How to Back Up a Windows Phone

Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system attempts to make life with a smartphone easier. Its Live Tiles make it easier to see what apps you should be paying attention to or what services you might want to update with a new status. Automatic picture and contact backup were built into the first version of Windows Phone way back in 2010. In 2015 we have a very different idea of what a complete back up is that goes far beyond what was available in Windows Phone 7. Here’s how to back up a Windows Phone so that if you’re about to install an update or trade your smartphone in for another, you have everything you need.

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Before we begin, it’s important to note that the device we’re using for this example is running Windows Phone 8.1. Beyond being the latest version of Windows Phone available to users, Windows Phone 8.1 includes the most robust backup and restore tools yet. Information backed up includes apps, they’re position on your Start Screen, background, theme and Live Tile color. Email addresses are backed up to Microsoft’s servers too, but that depends on your settings. For example, Windows Phone 8.1 seems to back up user accounts and for independent email addresses, but you’ll need to enter the password for them again.

Even after you do a backup, don’t expect passwords for all of your different apps to sync back to your device if you have to restore it. As such, make sure you know the passwords for services like Facebook, Netflix, Reddit and Instagram since you’ll need to put them in again.

Press the power button on your Windows Phone. Now slide the lock screen upward to unlock it. You may need to put in a PIN code if you’ve added one for extra security.


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Welcome to your Start Screen. There’s no dedicated backup app in Windows Phone 8.1. Instead, you’ll need to navigate to the Settings app. Many people keep the Settings app for Windows Phone pinned to their Start Screen. If you’re one of those people, open the Settings app by tapping on the Settings Live Tile.

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If you aren’t one of those people who keeps the Settings app on your Start Screen, place your finger on the top edge of your screen and swipe down to reveal the Action Center.

Tap All Settings.


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Once inside the Settings app, scroll down until you see Backup.

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Now Tap on Backup to take you to the Backup settings page.


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Tap Apps + Settings.

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Then tap the Off Switch to turn it on. From this point on all of your most important Windows Phone settings will be stored in OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. Settings backups include the wallpaper you’ve assigned to the start Screen, any Internet Explorer passwords you’ve saved, where and which Live Tiles are on your Start Screen and a few others. Windows Phone 8.1 added the ability for developers to back up settings for their apps too. That’s include in this, though there aren’t a lot of apps in the Windows Store that take advantage of this yet. If you’ve never backed up your Windows Phone, now is a good time to press Back Up Now button. Press the Back button to continue turning on Backup options.


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Tap Messaging and turn on Text Messaging Backup by tap on the switch. If you want, choose the time span for restoring messages to your device. Press the Back button.

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Now tap Photos and Videos. Photos and Videos backup is a little less simple than its counterparts. Before turning it on, you’ll need to decide on how great of an image you want to back up. By default, Photos and Videos are backed up in “Good Quality” automatically. This means that your Windows Phone is uploading backups of your photos that aren’t really as good as the original you took. For some this is fine, it saves on data usage, for example. For others, memories are important and pictures taken with their smartphone are the best ways they have of preserving those memories. It’s for that reason that I recommend turning on Best Quality photo backups. These backups only happen over Wi-Fi so they don’t blow your data cap.

Choosing which to use for Videos is simpler. There’s only one option for backing up videos and it’s “Best Quality.” It’ll only use Wi-Fi, preventing you from absolutely blowing your data plan.

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That’s it, you’ve successfully backed up your Windows Phone. There’s no further setup. Windows Phone will take over backing up for you, automatically copying what you have installed and more to OneDrive on its own. I’d still recommend coming back to the Backup area and doing a manual backup if you’re about to do a big upgrade.