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If you live in the West and use an Android phone then you’re more than likely entrenched in Google’s services. You live your mobile life in Gmail, sort your pictures in Google Photos, write your to-do lists in Keep and balance your books in Sheets.
If you’re fully in on Google (and you may well be without realizing) then you can save documents and access them across other devices with Drive, record your steps and workouts in Fit, and have Gboard remember that no, you never mean to type ‘ducking’.
Thanks to the modern smarts of Android your phone ensures that a lot of your Google account data is backed up automatically. But with such a wide range of devices all running different versions of Android and the ability to access that data across other operating systems, there are steps you can and should take to ensure all of your Google data is backed up.
Consider how much cloud storage you need
When you sign up for a Google account you’re given 15GB free storage space. That means that for no cost you get 15GB of space to use across Google Drive Photos and Gmail. For casual and light use that is sometimes enough, but you may well need to pay for more storage (Google Drive storage is the umbrella under which everything like Docs and Sheets are stored and you can also use the allocation to store non-Google files from any program or of any file type).
In order to backup and store all your Google data you’ll need to make sure you’ve got enough cloud storage space. Google tried to simplify the thinking behind its cloud service by calling it Google One. Google One offers monthly and annual payment options for more cloud storage.
Starting at $1.99 per month for 100GB and going all the way up to $299.99 per month for 30TB (and beyond, if you ask), there is a suitable plan for everyone. The jump from 15GB to 100GB should cover a lot of people and doubling it to 200GB costs just $1 more per month.
Google One’s pricing is reasonable and the pay off is you’re assured of access to your files from any device.
Back up your Google account on your Android device
Your Android phone is likely your main portal to all your Google data so that’s the best place to start. Modern Android phones will back up your data automatically, but here’s how to check. These steps are from a Pixel phone but should work across the majority of phones.
On your phone, got to Settings > Google > Backup. You should see the Back up to Google Drive toggle on by default, with your Google account listed below and the name of your device with the time and date of the last full backup.
Depending on your phone, you can also reach this page by going to Settings > System > Backup.
This settings page is a window into when you last backed up this specific phone to Google Drive, also listing the last Google Photos backup. This will cover most people who mostly use one device, and the nature of Google’s apps means by default they all backup and save your data as you use them.
These backups are usually done automatically in the background, particularly if you mainly use one device constantly. But if you are an infrequent user or are lucky enough to switch between phones regularly then you could make a weekly habit of diving into these settings and tapping ‘Back up now’ to ensure your Google account’s most recent data is backed up.
In this form, you can fully restore your account data to a new phone if you lose yours or upgrade to a shiny new device.
Download your Google account data using Google Takeout
There’s another way to make sure all your Google account data is backed up that’s a lot more manual in the event you have to rely on it, but nevertheless it’s an option, especially if you want to store that data locally or on another cloud storage provider.
Google has a lesser-known service called Google Takeout that lets you export a full copy of your Google account and save it physically rather than in the cloud.
We recommend this step as being used in addition to your phone’s cloud backup to be totally sure your data is regularly saved, not as a replacement. That’s because Takeout isn’t built as a backup solution, but more as a compliance one for organizations with strict data retention and sharing policies. But, if the worst were to ever transpire, Google Takeout could be the difference between preserving thousands of your emails, photos, documents, and files saved to the cloud and them being lost forever. This may sound highly unlikely to you, but it does happen: it is completely possible to get locked out of your Google account forever.
To be clear: there is no magic “Restore from Takeout” functionality that Google offers. This is just the data, raw and largely unsorted.
Visit the Google Takeout page on your computer on Google Chrome. Make sure you’re signed into the correct Google account, and the page will let you select what data you wish to include. This page proves just how many services Google provides and just how much data you won’t want to lose.
We recommend keeping everything selected. Then click Next step to choose file type, frequency and destination. You can select whether to send yourself a download link via email or Add to Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or Box.
It’s best to select ‘download link via email’ as you’ll be able to click the link sent to you and then save the full back up to your computer or external hard drive. If you select Add to Drive, it’ll save an entire Google account back up to your Google Drive, taking up a lot of your cloud storage space.
You can also select whether to Export once or Export every 2 months for 1 year. Then select file type (we recommend the fairly universal .zip format) and maximum file size. If your export is larger than the file size you select, the export process will automatically split your data into several files.
Once you’ve selected your preferences, you’ll be shown the below screen. Your Android device should also receive a notification saying, ‘Archive of Google data requested’. If you’ve gone with a download link via email, you now simply wait to receive it into your Gmail inbox of the account you’re backing up. From there you can download and save the file. It’s a good way to keep an ongoing archive of your Google data.
As you can see, it might take “hours or days” as it depends on how large your Google account is. But it’s worth the effort as Google Takeout is the most comprehensive way of fully backing up all your Google account data. Just keep your main devices backed up too as we showed you and you’ll be covered if phone loss disaster strikes.