The Definitive Guide to Backing up and Restoring your webOS Device | webOS Nation

The Definitive Guide to Backing up and Restoring your webOS Device 25

by Adam Marks Mon, 18 Apr 2011 11:56 am EDT

For any webOS users out there who have had to swap devices, visit the webOS Doctor, upgrade to a new phone, or just wanted to reset their phone, they have probably learned that while your Palm Profile will restore a lot of personal information stored on your device and a list of all your installed applications, it does not save most of the data saved within those application. For those who long for the old PalmOS BackupBuddy-type app that will take a complete snapshot of your device to restore in the future, you are out of luck.  This type of app just does not exist to safely restore your device, especially across different webOS versions.  Luckily, there are many other resources available that will help you almost completely restore your device to its former glory, but it will require you to jump into the homebrew arena.

If you are not into homebrew, there is really only two tasks for you to perform when preparing to restore a new device: back-up and restore the files on your USB drive and the data stored in your Palm Profile.  Unfortunately, this will not allow you to restore the majority of the data within your apps or the progress you have made in your games.  For that, you will be required to know how to homebrew, specifically having both Preware and Save/Restore installed on your device and knowledge of how to use webOS Quick Install.

So for next time you need to set up or upgrade to a new webOS device, this article should serve as the definitive source of steps to follow to properly and safely backup and restore your device.  You can also refer to our webOS Nation Tip Roundup of some advanced Backup/Restore tips that you may want to consider when restoring a new device. In addition, if you are upgrading from a webOS 1.4.5 device to a webOS 2.0 (or greater) device, there is a separate section at the end that will give you some additional information to be aware of during your upgrade.

Backing up your existing device

The first step to being able to transfer your data to a new device is of course creating a back up of your data.  Here are the actions you should perform to back upyour data:

  1. Open the Backup app on your device and perform a "Back Up Now"
  2. While in the Backup app, ensure that you know your Palm Profile email address by swiping down from the top-left to bring the Backup Application drop-down menu and choosing "Palm Profile".  Once you enter your password, you will be able to see (and edit) the email address associated with your account.
  3. Check what webOS version your device is currently running.  To do this, open up the Device Info app and scroll down to the "VERSION" row.  You may also want to open up the Updates app (called System Updates in webOS 2.0) to ensure that you are on the latest version.
  4. Open Preware, refresh the feeds, swipe down from the top-left of the screen to bring down the Preware Application dropdown menu, select "Saved Package List" and click "Update".  This will save a copy of all homebrew apps, patches and other packages you have installed
  5. If you are running webOS 2.0 or higher, you need to ensure that the Voice Dial app is the last app on your first launcher page.  The Launcher script in Save/Restore may not save any items on the first launcher page after the Voice Dial app due to an oddity of webOS 2.0
  6. Open Save/Restore, wait for the app to allow you to select one of the options available, select "Save Application Data" and click "Save Selected" (all apps are selected by default, but you can uncheck any if desired)
  7. Connect your phone to a computer and connect as a USB drive.  You should make a backup of your entire USB drive to ensure you have a copy of all your files, and be sure to make a copy of the "saverestore" directory to your computer
    • Some folders that you should not back up from the USB drive are .app-storage, .palm, and .developer
  8. Properly eject your device from USB mode

In addition to the steps above, here are some additional actions you may want to consider performing to provide some reference of how your old device was set up, as well as ensure that your data is backed up in case of a corrupt Palm Profile backup.

  1. While it can be a bit tedious, you may want to consider taking screenshots of each of your App Launcher pages.  This way, you will be able to determine if any apps were not re-downloaded and to provide a reference if your app icon locations were not restored properly
  2. If you are running webOS 1.4.5 or earlier, you may want to consider making a backup of your /var/luna/data/dbdata/PalmDatabase.db3 file. This file contains a large amount of your Palm Profile data, including contacts, calendar entries, memos and more for you to reference, providing you use a database program such as SQLite to access it.  This can be helpful on the off-chance that there is a corruption with your server backup and your Palm Profile data does not restore.
    • You can use the "Receive File" function in webOS Quick Install or you can copy the file to your USB partition of your device (that would be /media/internal) in Internalz Pro
    • Note that no similar file exists for webOS 2.0
  3. If you have made any additional "tweaks" to your device, such as replacing the boot-up image or the lock icon, you will want to make sure you have a backup for those files as well

Restoring your device

If you are activating a brand new device and do not know what webOS version the phone is running, you should activate the phone with an email address different from the one on your Palm Profile.  This will allow you to gain access to the phone and check the version in the Device Info app.  If the version is different than the one you were previously running (unless you are upgrading to a webOS 2.0 device), you should run the Updates app to bring the device up to the same version as your original device.  Once complete, you will want to reset your device by opening the Device Info app again, scrolling down to the bottom, tapping the "Reset Options" button, and then choosing "Erase Apps & Data".  Once complete, you will be brought back to the main device activation screen.

Once you are sure you have the latest webOS Version on the device, here are the steps that you should follow to restore your data to your device

  1. After a doctor/phone swap, sign back into your Palm Profile with the email address you identified in the "Backing up your data" section above.  You will be presented with a list of all your cloud-based accounts (e.g. Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, etc) that you previously loaded on to your device. For security purposes, you will need to reenter the password for each account.  You can either tap each one now to enter the password, or skip it to proceed with the activation and enter the passwords later
  2. Once your phone resets, all of your App Catalog Apps will start to reinstall and your accounts will resync all their data.  If you have Wi-Fi access, it is highly advisable that you connect to a Wi-Fi network to speed up the download process and conserve any celluar data if you are not on an unlimited plan.
    • Note that apps installed from Palms Beta or Web feeds do not reinstall automatically.  You will need to manually reinstall them
  3. After all your downloads/account syncs are complete, load up your contacts, calendar and memo apps.  If you saved any data to your Palm Profile (as opposed to a cloud-based account), check to make sure your data is there. If your Profile data did not restore, you should call Palm Tech Support as there is a chance they could manually push an older version of your Profile back to the device to restore this information.
  4. After confirming your Palm Profile data did restore to your device, resinstall Preware on your device.  
  5. Using Preware, install Save/Restore back on to your phone.  If you are prompted to install additional dependant packages, install those as well
  6. Connect your phone to a computer, connect as a USB drive, and move your old copy of the "saverestore" directory back onto the phone, along with any other data you backed up.
  7. Properly eject your device from USB mode
  8. Open Save/Restore, select "Restore Application data", select only Preware and click “Restore Selected”
  9. Immediately restart your device.  Among other things, this will ensure that the Preware feeds are converted to the proper webOS version if you are upgrading from an older version
  10. Open Preware.  If there are any "Package Updates", you would be best to install those now.  Once installed, return to the Preware home page, swipe down from the top-left of the screen to bring down the Preware Application menu, choose "Saved Package List" and click "Install All"
    • If the restore hangs for any of the packages, it may be because the package no longer exists in the feeds.  You will need to back-swipe out of the installation screen, reload the "Saved Package List", find the missing package and swipe it to delete it from the Saved Package List.  Tap "Install All" again and continue until all your packages are resintalled.
  11. If you have any apps or patches that were installed outside of the feeds (including any from Palm's Beta or Web feeds), you should manually re-install them Preware, webOS Quick Install, Internalz Pro or any other method you are familiar with
  12. For each app that you plan on restoring data to with Save/Restore, open and close each app one time in order to initialize the cookies and databases for that app
  13. Open Save/Restore, choose "Restore Application data", click "Select All" but uncheck Preware  (as well as any other apps you do not want to restore), and then click "Restore Selected"
    • If you are updating from webOS 1.4.5 to webOS 2.0 or greater, do NOT run the Launcher script.  See the section below for upgrading from 1.4.5 to 2.0.
  14. If Save/Restore did not work for any apps, ensure that the app is installed on your device you have open/closed the app at least once.  
  15. Immediately perform a Luna or Device Restart
  16. Open the Backup app on your device and perform a "Back Up Now" to ensure your backup is up to date with your latest device

At this point, anything that could be restored should be restored. You will want to go through all of the preferences apps (e.g. Screen & Lock, Sounds & Ringtones, etc) to make sure that all of your preferences are set properly.   

If you took screenshots of your Launcher pages, or if you still have your old device, you may want to compare the apps that were downloaded on your new device to ensure that none of your favorite apps are missing. 

General Notes

  • Be aware that a single Palm Profile can only exist on one active device at a time.  When you log into your Palm Profile on a new device, a message will appear on the new device warning you that the old device will be erased and ensure you want to proceed.  The next time your old device connects to a network (either cellular or Wi-Fi), it will indicate that the profile is active on a new device and will wipe the old data.
    • This will wipe the USB portion of the device as well, so be sure to backup your data prior to activating your profile on a new device
    • If you put your old device into airplane mode prior to activating the new device, you can keep your old device running.  This can help set up your new device to ensure all applications download and the icon locations are correct. But as soon as you turn off airplane mode, you device will be wiped.
    • We have heard the same profile will be able to activated on multiple devices in webOS 3.0, but until then, you need to be careful
  • Make sure to backup your Save/Restore data to your computer or an online cloud storage service.  Too many people forget this valuble step which essentially makes the Save/Restore app useless for you.
  • SMS/MMS are now backed up to your Palm Profile on webOS 2.1 and will be restored to your device automatically.  For devices running webOS 2.0.1 or lower, you can use Save/Restore will back up this data to a .html file to refer back to, but there is currently no way to restore this data using Save/Restore.
  • Not all apps are currently supported by Save/Restore, as individual scripts need to be manually written for each app. However, if you have an app that you would like added, please visit the Save/Restore Forum thread and request it.
    • Note that if it is a paid app, you may need to include a bounty so a script writer could purchase the app (read about the bounty system on the first page of the forum thread), or you can try to build a script yourself by following this walkthrough.
  • Many apps require a Luna Restart for the restore to work in Save/Restore.  Even if the app does not state that a restart is required, it's always a good idea to perform a Luna Restart immediately after performing a restore.
  • There are some additional scripts available to provide some enhanced functionality (including ZIPing up your entire "saverestore" directory), but are not installed by default.  Please refer to this readme file for details on what scripts are available and how to access them

webOS 1.x to webOS 2.x

In webOS 2.0, the App Launcher was totally rewritten.  As a result, the locations of your application icons may not be reloaded correctly upon upgrading your profile to webOS 2.0.  While the Save/Restore Launcher script is compatible with webOS 2.0, it will not be able to restore the launcher data if it was originally saved from webOS 1.x.  While you will manually have to rearrange your launcher icons, this process may be made easier if you made screenshots of your App Launcher or you still have your original webOS 1.x device in Airplane mode. Also, when rearranging large numbers of icons, it may also be helpful to use the new Rearrange Launcher Pages functionality in webOS 2.0 to prevent the need to move across multiple launcher pages

Note that once you update to webOS 2.0 or higher, your profile will no longer be able to be loaded onto a webOS 1.x device.

Closing Thoughts

So, there you have it.  All you ever needed to know about safely backing up and restoring your webOS device in almost 2,500 words. If you follow the steps above when restoring a device, you should be able to get back 99% of your data onto your new device. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to complete all these steps, as it may take a few hours if you have a lot of apps or data that need to download.


AHHH! I really thought we would know when we could buy some new hardware.

Actually I thought (way way back in Feb) that we would be able to buy some new hardware by now!

Palm/HP needs to put out an app that makes the migration from a 1.x device to a 2.x device a seamless experience.

They need to put out an app that predicts how long "in the coming months" is.


How does one backup and restore an app from an old device to a new one if it is no longer in the catalog or Preware?

(I understand that doing this for apps that cost money would be considered bad form but I'm talking about a free app.)

Adam -- thanks. Although this information is covered in different forum posts & Wiki articles, it's handy to have in one central place like this.

One general caveat for anyone using their Pre without a Data plan -- you will want to temporarily activate data before doctoring and/or resetting the device. There are ways around this (bypass tool), but, simply having data available is the simplest route.

thx in advance. u can also email me @

Nice would have been very nice to have this in mid-March when I had to do my first Pre Plus swap, but as I'm sure it won't be the last swap I do, it's good to know it's here. Thanks!

What Palm really needs to do is let developers of apps specify which files are the data for those apps, and then have the backup app take everything.

An easy way to do it would be a flag in the appinfo.json file, in my opinion.

The backup app now only takes app data that is stored in cookies, but that's not good enough. It should back it up whether it's a file, a DB, a cookie, or any other method.

I mean, for example, Angry Birds uses a file to save its data. So, even when logging into multiple devices with one Palm Profile is enabled, your TouchPad and Pre 3 will have different save files and not sync. Isn't that counter-intuitive to Synergy?

Besides that, a third-party app like Save/Restore is great, but then its the users who have to specify which files need to be saved to create new Save/Restore scripts. It makes more sense that that would be handled by the developer when communicating with Palm (via the method I suggest above or otherwise).

This is kind of a big hole in webOS at the moment. There is no good way to migrate everything from one device to a new device. PalmOS nailed this with hotsync but webOS has nothing even close. I love the save/restore app but it exists to fill a hole, HP should have something more seamless.

Thanks for the info, Adam. Awesome job!

Having said that, I would like to see HP/Palm come up with a simple, fool-proof way of backing up/restoring ALL of our data, regardless of the source. I want to be able to hand an HP phone to my parents and tell them they have no excuse for not backing up their data! Our current back-up regime is pure torture compared to the ideal. Even HotSync was a lot better than this...

I wish there was a way to backup sms/mms on the 1.4.5. Yes all new WebOS phones will now back those up but those of us that are planning on upgrading an older Pre have no way of backing up sms/mms and call logs to transfer to the new phone.

I thought the backup app also backed up the DB8 data to your Palm Profile. Doesn't it??

This is a joke, right? My goodness, look at all those (complicated?) steps!!

On my Centro (still my phone) I push one button, walk away and 5 minutes later I have a complete backup on my computer. I push another button and I get another complete backup on my SD card. In fact, each morning, BackupBuddy automatically backs up everything to that SD card.

I know this is not a joke, of course, but it's rather insane that after 2 (?) years this is how you back up things - and only 99%!!

I must admit I don't understand the technicalities, but why can't one just get at least a complete computer backup?

Thank you very much for the all-in-one guide. I am tempted to upgrade my Pre Plus to 2.1. And now that promo codes are available, I have one more reason.
As for the hoops you have to jump through, I was wondering. Do any of the other smartphone OSes have a better solution. I know Apple has iTunes for iOS but does that back up everything?

Backing up and restoring everything on Android is WAY easier. There are plenty of apps for backing up SMS/MMS, Contacts, Call history, Bookmarks and other personal settings to the SD card and plenty of apps for backing up installed apps to the SD card. Then after wiping the device or getting a new device all you have to do is reload one app from the Android Market and use it to reinstall all your backed up apps and then use one or more backup utilities to restore your personal data. Some of the backup apps are even able to restore the layouts of your home screens but that depends on what interface you have running on top of stock Android, if any.

This is a good guide if you're mainly wanting to restore what can be restored given the apps that are available to do that (only two: Palm's backup and Save/Restore). We all know they don't restore everything, most importantly to many people, the cherished text messages.

More steps exist in addition to the steps outlined here to completely restore sms, mms, and call logs as covered in the forum posts. The key emphasis is extracting, saving, manipulating and restoring two important files that contain all of these data: PalmAccountDatabase.db3 and PalmDatabase.db3.

This is the thread with all the drippy details:
Make sure to go through ALL pages. And unfortunately for 2.x users this is mainly for 1.4.5 restore.

It's tedious and it sucks to have to spend all this time but if done right, it works. I've personally done it 3 times.

Thanks laoh, I've been through that process, too, and can confirm that it works. But is there any way yet to transfer SMSs from 1.4.5 to 2.x? I'd like to keep them all when I hopefully move to a Sprint Pre3 :-)

I've studied and found out a way to transfer WebOS 1.4.5 sms from PalmDatabase.db3 to WebOS 2.1, but obviously it is still in very alpha stage and much more complex, compared with the Preware+Save/Restore approach. It involves terminal access, sqlite tools and PC-side script.

That's great news! Is there a forum thread on this, because I couldn't find one last time I searched? Keep everyone posted, because I'm sure there are a lot of people interested in making the 1.4.5 to 2.x switch. You should also consider asking for donations or making a paid webOS app + desktop software.

Actually I did the search also, but didn't find much thread related with the the topic, so I thought may be it is just me who is interested to do this. Besides, I am not a programmer, I just studied the WebOS Internals Wiki and Palm Developer Documentation in my spare time to find out the solution which is just a guide to do the transfer, not any software. I think I will start a thread later to share the guide to others who is interested to do the transfer and hopefully there will be developer who is also interested to create a apps for this.

I've blown away and restored my Sprint Pre- and had the device replaced probably 5x or more so I'm very familiar with the hassle of trying to backup and restore everything.

At this point, my preferred method is to install OpenSSHd on the Pre, generate a keypair and copy the public key to the USB partition (/media/internal) and then import it into WinSCP on my Win7 PC and connect to it with WinSCP and then backup the following to my PC:

(All installed apps)

(Web browser shortcuts that were "Add to Launcher")

(Icons for Web Browser shortcuts that were "Add to Launcher")

I haven't had much luck with Save/Restore or with the Preware "Saved Packages List" and reinstalling patches and such that way but maybe I didn't get the order of those steps just right. I've been manually reinstalling all the patches I like after the Palm Profile data is restored.

After reinstalling OpenSSHd on the new webOS instance, I've been able to use WinSCP to restore /var/luna/launchpoints and /var/luna/data/browser/icons and then a luna restart brought those icons back to my launcher.

I've compared the list of packages that came back from the Palm Profile data restore to what I'd previously backed up from /media/cryptofs/apps/usr/palm/applications and dropped the missing folders back onto the device (except for org.webosinternals.patch ones because I'm reinstalling patches manually). After a luna restart, all my missing apps are restored as well.

I'd love to find a way to restore my launcher icon arrangement after reinstalling the "Advanced Configuration for App Launcher" patch and recreating my 8 launcher pages. If anyone knows of a way to bring that data back, please let me know. It's a hassle to have to manually move 270 app icons back to the preferred launcher page and then rearrange all the icons within each page. Or at least it would be nice if there were a way to use WOSQI to rearrange the launcher icons from the PC (similar to what you can do with an iPhone via iTunes, I think).

Here's where I found the locations of the data:

Incidentally I had upgraded my Sprint Pre from 1.4.5 to 2.1 and pretty much all my Palm Profile data restored properly including all my App Catalog applications (both free and paid). However, after doctoring my Sprint Pre- twice with 2.1 and trying several overclocking kernels and various compcache settings, I decided that the reliability and performance problems with 2.1 were unacceptable and I had to go back to 1.4.5. The device would perform okay immediately after a boot but within an hour it would start to slow down to a crawl and lock up and become unusable until I pulled the battery and started over. I got sick of pulling the battery out multiple times per day. I also missed my 4x4 launcher icons and glass effect. So I'm back to 1.4.5 and much happier now. The stacks aren't a big deal for me, the "just type" was slow and didn't add much functionality for me and the voice dialing was a freakin' JOKE compared to my wife's Epic 4G (running Android 2.2 FROYO).

Anyway, after doctoring my phone back to 1.4.5 and logging into my Palm Profile, I found that some of my personal data restored (such as account settings) but NONE of my App Catalog data restored including PAID apps. Ugh. I suppose I should have heeded the warnings and used a separate email address for 2.1. Fortunately, I was able to bring back all my apps, including ones I had purchased using the OpenSSHd/WinSCP restore method that I already described. The only problem is that now the App Catalog doesn't recognize that I've already purchased these apps so it isn't offering to update them when updates are available. It appears that in order to update paid apps, I'll have to buy them again. That sucks.

what do you do when the backup app stops working?
its not doing it automatically, and even with hitting "backup now" it doesn't work. It prepares the backup, but eventually fails. "backup failed". :-(

Had issues with my Sprint Pre- (with webOS 2.1 MetaDoctor'ed) yesterday. I followed this posting to the letter. However, when I got to step #10 in the "Restoring your device" section, the Saved Package List was incomplete. It only had packages beginning with the letters A-J. Everything after "J" was gone! Had to try to remember and reinstall those packages manually. Still don't know if I got everything back now.

This article needs to be updated to reflect a couple of changes since its release, namely, the need to get the App Catalog update installed (see and others) and the change in Google's authentication which took place after 3/31/2014 (see Matt's patch:

Besides that, this is a great how-to (just used it last night to doctor my Pre3). I'd completely forgotten about being able to save and restore my Preware patches and apps en masse; terrific reminder.

I'm trying to keep track of all the stuff you need to do in addition to this here: