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How to restore previous versions of Android apps

Android app updates can bring problems to some of your favourite apps. Here's how to restore these apps to a previous version.

We love apps, and we love seeing what has been added in app updates. But there’s nothing more annoying than an update that kills your favourite app. Features get removed, the interface gets changed or, worse, it drains your battery overnight because the developers haven’t spotted all the bugs in it.

In such cases you have three choices. Uninstall the app and find something else – not an ideal option especially if it’s an app you’ve already paid for – put up with it, or roll back to the previous version you liked so much.

This latter option is what we’re going to look at in this tutorial. In order to roll back to an old version you will have to have backed it up in the first place. If you’ve got a rooted phone and play around with custom ROMs then chances are you have done this without even knowing about it.

Every time you flash a ROM you will (or should, anyway) create a backup. This is a complete snapshot of your system – OS, apps, data, everything. And while an android backup is traditionally used to restore your phone to its previous state, using an app such as Titanium Backup Pro you can selectively restore specific parts of the backup, including apps. So long as the backup predates the last time you updated the app in question you’re good to go.

  1. Create the backup

    Before you begin you will, of course, need to have a nandroid backup to work with. You should create one whenever you flash a new ROM, and may even have a few older ones on your SD card. If not create one through ROM Manager or CWM Manager, depending on which you use.

  2. Get Titanium Backup Pro

    In order to extract files from a nandroid backup you need Titanium Backup Pro, the best backup app for rooted devices. There is a free alternative called Nandroid Browser, although its UI is confusing and it’s a much more difficult app to use.

  3. Extract

    Open Titanium Backup Pro and grant it root permissions when prompted. Now press the menu button on your phone and select Extract from Nandroid backup from the menu that opens. Your list of available backups stored on your memory card will be displayed.

  4. Select your backup

    It’s a good idea to give your backups a clear name when making them and here’s why: when working out which to recover from it’s helpful to know what you are recovering and when it was backed up in the first place. Choose your backup and then wait while it is analysed.

  5. View Nandroid contents

    Nandroids are pretty big so it will take a couple of minutes before you can see its contents. Even when you’ve done it before the contents are not cached and it needs to be analysed all over again. You can back out of the app and leave it running in the background while this is taking place.

  6. Pick your apps

    You will now see the contents of the nandroid backup. Select App+Data, App Only or Data Only depending on what you want to restore. We’d recommend against choosing Select All, but instead restoring on an as-needed basis. We’re going to roll back to an older version of Kobo, so have ticked that box with App+Data.

  7. Ready to go

    Now tap the green tick icon in the top right corner. The restore process will begin immediately. Note that the progress bar is not very accurate – the percentage indicator refers to the number of tasks complete rather than how far through each one you are. It will take a minute or two for each task.

  8. Job complete

    You can click away from the app while it is processing. When it is done an alert will appear in your notification bar showing you that the app has been restored. Locate the app in the apps pane and open it to make sure that it has been restored properly. Your data should be present and correct too.

  9. Check app updates

    Finally locate the app in the Play Store. You’ll see that the Update button is in place instead of ‘Open’. This means that the app is no longer the most up to date version. Remember that you mustn’t update it if you want to keep the older version, and turn auto update off in the Play Store settings.