How to backup WhatsApp: Quickly save chat messages

Most of us are afraid of losing our phones or having it stolen. But for those who use WhatsApp, a lost phone can also mean lost chats, lost pictures, lost documents, and lost memories. Since the app stores all of your messaging data locally on your device, you could be out of luck unless you’ve made a backup that you can recover from. Here’s how to do just that.

Also: How to quickly transfer your WhatsApp chats to a new phone (without a backup)

Why you should keep a backup of your WhatsApp account

The reason for creating a WhatsApp data backup for your account is straightforward: in case you lose access to the device(s) you use to access WhatsApp, you’d want to be able to load all your chats onto a new device.

Typically, WhatsApp servers don’t retain successfully sent messages. In situations where they do temporarily store messages that couldn’t be immediately sent, all communications are end-to-end encrypted in a way that ensures even WhatsApp and its parent company, Meta, cannot read them. Unsent messages and media are ultimately deleted after 30 days. Consequently, that means all WhatsApp content is stored locally on your phone. We’re not just talking about texts, but photos, videos, reactions, stickers, and a lot more. If you don’t have your existing phone, importing a backup onto a new one is the only way to bring all those conversations back. The app facilitates backups to users’ Google Drive accounts for Android users and iCloud for iOS users and allows you to have those backups updated frequently and automatically.

Also: WhatsApp might let you switch between accounts on a single device

How to create a backup for your WhatsApp account

Backup your WhatsApp messages on Android

On Android, WhatsApp will opt to store and update any backups to the Google Drive storage that’s associated with a Google account logged into your device. To create a backup:

  1. From WhatsApp, tap the three-dot icon on the top-right corner and select Settings.
  2. Select Chats and then Chat backup.
  3. Under Back up to Google Drive, you’ll need to select an update frequency other than Never. You can select as often as daily or only when you tap the Back up button on the screen.
  4. Under Google Account, make sure you’ve selected the right account to store your backup with. Make sure you have enough storage in your Google One plan.
  5. You also have toggles to Back up using cellular (at any applicable cost per your service plan, of course) and Include videos – WhatsApp indicates the cumulative size of the videos it is currently storing.
  6. Once you have those settings set up, press Back up to perform a backup.

Backup your WhatsApp messages on iPhone

On iOS, WhatsApp stores and updates backups with your iCloud account. To do that with your iPhone:

  1. From your system settings, navigate to your Apple ID profile, then select iCloud.
  2. Flip the toggle for iCloud Drive if it’s not on already, then the toggle for WhatsApp.
  3. Then, from WhatsApp, tap the three-dot icon on the top-right corner and select Settings.
  4. Select Chats and then Chat backup.
  5. You can select Back up now to perform a manual backup and/or turn on Auto Backup for scheduled backups.
  6. There is no toggle for cellular backups, but the one for Include videos is there.

Also: How to lock WhatsApp on iPhone with Face ID or passcode

How to encrypt your WhatsApp backup

You might have noticed that we haven’t discussed end-to-end encrypted backups yet. This feature ensures that your backup remains unreadable by humans when accessed through your cloud storage account. When encrypting your backup, you will be required to establish a password or a randomly-generated 64-character passkey. It is crucial to remember this credential when loading the backup onto your new device. To encrypt your backup:

  1. From the Chat backup menu, select End-to-end encrypted backup.
  2. Select Turn On and then select whether you’ll use a password or a passkey.
    • For Create password, your password needs to be entered twice for confirmation and must contain at least six characters with one letter.
    • Selecting Use 64-digit encryption key instead takes you to a screen. Tap Generate your 64-digit key, then press and hold your key and select Copy to copy it to your clipboard or you can take a screenshot instead. Store that information safely. Press Continue and then I Saved My 64-digit key.
  3. You’ll enter a final confirmation screen. Select Create.
  4. Perform a backup immediately to replace your unencrypted backup in storage with an encrypted one.

From this point, you can unencrypt your cloud backup or, if you’ve set a password up, change your password. For those who want to switch from a passkey to a password, that is also possible. All of these actions can be performed by selecting End-to-end encrypted backup from the Chat backup menu.

  • Unencrypt: Select Turn off and enter your passkey or password. If you’ve forgotten or lost that credential, select I lost my encryption key/password and you’ll be asked to authenticate into your device as a security measure. Select Turn off once again.
  • Change password: If you want to switch to a password or change an existing password, select Change password. You may be prompted to recall your current password, but that won’t be the case if you decide to switch away from the 64-digit key. You can also bypass the password recall step by selecting I lost my encryption password and authenticating into your device.

Also: How to delete and clear WhatsApp chats

How to import a WhatsApp account backup

It’s the point of no return. You have a new device and don’t have your old device to turn to. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Make sure your new device is linked with the same phone number and Google Drive/iCloud account as your old device.
  2. Open WhatsApp on your new device, select Continue, input your phone number and then select Next.
  3. WhatsApp will first generate and display a six-digit passcode on your old device where you are still logged in. Select Need help getting a code? and then Send SMS or Call me to generate a new passcode to verify with.
  4. Once that’s done, you’ll be prompted about your backup. Select Restore.
    • If you’ve encrypted your backup, you’ll need to enter the password or passkey to confirm your identity. Otherwise, the backup will not load.

Also: How to use WhatsApp on two phones

Can I open and view my WhatsApp data with a backup?

Nope. Backups live on your Google Drive or iCloud account in their own little cordoned-off area and aren’t exactly user accessible or human-readable as they are, especially if your backup is encrypted. But even if you don’t have an encrypted backup, it’s not as if you can just unzip your backup and see all your WhatsApp threads. If you do want to do something like that, you have the option to export individual WhatsApp chat threads.

How to export a WhatsApp chat thread

In addition to having a user-readable archive of conversations with your favourite people, the ability to export chat threads also comes in handy if you don’t need the full contents of your WhatsApp account.

There are two ways to select which chat to export:

    • From your WhatsApp home screen, select the conversation you’d like to export. In the top-right corner, tap the three-dot icon (⋮), then More, and then Export chat.
    • From your WhatsApp home screen, tap the three-dot icon (⋮), then Settings, Chats, Chat history, and Export chat. Select the conversation you want to export from the list.
  • You’ll be asked whether you want the export to Include media or go Without media – this includes photos, videos, and voice chats. Selecting an option begins the export process.
  • Once completed, you will be prompted by your device to share or store your backup through another app. If you want to open the messaging thread, make sure your program supports .txt files.

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