1. AC Question's Avatar
    I have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon), and am trying to back it up completely (in the early stages of switching to a new phone). For better or worse, I've never rooted this phone.

    So, naturally, I want to back up all my data. For most of the data I care about this is easy.

    But I'm surprised though to find that, for SMS / MMS messages in particular, Android makes this difficult. I'm surprised because in general I'm a big fan of all things Googly, but it seems like someone was asleep at the wheel on this one.

    Anyhow, I want to find out what best practices are for backing up SMS and MMS messages on a non-rooted Android phone.

    Here's what I've attempted.

    1) Copy mmssms.db sqlite file directly

    I've read that the messages are stored in a sqlite dbs named mmssms.db on the phone. So the ideal solution would seem to be to simply copy the mmssms.db database right off the phone and access it with an sqlite viewer.

    In theory I'd use root explorer or other file system viewer to get there, adb shell to cd to the right spot, or adb pull to copy it to the PC.

    However, since I never did root this phone (in the interest of security), the data directory is off limits.

    I'd root the phone at this point, just to get at that db file. But from what I can tell, I'd wipe the data by doing so. (Or am I missing something on this point? Is there a way to get su / root access to the data dirs without wiping the phone's data, or having a significant risk anyway of doing so?)

    I tried the "cat" trick (good ol' Linux 'cat' to copy the dbs to an unprotected location on the file system) which I've read sometimes works, but the permissions didn't work in my case. I also tried adb pull, but again, my phone denied permission to that too.

    2) ADB backup

    I did at one point enable USB debugging and get ADB bridge going. I can do adb shell and get to the phone. I've also in the past made ADB backups. (Didn't require root.)

    But I seem to have had this mistaken notion that "full!" or "backup everything!" options, actually meant, you know, "full!" and "everything!", not just "kinda sorta full!" and "kinda nearly sorta everything!" But what I'm finding out now is that apparently even the "full" backup option isn't really FULL, it doesn't include SMS / MMS messages. The SMS / MMS messaging app apparently has a setting in its manifest that explicitly says not to include it in "full" ADB backups. So the data just isn't in those backups.

    3) Samsung Kies

    This CAN backup SMS and MMS.

    Unfortunately, in a very iSomething kind of move, this uses a proprietary format, .sbu. I've seen extractors for this format but these seem to only be able to get some of the data, and SMS/MMS are not among the stuff that's been extracted successfully.

    So unless your goal is to switch from one Samsung phone to another, this seems worthless. I'm more interested in just keeping the old SMS conversations archived in a future-readable format on a backup disk, not necessarily moving the old threads to a new phone.

    I did read that when you attempt the restore it extracts somewhere, and those extracted items can be harvested. But that sounds risky. Attempt to restore the phone... with a copy I can't verify... overwriting the original source copy... hoping that the copy left littered on my system is actually full and accurate... but if it isn't, by the time I know that, I've blown away the original. Not exactly best practices for data safety.

    4) Apps on Google Play store

    It's starting to look like this may be the only way to back up SMS and MMS messages from a non rooted phone.

    The problem I've had is that there are so many of these apps, none of them is "official", all of them seem to have different quirks, and levels of support. I have great admiration for comp sci students in the Netherlands, but sometimes students give up on supporting things, apps fall into disrepair, competitors and scammers create identically named apps with viral payloads, etc. In short, it's hard to tell which of the dozens of apps named "SMS Backup" actually is the good/best "SMS Backup" app that someone recommended on a forum, and that that recommendation is accurate and honest. And it feels weird that there isn't a more official solution-- if one of these were supported by Google that'd be different. It feels like going to a carpet bazaar in Marrakesh to get a key duplicated for a Toyota.

    I also really want to have the file saved locally. The general concept of backing up messages to GMail is kind of cool, but feels error prone, and I've read that there are limitations and unreliability, ie thread count limits to approaches based on this.

    5) Are there any other options?

    Can anyone can offer me a dope slap and tell me that I'm just missing something obvious? Is there some low-risk-of-bricking, low-risk-of-losing-data method of adding SU capability over ADB to an unrooted phone, for instance?
    08-20-2015 11:51 AM
  2. anon8380037's Avatar
    Hello. I have used SMS Backup + for years. Enter your Gmail address and it appears in a folder on your Gmail inbox, and you can forward them with time stamps as if they were emails. I am not a big fan of clouds, Google or Gmail, but this way they are always accessible on my pc browser.
    08-20-2015 07:59 PM
  3. siphonsiphon's Avatar
    Thanks for the recommendation of SMS Backup +!

    I ended up going with "SMS Backup & Restore" by Ritesh Sahu. It was also highly recommended in a lot of places, like SMS Backup +, but it creates backups locally as xml files. So I created a local XML and then was able to xfer that from the phone to the PC and read there with an XML viewer. It seems to work great so far, and it also seems to handle MMS messages and photo attachments.

    Now that I've at least got a copy of the messages I'm probably going to go ahead and risk rooting with one of the "should work without data loss, but small risk of bricking" methods.

    I'm still a little baffled that there isn't a more official method than this, for someone who hasn't rooted, though.
    anon8380037 likes this.
    08-21-2015 01:35 AM
  4. anon8380037's Avatar
    Thanks for the recommendation of SMS Backup +!

    I ended up going with "SMS Backup & Restore" by Ritesh Sahu. It was also highly recommended in a lot of places, like SMS Backup +, but it creates backups locally as xml files. So I created a local XML and then was able to xfer that from the phone to the PC and read there with an XML viewer. It seems to work great so far, and it also seems to handle MMS messages and photo attachments.

    Now that I've at least got a copy of the messages I'm probably going to go ahead and risk rooting with one of the "should work without data loss, but small risk of bricking" methods.

    I'm still a little baffled that there isn't a more official method than this, for someone who hasn't rooted, though.
    Yes. There is a guide to that one here
    [GUIDE] SMS Backup & Restore
    but I hadn't used it. Thanks for the info.

    If you haven't gone ahead yet, check out some rooting guides in Android Central Lounge - General Help and How To - Ambassadors Guides Tips and Tricks. You can ask questions there.

    You should try the newer Samsung Smart Switch pc program which I think include SMS in a backup file. Whether it's in a format you don't like at least they will come back if bricked, I think!
    08-21-2015 07:55 AM
  5. Crashdamage's Avatar
    Please, read this, it might help

    Transferring EVERYTHING - Android Forums at AndroidCentral.com

    The link Madd54 gave is very good.

    Android since v1.0. Linux user since 2001.
    anon8380037 likes this.
    08-21-2015 08:30 AM

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