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I stopped using Signal when it was clear i was not able to back up my message history (or transfer it to a new phone).

My data is my data and I should be able to access and control it.




Huh, but Signal does allow you to this [0]?

It doesn't allow you to do this on iOS, but I'm guessing your stance on data portability makes your life very hard on iOS anyway.

[0]: https://support.signal.org/hc/en-us/articles/360007059752-Ba...


There's a workaround. If you use the iOS app in combination with a desktop client, then it is possible to back up messages, assuming they have been synced to the computer.

On Windows:

1. Download DB Browser for SQLite https://sqlitebrowser.org/

2. Unpack it and run DB Browser for SQLCipher.exe.

3. Open database, select %APPDATA%\Signal\sql\db.sqlite.

4. In the following dialog, select Raw key type and enter the encryption key stored in %APPDATA%\Signal\config.json into Password field (prefix it with 0x).

5. Now you can work with the database, including exporting its contents to unencrypted SQLite, CSV and JSON.

The process should be similar on other platforms.


Thanks so much for posting this!


> I'm guessing your stance on data portability makes your life very hard on iOS anyway.

I have zero understanding why you would ask this. Every single first party and third party app other than Signal on iOS allow me to include its data in backups and/or export it’s data.


> I'm guessing your stance on data portability makes your life very hard on iOS anyway.

Pretty much all of the data in the stock apps on my iPhone is easily portable, and most of it is API accessible, meaning I can use multiple apps to view and manipulate it. Apple even publishes a support doc on how to export your data using first-party tools. For any more complex needs, there are plenty of easily accessible 3rd party options.

[1] https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204055


Has anyone had success in actually restoring their conversations from the signal backup? I'm on Android and reinstalled the app once when it was causing me trouble (it especially lags with group chats) thinking I'd be able to restore my chats no problem. Unfortunately, even though I had the passcode to unencrypt the backup saved, it didn't restore a single message.


I've done it across three phones so far, works great. The flow is a bit weird though, you need to put the backup in the Signal folder before you start the app for the first time (before it tries to re-register) and it'll ask for the key and import happily.


This is indeed the crucial step, having had to do it several times as well. If you accidentally start the app before getting the backup file onto the device folder, going into the Apps setting and clearing all Signal app data is required to get the import process to work.


Yes, I have done so successfully. As well as moved devices.


How? I don't see any restore option.


Last time I did it, you had to place the backup in the correct folder before the first start of the app. See the Signal faq.

It is not the most user friendly approach, but it has been going through iterations and getting better.


Thank you!


I've dumped them to media and plain text with Signal-Back. I'm pretty sure that's all they offer.

Edit: last part is wrong, see sibling

https://github.com/xeals/signal-back/blob/master/README.md


Yes, I switched phones and restored a backup on the phone without issues.


On the contrary, the vast majority of iPhone apps use iCloud and offer data export in addition to recovery/transfer to a new device.

Signal is an outlier in this respect, and I hope they add this feature before I'm ready for another phone.


I can export data from every other app I use on iOS, barring Signal.


I've set Signal to auto-delete old messages. This is like SMS and IRC not an archive.

When I want to save something from a conversation in Signal (or slack or email), I copy it out and store it. Signal does not block you accessing your data.

In addition you actually do have an import/export function for your messages if you're on android [1].

[1] https://support.signal.org/hc/en-us/articles/360007059752-Ba...


People have different stances. I do have archives of all my IRC chats too, all the way from the 90s.


You can on Android but not on iPhone apparently.

https://support.signal.org/hc/en-us/articles/360007059752-Ba...


Probably an encouragement to use the disappearing messages feature. It's a peaceful feeling to let data just evaporate without worrying about backing it up. If something is really so important that I can't let it go poof, I'll take a screen shot or save it as a photo/note.


> I stopped using Signal when it was clear i was not able to back up my message history (or transfer it to a new phone).

You can do that on Android.


That's more of an ios problem


No, it isn't - even on Android it requires you to manually manage the backup files, write down a huge random string and then manually setup sync.

My circle stopped using Signal when it became apparent that dying/lost/stolen phone also means complete destruction of all memories they store in the conversations (unless you go through a lot of hoops to get autobackup working).

It's pretty much the only chat app of the more marketed ones that will lose all your personal data.


That's a feature for a lot of people, though it's only as good as the security of your phone.


> That's more of an ios problem

Ah, so only a problem for 40% of Signal users.

There's no technical reason that prevents Signal from doing this; they simply haven't.


Can they encrypt it properly? I'm not familiar with how iOS/Apple backup works and how it guarantees that only the user can restore it.


> Can they encrypt it properly? I'm not familiar with how iOS/Apple backup works and how it guarantees that only the user can restore it.

Signal backups on Android used to be entirely unencrypted(!), so that hasn't stopped them before.


It's a Signal on iOS problem. Backing up and restoring data to new devices is the norm for iOS apps generally.




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