How Backup & Restore Works in Windows Phone 8.1

When it comes to restoring of Apps, SMS and settings of your phone, Microsoft took a middle path. Instead of rolling out complete device restore, they introduced an inbuilt feature which takes care of most important stuff to be backed up. This included SMS, Pictures (Auto Upload), App installation and so on.


Start with Windows Phone 8.1, few important things are added to existing Windows Phone 8 Backup / Restore System which will help both users and developers in long run. Here is the list of new features:

  • App Backup : The developers who opt in for this feature can save data to the cloud. So when restoring, the same data can be used to get the users exactly where they left.
  • Phone Settings :  Start Screen Layout, Theme Color, Browser Favorites, Accounts without passwords.
  • Text Messages :  This is exactly the same except now you can choose to download based on duration which could be as long as one year to one month or any time.

Backup Settings on Windows Phone

How to Configure the Backup Settings?

These features are available under Settings > Backup where you can change and opt-out for some. Though we highly recommend you to back everything, here are the details for apps+settings. 

  • Settings Backup ON/OFF
  • App Backup ON/OFF
  • Device Name with last backup time. (Information Only)
  • Manage Backups can be used to delete previous backups. Now, you have two checkboxes along with a delete button. The first check box is for Settings backup and second for App backup.

Warning: If you choose to delete, restore will not be possible unless you choose to backup again.

You also have settings for Text Messages and Photo. Remember photos are not restored, but the option lets you keep uploading picks to OneDrive which you can access anytime from anywhere.

Where is the Windows Phone Backup Stored:

It’s OneDrive for App Data. When you go to Settings > Backup > Apps + Settings > Manage Backups. You will see a grayed out checkbox. Right under that it will show you the storage used for backup on OneDrive. As an example for me, it was “Using 1.11 MB / 28GB from One Drive.” The phone settings seems to be on Microsoft’s own server.

Manage Backups on Windows Phone

Precaution: That said, always make sure to hit the backup button before you go ahead with reset. It’s important because backup is only periodical.


After a reset, if you want to restore, you will have to use the same Microsoft account which you had used on the phone before and made a backup. Also suggest you to connect to a WiFi network to get things done faster and easy on your mobile data.

Restoring Windows Phone

During setup, you will have the option to sign-in or skip. If you want to restore, don’t skip. If you skip some of the backups like app data, accounts, app installations, start screen layout will not be restored. Only SMS and your phone settings will be back which will be limited.

Start Restoring Windows Phone

If you choose to sign-in, you will have option to choose the backup of your device, followed by a big longer wait for everything to complete.

What was restored.

  • Theme, Color, Start Screen Color, Background image, Passwords after verification, Notification Settings Ringtones and Favorites.
  • Some of the key apps from Windows Phone like Data Sense, Storage sense settings wasn’t restored. This was surprising.
  • SMS and Call Logs with every small detail including call duration.

The apps were downloaded only over Wi-Fi. However,
if there is an app you cannot wait for, go to the app list, tap the app and then download it over your mobile data.

Start Screen Layout Apps in Background

What happened to the apps moved to SD Card :

This turned out to be my biggest disappointment. Even though the SD card was not formatted and I had 3 big games in SD card. Not sure why MS skips to recognize games and save even the data over WIFI. Security issue? I doubt that. When the apps are installed from SD card. They are verified with your account, checked for updates and then installed.

SD Card Other Storage Issue

It seems when the phone is reset, it kills any association with SD card. They aren’t recognized by the OS anymore and moved to Other Storage. I have like 2.28 GB in other storage as of now.

Summary :

That said, there are few major changes done to backup and restore. Specially with sync for themes, password included, it gives enough option for users to get back to almost where he left his phone. Once all the developers implement app data backup, this will be seamless. I hope something gets done for the SD card as well.

A die-hard fan of Windows, PC Gaming, and Xbox. He is a seasoned content writer with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He is a specialist in writing about Windows, software reviews, troubleshooting Windows, and automation.


  1. Windows Phone 8.1 has a horrible bug with WiFi, the only way to “correct” it is by a hard reset. I did a back up before restoring and now when I try to restore the phone with my back up it says that there is no back up on OneDrive. I lost almost everything….

  2. Backups seem to not work for me. When I go to my account to check the (Settings -> Options -> Device Backups) all I get is one line:
    “Sorry, an error has occurred.”

  3. hi….i updated the software from windows 8 to 8.1.Unfortunately i didn’t move contacts from phone to sim.Now no contacts will be there.My bad time I forgot the microsoft account password tooo….what i do now?

  4. If I reset my phone, does it automatically recover my backup on Messaging Threads? Or should I turn-off first the Text message backup in the setting or should I keep it ON .. Help please, I’m confused.

  5. Keep the text backup on. Just before doing the reset, make sure to hit the backup again. It will recover everything.

  6. I need help. I am connected to a wifinetwork. I dide make some backups but still when i restore my phone theres no optuon to restore from backup. Microsoft documentation is scarce and does not relate to what happens in my case for some strange reason

  7. You can restore by resetting the phone, then during setup you need to connect to WIFI, and sign in with the same account you were connected prior to reset. You will have an option to select a backup.

  8. Microsoft still needs to offer a more complete backup and more options. I had a work iPad and I backed it up, and restored it. Everything was restored. All my apps except KIK where just like I never reset the device. I picked up right where I left off in a few games. I can go into backup settings and decide which apps not to worry about backing up data to. The last time I reset my Windows Phone, all my Xbox Music playlist were there, but I had to upload all the music back to the phone. My photos don’t restore to the phone, and I have to re-download them from One Drive. I’m just happy to have my layout, text, and call history.

  9. What happens if you’re asked to verify your account upon reset, and Microsoft wants to contact the phone you just reset?

  10. In that case it appears one should use the “call” option, not the text option immediately after reset, since calls can be received, but not SMS.

  11. I do agree on the SMS part. However you can switch from text to call or email as well. The Call works fine even though the phone is restoring itself, while the email option is the best if you have access to near by PC.

  12. hello. i have problem with backup. backup percentage is 100% but have notification “There was a problem backing up your setting. Try again later”. Can help me? Sorry for bad English. I’m from Indonesia

  13. unable to sign in microsoft account when restoring back my windows phone,try sigin later skips the process and restore a few apps that came with the phone.

  14. password is ok coz i can sign in on computer,the issue is that when i click the button to sign in disappears though i can sign with Exchange online mailbox(office 360) but the problem cant restore.


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