Complete Backup of Android Device

Last edited: 2023-01-15


Goal: copy all files from an Android device to a Mac computer. This might used while decommissioning a phone before you resell or discard it.

I ended up using adb. Other methods include Android File Transfer and OpenMTP, but both of those failed to copy all the files.

The following was done with Android 13 (Pixel 6a) and macOS Monterey version 12.6.2 (MacBook Pro M1).


Install adb using Homebrew:

brew install --cask android-platform-tools

adb can be installed in other ways, this was the easiest for me.

On the smartphone, enable USB debugging by going to About in settings, and touching the build number until Developer mode is enabled.

On Mac:

adb shell
tar -chzf /data/local/tmp/sdcard_backup.tar.gz sdcard
adb pull /data/local/tmp/sdcard_backup.tgz .
tar zxvf sdcard_backup.tgz


  • /data/local/tmp/ is a writable directory (my phone was not rooted)
  • Obviously, this would require enough storage to create the tgz.
  • tar was used instead of a direct adb pull /sdcard . because the raw pull command stopped as soon as it hit a file that didn't have read permissions for the user. tar skips those with an error message instead of stopping.