How To: Back up messages, data, and history with Signal


How To: Back up messages, data, and history with Signal

With end-to-end encryption such as that offered by Signal, it is unfortunately not that easy to receive or transfer data if you delete certain apps, change devices, or lose them. Therefore, a short guide on how you can preventively maintain your progress at Signal.

End-to-end encryption is the best protection against access by third parties. This applies to both hackers and the government, authorities, the big tech companies, and even the encryption providers themselves – in this case, Signal. The app provides exactly this protection for SMS, text, voice, and video messages as well as data transfers.

One disadvantage of encryption, however, is that messages are not stored in any cloud. If you change your phone or uninstall the app, you have to make sure that you transfer the messages yourself. What is the best way to do this?

First of all: Unfortunately, you cannot use the app as a standard SMS on iOS. Your messages cannot be encrypted if you send to contacts who are not using Signal. In the app, you can also check which messages are encrypted and which are not.

Installation

The app can be downloaded as normal from the official app portals of Apple and Google. On Android, after installation, you will be asked whether you want to use the app as the standard for SMS messages. If you answer yes to this question, you will then be asked whether you want to import your messages. The messages are then copied from the Messages app (but not deleted there!)

Backups

If you ever want or have to uninstall the app, you should create a backup if you want to keep your messages. To do this, simply go to [Settings] -> [Conversations and media content] -> [Save conversations]. If you click on this option, you will be shown a passphrase that you have to write down in order to decrypt your backup after the re-installation.

Transfer messages and media to other devices

You can also use this backup function to transfer your history between two devices. You simply have to transfer the backup file that you have created to your new smartphone in some way. For example, you can email them to yourself or simply send them over with two email accounts. You just have to bring the file into the appropriate Signal folder in order to decrypt it with the passphrase.

Unfortunately, this function is not available on iOS. This also means that if you uninstall the app on iOS, you have no way of backing up your history.

Signal has therefore developed an alternative function for Apple if you at least change your device. But it is a bit tricky that both devices have to be available to you here as well.

The function is very easy to use. If you log in to Signal with your number with your new device, Signal notices this and asks whether you want to transfer the data. If the answer is yes, the data exchange takes place.

When these methods don’t work

If you lose your old devices or they become defective, there is no way to restore your history afterward. This is one of the major disadvantages of end-to-end encryption. With Signal, there is also the special case that you also lose your history if you change the number. Because your phone number serves as the ID for Signal.

It’s best to keep this in mind when using Signal from the start. You can either make regular backups or you can save individual processes and data in an alternative way.



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