buttons work.


Nexus V

Nexus 5 Package
Nexus 5 Package

I’m happy … I received my new Nexus 5 just last Thursday. You won’t believe how amazing this 3 generation leap feels … remember I’m coming from a Nexus S. 😉 I had the chance to toy around with it over the weekend and I must say: I like it. It’s well-built. It has a beautiful screen. The software is top notch (at least if you’re not as paranoid as I am).

The screen resolution is a funny matter, because the Nexus 5 is now second rank at home. Only losing to a Retina MacBook Pro. 😉

What I like:

  • It’s blazingly fast (at least generally 😉 )
  • The screen is gorgeous
  • I can now run Firefox as my main browser without killing all other apps 😉
  • Going to alarms with a swipe (in the Clock app) is a relief
  • Configuring app icons and widgets on the home screen is well done

What I don’t like:

  • I’ve come to miss several niceties of CyanogenMod over the years
  • You can’t get rid of the Search bar on the home screen (yes, I know the “home screen” is part of the “Google Search” app now)
  • The speaker (yes, only one) is crap
  • You need a special desktop app to copy files over USB, WTF?!?
  • I need to start some apps twice, because they crash the first time 🙁
  • It comes without a headset 🙁
  • The abandonment of core apps on favor of Google flavored ones (like integrating the home screen into Google Search, mixing basic SMS with Google Hangouts or transferring G+ avatars in the Phone app)
  • Google Play Music can only play the first 69 minutes of “long” MP3s, WTF?!?

Still not sure:

  • Battery life on work days
  • The devices sturdiness
  • SMS in Google Hangouts

I’m so used to CyanogenMod by now that I miss several niceties it provides over the stock Android experience:

  • Getting the Notification Center or the Configuration Tiles depending on which side of the top bar you pull
  • Directly executing actions (e.g. turning WiFi on/off) by tapping Configuration Tiles
  • Making the device behave like an ordinary USB stick when connected to a PC
  • Having something like App Guard
  • Having the ability to give apps root (mainly for Helium, AdBlock Plus)
  • Superior music player
  • Auto-unlock when the PIN is correct

None the less, I’m happy. 🙂


Battery life seems fine, even after a day of moderate use.

CyanogenMod together with Open WhisperSystems just revealed secure messaging will be baked into CM. This will allow you to send encrypted messages to others through any SMS/messaging app. 🙂