How do I backup my SD card before formatting my phone?

Formatting or resetting your Android phone to factory settings is an important way to reset the device, clear out system glitches, wipe personal data before selling, or solve software issues. However, the process will delete all your apps, files, photos, videos, music, contacts, texts, and other data stored locally on the device (Source). Therefore, it’s crucial to backup your phone before a factory reset to prevent losing valuable data and memories.

Backing up your Android phone allows you to save your important files, photos, contacts, and other irreplaceable data. You can then restore your backups after the reset to quickly get your phone working just the way you had it before. This article will explain the best practices for fully backing up your SD card and key data before formatting your Android device.

Locate the SD Card

The location of the SD card slot varies depending on your Android phone model. Here’s how to find where the SD card is located on some common Android phones:

On Samsung Galaxy phones like the S10, S20, and S21 series, the SD card slot is located on the top edge of the phone. You’ll need to pop out the SIM card tray, and the SD card slot is right below that. Carefully slide the SD card into the slot to insert it (Source:

For Google Pixel phones, there is no SD card slot. The storage is built-in and not expandable.

On LG phones like the G series, the SD card slot is usually located on the top or on the left side towards the top. Pop out the SIM card tray and look below it.

For Motorola phones, the SD card slot is often found on the top edge under the SIM card tray. Moto G and E series phones have microSD card slots.

On Sony Xperia phones, you’ll find the SD card slot on the left side towards the top, along with the SIM card slot.

So in summary, check the top or left edges near the SIM card to locate the SD card slot on your Android phone. Refer to the manufacturer’s manual for your specific model if you’re still unsure.

Copy Files to Computer

One of the easiest ways to back up files from your Android phone’s SD card is by connecting it directly to your computer using a USB cable. This allows you to access the SD card like an external drive and copy files over to your computer’s hard drive or an external backup drive.

To copy files using a USB cable:

  1. Use the USB cable that came with your Android phone and plug one end into the phone’s charging port.
  2. Plug the other end into a USB port on your computer.
  3. On your phone, you may get a notification asking if you want to allow USB debugging. Tap OK to allow your computer to access your phone’s files.
  4. Open the file manager or My Computer window on your computer. Look for a new removable disk labeled with your phone’s model. This is your SD card.
  5. You can now copy and paste files from the SD card to a folder on your computer’s hard drive or external backup drive.
  6. When finished, safely eject the SD card before unplugging the USB cable.

Copying files directly off the SD card ensures you have a complete backup. You can then reformat your phone’s storage without worrying about losing anything important. Just make sure to copy back any files you need after reformatting.

Some file managers for Windows and Mac also make it easy to wirelessly access your Android phone’s storage over USB. Apps like Android File Transfer for Mac or ES File Explorer for Windows allow wireless file management.

Cloud Storage Options

Many popular cloud storage services provide convenient ways to back up your phone’s SD card before formatting. Services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Box allow you to access your files from any device with an internet connection. You can install the app for these services on your phone, then upload files from your SD card to the cloud.

Google Drive provides 15GB of free storage, with paid plans available for more storage. It has apps for both Android and iOS. Simply install the Google Drive app, open it, select your SD card files, and upload them to your Drive account.

Dropbox offers 2GB of storage for free, with paid tiers available. It also has mobile apps. You can select files on your SD card in the Dropbox app and upload them to cloud storage. Dropbox has the advantage of letting you revert to previous versions of files.

OneDrive from Microsoft provides 5GB of free storage, with Office 365 subscriptions offering additional storage. It has an Android app that lets you back up SD card contents to the cloud. OneDrive integrates seamlessly with Windows PCs.

Overall, cloud storage services give you an easy way to create offsite backups of your SD card before formatting your phone. Just install the app, select files to upload, and they’ll be safely stored in the cloud.

SD Card Readers

One easy way to transfer files from your SD card before formatting your phone is by using an SD card reader. An SD card reader is a device that plugs into your computer, usually via USB, and allows you to access files stored on SD cards. Simply insert your SD card into the reader, connect it to your computer, and your computer will recognize it like any other drive. You can then copy files directly from the SD card onto your computer’s hard drive or external storage.

SD card readers come in handy for quick transfers without having to remove the SD card from your phone. Most laptops have built-in SD card readers, but you can also purchase standalone USB card readers. Some card readers have multiple ports to accommodate different card formats like microSD. Look for USB 3.0 readers for faster transfer speeds.

Once the files are copied off the SD card, you can safely format your phone without worrying about losing data. Just be sure to copy back any files you need after formatting the SD card.

Back Up Apps

When formatting your Android phone, you will lose all of your installed apps. To easily reinstall apps later, it is important to back them up first. There are a few different methods you can use to back up your Android apps before formatting your phone:

Use the built-in Google Play backup feature to save app data and settings. Open the Play Store app, tap on your profile icon, go to Manage Apps & Devices, and turn on App Restore. This will automatically restore apps when you log into your Google account on a new device [1].

Back up apps using a backup tool like Helium App Sync & Backup. This will create an APK backup of your apps that can be easily reinstalled later [2].

Manually back up important app data to cloud storage or your computer. Go into each app’s settings to find its export or backup function.

Photos and Videos

One of the most important things to backup before wiping your Android phone is your photos and videos. The easiest way to do this is to use the Google Photos app. Open the Google Photos app and make sure Backup & Sync is enabled in the Settings. This will automatically backup all your photos and videos to your Google cloud storage (you get free storage up to a certain limit). See this article for more details on using Google Photos to backup your Android photos.

You can also connect your Android phone directly to your computer using a USB cable and copy the DCIM folder where photos are stored. This will allow you to copy all photos and videos to your computer. Make sure to copy the folders and not just individual files so you keep the folder structure intact. See this guide for steps on transferring photos via USB.

Once you’ve copied your photos and videos to another location, you can safely wipe or format your Android phone knowing your media is backed up.


Before you reset or format your Android phone, you’ll want to export and back up your contacts so you don’t lose them. The easiest way is to sync your Android contacts with your Google account.

Open the Contacts app on your Android device and tap the menu icon in the top left. Select “Settings” then tap on “Google account” to sync your contacts (source: This will automatically back up your contacts to your Google account.

You can also export your contacts to a VCF file, which saves them all in one place. In the Contacts app, tap “More” then “Export” and select “Export to SD card” or “Export to internal storage” (source: The VCF file can then be transferred to your new device.

If switching to an iPhone, you can transfer Android contacts by first syncing them to your Google account. On the iPhone, go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > Add Account > Google to sync the contacts (source:

Other Files

In addition to apps, photos, videos, and contacts, you’ll also want to back up any important files stored on your device’s internal storage or SD card, such as downloads, documents, music, etc. Android Authority recommends connecting your device to your computer via USB and copying these files over to save them.

You can also use a cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox to upload files from your device for safekeeping. The Google Drive app allows you to easily backup files by going to the app’s menu and selecting Backup. For Dropbox, enable the Camera Uploads feature to automatically back up photos and videos.

When resetting or replacing your device, you can then download these files again from the cloud or transfer them back from your computer. Just be sure important documents, downloads, and other files are included along with your standard app data, contacts, and media when backing up your device.

Final Tips

Before formatting your phone, double check that you have backed up everything you need. Go through your files, photos, videos, music, contacts, and apps to ensure nothing is missing. Also check cloud storage services like Google Drive and iCloud to confirm your data is there.

Empty the trash and recycle bins on your phone, computer, and cloud storage to permanently delete files you no longer need. This will clear up storage space.

Scan through the data folders and storage locations one last time just in case you missed anything. It never hurts to do an extra check.

Once you have confirmed everything is backed up properly, you can safely proceed with formatting your phone knowing your data is stored and protected.