We've all been there. You get a new phone and want it to feel familiar, like the one you just replaced. But all your app icons and widgets are all over the place. If you use a custom launcher, it's possible to quickly get right back to where you were before, by using a backup and restore feature.

Here's how.

Update April 2017: We've taken off Google Now Launcher, as it will be retiring soon and its backup system in not transferrable to other launchers, and Apex Launcher, ahead of its re-launch. We've also added Evie Launcher, Smart Launcher, and Yahoo Aviate.

Nova Launcher

Nova has the best launcher backup system of any launcher I've ever tried.

Nova Launcher, one of the mainstays of the home screen replacement market, does a lot of things really well. It especially does backups really well. A backup does no good if it's just going to sit on the device itself. Two of the primary reasons we create these backups are so that we can restore them if the device fails, or so we can easily bring them to a new device. That means your backup needs to go to the cloud, or at least to another computer. And with Nova, creating your backup and pushing it to the cloud is a breeze.

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  1. Open Nova Settings.
  2. Tap Backup & import settings.
  3. Tap Backup.

  4. Name your backup.
  5. Tap Document Storage to open the drop-down menu.
  6. Tap Share.

  7. Tap OK.
  8. Select the source you want to share the file to, such as Save to Drive.
  9. Once you've found the folder to save to, tap Save.

To restore one of these backups, you tap Restore or manage backups. If you've stored a backup locally, it'll appear under Document Storage. If you stored it in Google Drive or another cloud location, you can Browse for it.

A note on widgets in Nova backups: while it won't automatically restore the widgets you were using, Nova backups include placeholders for your widgets in the place, size, and app you used. You need to tap each widget and set it back up.

Action Launcher

Action Launcher does have a dedicated Backup section in Action 3 Settings, and it's almost as easy as Nova's, it's still pretty easy to get your backups into the cloud with it. Here's how:

  1. Open Action Settings.
  2. Tap Backup & import.
  3. Tap Backup.

  4. Tap Storage app to back your launcher up to the cloud.
  5. Name your backup.
  6. Tap Save.

  7. This will open up the Documents browser. It defaults to Recents, so we need to navigate to a cloud location. Tap the three-line menu icon in the top left corner.
  8. Navigate to the cloud folder you wish to save your backup to.
  9. Tap Save.

I will say that at least Action Launcher warns you about how widgets work in their backups. Like Nova, Action Launcher will back up a placeholder for your widget. However, when you tap it, you will have to select what app and widget template it's based on, as opposed to Nova, which remembers the app and template.

Evie Launcher

Rather than having the user create and store a backup file, Evie Launcher allows users to backup the launcher by creating a Google Drive folder and storing backups within it.

  1. Long-press the home screen until a menu appears.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Backup & Restore.

  4. Tap Sign in to Google Account.
  5. Tap the account you wish to use.

  6. Tap Allow to let Evie Launcher create a Google Drive folder to host everything in.
  7. Tap Backup now.

Smart Launcher 3

Smart Launcher 3 is an interesting little launcher with really quick setup and really quick backups. Here's how they work:

  1. Long-press the home screen until a menu appears.
  2. Tap Preferences.
  3. Tap Backup & Restore.

  4. Smart Launcher says it's going to ask for a permission. Tap OK.
  5. Allow Smart Launcher storage permissions to create and save backup files.
  6. Tap Backup.

  7. Name your backup.
  8. Tap OK.
  9. This will save the backup locally. To also store it in the cloud, tap Send.

  10. Select the source you want to share the file to, such as Save to Drive.
  11. Once you've found the folder to save to, tap Save.

Arrow Launcher

Arrow Launcher is Microsoft's launcher, and on top of some very interesting layout methods, Arrow Launcher is a launcher that backs up through OneDrive instead of Google Drive.

  1. Long-press the home screen until a menu appears.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Backup & Restore.

  4. Tap Backup your Arrow.
  5. Tap Backup to Cloud Storage.
  6. Login to your Microsoft Account.

  7. If you want to include more (or less) in your backup, you can choose which part of Arrow backup.
  8. Tap Backup Now.

The backup files will live in OneDrive until you restore them, just as Evie Launcher's backups do in Google Drive.

Do you back up your launcher right now? If not, you really, really should. If not for yourself, then do it for whatever poor sap is around you while you're setting up your next phone. Backups are also really useful to have if you're the designated phone guru for your parents/siblings/grandparents/coworkers/miscellaneous friends, as it means that if they muck something up, you can put things back how they expect them to be and get on with your day.

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