How to make a full backup of a Windows Phone 8.1 handset

Backing up your Windows Phone 8.1 before resetting, replacing, or upgrading to Windows 10 Mobile preview.

Backing up Windows Phone 8.1

When you need to reset, upgrade or replace your phone, one of the most important thing you should do is to backup all your accounts, apps, settings, and files. Windows Phone 8.1 comes with built-in tools that can help you to create a full backup very efficiently.

With Windows 10 out the door, Microsoft is also building a new version of its operating system for phones and many users are jumping in to try the preview. However, many users are failing to realize that because Windows 10 Mobile isn’t a finished product and has a lot of issues. Thus chances are that after a few days users may want to rollback to Windows Phone 8.1, and the only way to do that is by reinstalling the operating system, which will wipe out the phone. Therefore, if they don’t have a backup, all their data, settings, and apps will be gone.

Although, there is not a “make a full backup” button on any phone, Windows Phone 8.1 provides various options to backup everything on your phone to OneDrive, including Apps + settings, Text messages, and Photos and videos.

Below you’ll find the instructions to backup everything on your phone:

Backup Apps & settings

Using the Windows Phone 8.1 backup tool, you can save your account passwords, call history, Start screen layout and theme color, Internet Explorer favorites, custom words you’ve added to your phone’s dictionary, apps installed in your phone, along with scores and progress from apps optimized for Windows Phone 8.1. Settings around your phone, including photos, messaging, email and accounts, lock screen, Speech preferences, and a lot more.

Before moving to any of the Windows 10 for phones previews, take a few minutes to make a backup of all your stuff by following these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Backup

  2. Tap Apps + settings

  3. Make sure you turn on Settings backup. To make a backup of your apps also make sure to turn on App backup.

Backup text messages

If you don’t want to lose your SMS and MMS, you can back them up to OneDrive, then when you restore your phone, all your conversations will be back in the same place. Keep in mind that deleting a message from your phone also deletes the message from backup.

  1. Go to Settings > Backup

  2. Tap Text messages, and the turn on Text message backup.

Backup photos & videos

In Windows Phone 8.1, you can also automatically upload photos and videos to OneDrive. To configure this settings do the following:

  1. Go to Settings > Backup

  2. Tap Photos + videos, and choose from the following options:

    • Don’t upload: If you do not want to automatically backup your photos and videos to OneDrive.
    • Good quality: Compresses the files before uploading them to OneDrive. (This setting uses less cloud storage space.)
    • Best quality: This option uploads photos and videos in all their integrity.

Wrapping it up

Once you configure the settings to backup your apps, data, and settings to OneDrive, backups will occur automatically when connected to a Wi-Fi network. Of course, you can force to make a backup at any time from the same settings location.

The instructions detailed in this guide works on any phone or Lumia device running Windows Phone 8.1. The time to complete the process will always vary depending on the device, internet connection, and data to be backed up.

Now that you have everything backed up, you can safely reset, replace your phone or upgrade to Windows 10 for phone preview knowing that you’ll be able to restore all your data and settings.

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About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].