Back Up Your Android Game Saves with Helium

Sadly, if you're a gamer who has multiple Android devices, it can be hard to carry your progress across them. Cloud saving does exist in myriad forms, but for many developers, the challenges of implementation are difficult enough that many eschew doing so.

As well, sometimes players are so used to not having cloud saves that when a game supports them, they freak out because the expected behavior is that their tablet has a different game save from the phone, for example. So, often times users are forced to take matters into their own hands. While tools like Titanium Backup exist for rooted Android users, for those who like to keep their devices stock, but still want a useful tool, Helium works quite well for those not afraid to get their hands a little dirty.

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

What is Helium?

Helium Tutorial Step 1
List of apps in Helium. ClockworkMod

Helium was made by Koushik Dutta, otherwise known as ClockworkMod. He originally worked with custom ROM maker Cyanogen, but now his primary public work is with ClockworkMod, making tools that help expand Android devices' functionality. He made Tether for USB internet tethering, one of the first non-Google solutions for Chromecast support in AllCast, and now makes remote Android app solution Vysor. Helium is perhaps the tool best suited for gamers, as this app backup solution makes it possible to back up a save file for a game, upload it to a cloud-based service, and then restore it on another device. Or even the same device, if doing a restore. 

The way this works is that Helium uses Android's built-in system backup features to backup an individual app's preferences files to a certain save point, and then you can restore it. There's kind of a backdoor method being used here, where you have to link up to a computer to enable the functionality since it's something only developers typically have access to. Rooted users do not have to do this, but obviously, they have access to other tools as well.

The point is that it works, once you get it all set up properly.

Download the Necessary Tools and Connect to Your Computer

Helium Tutorial Step 2
Showing the PC software setup instruction for Helium. ClockworkMod

Download the app from Google Play. Also download the computer Helium enabler app. If you're on Windows 10, you may want to download the Windows client instead of just the Chrome client. Plug your Android device into your computer and follow the instructions. You may need to enable developer options on your device which can be found in Settings, finding the Build Version information, and then tapping the Build Version repeatedly until you unlock developer options, which includes the USB mode option, which may need to be on PTP. However, it did work on the default MTP mode as well for me on a Marshmallow device. Once you run the app on your Android and the enabler on your computer, then Helium is good for use. Do note that you will need to connect your computer to the enabler once you restart your device. 

There is also a premium unlock for the app, which brings several key features. Not only does this support the developer and remove ads, but it also enables backing up to and restoring from cloud storage. I would ensure that the app works for you before buying this.

Back Up Your Apps

Helium Tutorial Step 3
Helium backup destinations prompt. ClockworkMod

Once the app is enabled, choose the app that you want to back up from the list provided. The app is optimized for phones, so tablet users  might have to deal with some small windows or will want to use the app in portrait mode. Choose the apps that you want to back up. You can select as few or as many as you want, with the app selector at the bottom shrinking as you select more apps. You can also create a group of apps for common backup/restoration. As well, you can choose whether to just backup the app's data or also the app itself. Note that for larger games, backing up the entire app will take up a lot of space, so unless the app came from a source outside Google Play, it's worth avoiding this option.

Once you have selected your backups, you can then back them up either to local storage or to the cloud storage choices you have made if you've bought the Premium unlock. Once you do this, your apps will start to back up!  Some odd menus will pop up, do not touch anything! Helium will configure these automatically after a few seconds, nothing to fear. You can also set Helium to automatically back up apps on a schedule of your choosing. Once this process is complete, your apps will be available at the location you chose, though with cloud saving, you don't have to touch the backups at all.

Restore Your Apps

Helium Tutorial Step 4
The devices and apps you can restore from. ClockworkMod

To restore apps, you go to the Restore and Sync tab, and then either choose your cloud storage provider where you've backed up your apps, or select the device itself if it is on and nearby. Each app with backups will be shown sorted by device when you use Google Drive, so that you can easily keep track of where each backup came from, also with the date of the backup indicated. Note that this process isn't guaranteed to work with every app, especially if the app's data is tied in to online features or has some kind of encrypted logins, but it will work for many apps and games without issue.

A Note If You Have Android TV

Helium Step 5
Showing scheduling in Helium. ClockworkMod

While this app works well with phones and tablets, if you're trying to sync progress between an Android TV or similar TV box to your portable devices, there are some caveats. The apps don't appear on Google Play on the Android TV, but the base Helium app can be installed to your device via the web, or installed via sideloading. The Pro unlock will work on the Android TV, but it won't install via the web, you will need to sideload it. If you need to backup and sideload an app, then doing so via ES File Explorer will work for you. If you are using the Android TV, its always-plugged in nature is perfect for scheduling backups of your favorite games so that you can play them on your phone or tablet without losing progress.