As of 2019, the majority of ways to backup your apps on your internal storage (or cloud) are limited or require you to root your phone. But there’s one exception: Helium Backup.
Helium is an Android application – developed by Koush, creator of ClockworkMod – that allows you to backup your apps’ data without root, by taking advantage of the Android built-in backup feature with ADB.
The process is simple but tricky, you need a PC with ADB drivers installed to enable the backup on your phone, that lasts until the next system reboot. Here are the developer’s installation instructions. In this article, I’m going to explain some tips and tricks to make your life easier while using this application. Check the Table of Contents below if you’re searching for something in particular.
The backup/restore process doesn’t work, why?
I’ve started using this app to backup my apps a couple of years ago and since then, I’ve always seen hundreds of negative reviews on the Play Store, saying that the backup or restore process didn’t work and the app is a fraud.
There’s a reason for that, that – in my opinion – should be mentioned in the official instructions, at least to reduce the stress to all the people that can’t figure it out by themself: the game/app you’re trying to backup/restore has to be open.
If you try to backup or restore an app that is not currently open in the background and visible in your recent apps, it will not work. Or more precisely, it will seem like it worked, but not really.
So be careful, and remember to open your apps before every backup or restoration.
Helium Desktop can’t see my phone with USB debugging enabled, what to do?
A pretty annoying thing that I noticed while using this app is that sometimes Helium Desktop can’t detect my phone and therefore enable the backup privileges. The reason is probably one: ADB isn’t actually running on your computer.
Based on most of the tutorials, you should be able to enable Helium by connecting your phone to your PC in MTP or PTP mode, but I’m pretty sure that’s something related to a very small number of devices. So we need to make ADB work.
If you used ADB before, you probably know how to make it run. If you don’t, here’s a quick guide (Windows only):
- Make sure USB debugging is enabled on your phone and Universal ADB Drivers by Koush are installed on your PC.
- Download Android SDK Platform Tools directly from Google and extract the archive on your desktop.
- Open the System32 folder of your computer (C:\Windows\System32).
- Search for cmd.exe and copy it (be careful not to touch anything else there, you could damage your PC). Then paste it in your new platform-tools folder.
- Now open cmd.exe and connect your device via USB.
- Type adb devices in the command prompt and press Enter.
- Allow the computer’s access from your phone.
- And if you followed everything meticulously, ADB should now work.
At this point, you just have to open Helium Desktop and let the magic happen!
Is it possible to enable Helium on my phone with another Android device?
Technically yes, but it needs a bit of work. You need an OTG adapter and your second device has to be rooted. Also, the initial setup could be complicated (depending on your skills). I’ll try to explain it anyway, in case you really needed to know it.
- Download and install the ADB & Fastboot for Android NDK module from the Magisk repository on your second device (you need to install ADB in order to enable Helium, and this is definitely the quickest way).
- Download Helium Desktop for Linux from this page.
- Extract the .tgz file and copy the run.sh file inside your second device’s internal memory. I suggest you to create a folder named Helium in the main directory to avoid confusion.
- Install the Material Terminal app from the Play Store on your second device.
- Turn on USB debugging from the developer options of your primary device and connect it to your second one with an OTG adapter.
Open the Material Terminal app and type the following commands:
su adb devices
The first one is necessary to enable root access to your phone, the second one to start daemon (you may need to allow USB debugging from the popup that should appear on your primary device; if it doens’t appear, try restarting your devices).
Now copy and paste all the following commands and press Enter:
( cp /storage/emulated/0/Helium/run.sh /system/bin cd /system/bin sh run.sh )
The first line selects the run.sh file that you’ve previously placed in your Helium folder and temporarily copies it into the /system/bin folder (this is because we need to execute a sheel script and Android systematically blocks scripts that don’t come from system). The second line changes the current working directory to /system/bin. The third line runs the script.
And there you go. Helium should now be enabled on your primary device.
These were just some little-known hacks that I casually discovered, I hope you found them useful. I will probably update the article in the future to add more. If you need help, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as possible.