RIM BlackBerry How To: Back Up and Restore Handheld Data

Backing up the information on your BlackBerry regularly can be the difference between a minor headache--temporarily missing contacts--and a full-blown catastrophe--permanently deleted personal data. Follow these four simple steps and avoid the later scenario.

Anyone who has ever experienced the pain of losing all the data on a PC or handheld intimately knows the value of backing up personal information, whether it's an iTunes music collection, digital photo album or address book. This can be easier said than done, but BlackBerry users are in luck: The handheld data backup and restore process for Research In Motion (RIM) smartphones couldn't be simpler when you use the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, which ships with every new RIM device.

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Our previous BlackBerry tips of week included list of our favorite BlackBerry downloads--free, open source and otherwise--keyboard shortcuts for both novice and expert BlackBerry users and battery life advice, as well as tips and tricks to help you understand and optimize--even expand--your RIM smartphone's memory. This week we'll demonstrate how you can protect the valuable data on your BlackBerry by backing it up on your PC's hard drive--we'll even show you how to automatically backup your device data in preset intervals.

To get started, all you'll need is your BlackBerry device, the latest version of RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager, a Microsoft Windows PC--the desktop software's not currently available to Mac users--and a USB cable to link your mobile phone and computer.

1) Download the Latest Version of RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager

First, you'll want to download the latest version of RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, which at the time of this article's time of publication is v4.5. To determine which version of Desktop Manager you're currently running, launch the program via Windows Start Menu by clicking All Programs, BlackBerry and Desktop Manager. When the program's open, hit the Help tab on the main screen and then choose About BlackBerry Desktop Manager. The software version will be listed on the General tab.

Backup and Restore icon from RIM BlackBerry Desktop Manager

If you're not running Desktop Manager v4.5, visit RIM's site and download and install the latest version of the software.

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2) Launch Desktop Manager, Connect Your BlackBerry and PC

Next, launch the desktop manager software if you haven't already done so. Follow the procedure detailed above to open the program if you didn't choose to create a desktop shortcut upon installation. When the program is running, connect your BlackBerry device to the PC via USB cord. Close any dialogue boxes that may appear when your BlackBerry is connected, including the desktop manager box that informs you it's searching for application updates.

Your BlackBerry should now be connected to the software and the word "Connected" should appear in both the top and bottom left corners of the desktop manager screen. If you're still not connected, try unplugging the device and inserting it into another USB port.

3) Backup All or Some of the Data on Your BlackBerry

Click on the Backup and Restore icon in the top right corner of the desktop manager home screen. The following screen should offer three separate options: Backup, Restore and Advanced. To save all the personal data stored in your BlackBerry's internal memory, hit the Back up tab, choose a name and location for the file and hit Save. The backup process should take about a minute, and your BlackBerry screen will display a graphic of a connected handheld and PC while it's in progress.

image of BlackBerry Desktop Manager transfer screen on handheld

You can also set your BlackBerry Desktop Manager to automatically backup device data in preset intervals (5 days, 7 days, 14 days, etc.) whenever you launch the program and connect your smartphone and PC. To do so, click the Options tab beneath the Backup icon, and on the following screen fill in the box next to Back up my device data automatically every XX days. Then choose the specific data you want backed up. For instance, you can opt to back up all of your device data, or all data except messages and/or data that's synced with an organizer app. When you've selected the information you want to copy, hit OK and then click the Back up tab on the main screen.

To further customize the specific information you wish to back up, click the Advanced tab on the main Backup and Restore screen. You'll quickly see a dialogue box that displays the application's progress scanning your device database, and then a screen with two columns appears: one column on the left named Computer Databases and another on the right titled Device Databases. In the right column, select the specific device data you wish to backup and then hit the left-facing arrow between the columns to copy the information from the Device Databases side to the Computer Databases. Once you've transferred all the data you wish to copy, open the File dropdown menu--located directly above the Computer Databases column--choose a name for your backup file and save it to your hard drive.

4) Restore Data to Your BlackBerry Using Desktop Manager Files

Restoring BlackBerry device data using the desktop manager software and backup files created using the application isn't difficult at all. First, you'll want to locate your backup files so they're easy to find when you try to restore data. Next, launch the BlackBerry Desktop Manager, click the Backup and Restore icon in the top right corner and on the next screen, and choose Restore. Browse to the appropriate backup file on your hard drive and click Open. You'll then be asked to confirm that you wish to replace all the existing data on your device with the information in the backup file. Hit Yes, and the desktop manager starts restoring your data. This can take several minutes depending on the amount of information in the file.

image of Computer Databases and Device Databases from BlackBerry Desktop Manager

Restoring only specific device data, such as address book contacts or custom AutoText entries, is similar to the above-mentioned process, but instead of hitting Restore on the main Backup and Restore screen, click Advanced. Then open the File dropdown menu on the left--directly above the Computer Databases column--and open an existing back up file. Choose the specific data you'd like to restore from that file and click the right-facing arrow between the Computer Databases and Device Databases columns. When the progress box disappears, your data has been restored and you're good to go.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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