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Take Back Your Apple or Google Data

January 17, 2022

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Cloud storage is an important part of keeping your data from being accidentally erased or from disappearing in any kind of disaster. In most cases, cloud storage is a cheap (or even free) way to set up an off-site backup that is secure and up-to-date. Google and Apple give you a small amount of storage for using their platforms, but it’s hard to use this data without keeping it in their apps. In recent years, both Apple and Google have offered ways to download all of your data from iCloud and the Google Suite. It’s obviously a good thing that Apple and Google allow you to get a copy of all of your data from them, but if you’re migrating between one and the other, or if you want a usable version of the files, there are a few things to consider before you download all of it.

Google’s Takeout and Apple’s “Download your data” option

Both companies supply an option to download all of your data from them, but this option is more of a data dump than it is a backup. For Apple, this will include things like data from your Wallet, support history, media and retail activities, in addition to your actual files, contacts, and email. Google Takeout includes “data about registration and account activity,” as well as your entire music library from YouTube Music, Google Assistant Shopping Lists, etc. If you are interested in (or paranoid about) what kind of information these companies are keeping on you, then you can get a copy of everything. Here’s Google’s help page on how to download your data, and here’s an article about Apple’s Data & Privacy menu. It should also be noted that Apple’s process takes up to a week to collect all of your data, so be prepared to wait a bit. These options, however, do not keep all of the data in a nice and tidy format for every type of file and every app. For instance, using Takeout to download an archive of your photos from Google Photos results in a folder for each day that images were created and albums they are in (making them redundant), and packages metadata changes in .json files. If you are backing up to have a “backup of last resort” in case all else fails, then it could be fine. But if you intend to use any of the data from them to migrate to another service or use different management software, you’ll want to use a different method of retrieving your data. Other files in Takeout are in a perfectly good format, but the app makes it hard to just grab a few things. You’ll have to pick and choose, meaning that you may end up clicking more than 50 boxes if you just want one thing, plus, you’ll need to review the format options and review what data you’re getting. Google Takeout

Backing up from Multiple Apps

If you’re leaving one service for another or making your own backup, it’s best to follow the instructions for the apps in which you store your most useful information. “Export” in Google Contacts, for instance, will let you export your Google-stored contacts in either CSV (which is standard) or vCard (Apple) formats and migrate to another platform. For this same reason, Apple has a great guide to creating backups of your data that you store in your iCloud and other Apple services. I wrote above that getting your Google Photos from Takeout was messy, but if your albums are well organized, you can download each album as its own .zip file instead. If you click on Google Drive in your Takeout menu, you’ll find that you can include or exclude folders; but if you wanted to download some folders and not others, you could simply go into Drive, right click a folder and download it. It’s important to make sure that your data and information is well organized while using these services, because that’s the only way to make sure that it will be well organized when you need to get a copy of it. This organization will definitely pay off when you need to migrate from one service to another, or if you need a usable backup.