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How to manually back up Whatsapp from Android

So, I’m going through my photos and video on my Android and copying it to my computer for backup-purposes. Of course, WhatsApp is a large part of my life and there a lot of photos and videos “hidden” there as well.

Location of files #

Not too hard to locate the files, they are in:

WhatsApp/Media/

On either the internal of SD-card memory.

What to copy? #

What do we keep and what do we remove? In my case, I’m only interested in photos and videos. So we keep the WhatsApp Images and WhatsApp Videos folders. In both folders you’ll notice a lot of files and a Sent folder.

And now the confusion starts!

Images folder #

The files in the WhatsApp Images-folder appear to be a mix of photos you received and sent. If you used WhatsApp to take the photo, it will end up in both locations. If you made the photo outside of WhatsApp, it will only appear in the Sent folder.

The photo stored in the Sent folder appears to be exactly as they were sent: a downsized version of the original with the edits you made in WhatsApp (for example a sticker or text you put on the image).

Conclusion: you can safely throw away the Sent-folder without risk of losing any precious memories, unless you edit your photos in WhatsApp before sending them. In that case, you’ll want to save the Sent-folder also.

Videos folder #

This is more tricky. WhatsApp appears to use the same trick here, but the videos in the Sent-folder are sometimes larger than the ones in the root WhatsApp Videos folder. Which is not what we expected from how the images folder was organized. So what’s going on?

It appears that WhatsApp tries to optimize some videos before sending them. This is not flawless, and sometimes results in a larger file.

Unlike photos, most videos made with WhatsApp are not reduced in file size before being sent. On the other hand, all videos taken outside of WhatsApp are resized.

Conclusion: we can also safely throw away the Sent-folder here. The same caveat exists here: if you edit your video in WhatsApp (trimming for instance), you might want to keep the Sent-folder after all.

Disk usage #

When you send a photo or video from within WhatsApp, it gets stored twice. What’s worse, if you send the same file to multiple people or groups (but on different days) it also duplicates.

This makes for easy backing up as we don’t have to go through the Sent-folder, but I was hoping WhatsApp would use symlinks instead. Maybe it does and non-root users can’t see that?

I did my research on January 25th, 2017. WhatsApp may update the way this works. So before removing your Sent-folders, just doublecheck!