Google Authenticator backup: how to recover codes

Are you about to switch phones and don't want to lose your Google Authenticator codes? Here's a simple guide to follow before formatting your old phone

Two-factor authentication is one of the most effective ways to improve the security of your online accounts and the data contained within them. And, as recommended by many, using apps to generate passcodes offers an even greater degree of security than receiving SMS.

Google Authenticator is an app that lets you do exactly that, easily and for free on Android and iOS smartphones. When we need to perform a two-factor authentication to get into a Google Authenticator-compatible service, all we have to do is open the app and read the token. But what happens if we buy a new smartphone? How to recover the access codes and how to bring them to the new device?

How to recover Google Authenticator codes

Unfortunately, Google has provided a wizard just for this case, which allows you to add a new device on which to install Authenticator and generate the tokens for two-factor authentications. With the same procedure, of course, you remove the old smartphone previously used as the second authentication factor.

The first thing you need to do to retrieve your Google Authenticator codes is to install the app on your new Android smartphone or iPhone. Right after that, from your computer, you'll need to visit Google's two-factor verification page and log in. Authenticator will tell you which smartphone you're currently using and show you a button to switch devices. Click on "Change Phone" and enter the phone number of the smartphone you want to use (your new smartphone) and whether you prefer to receive the codes via SMS or phone call.

Now move to your new device and, within the Authenticator app, click on "Start > Read Barcode". Now you'll need to use your new smartphone to read the barcode that appeared on your computer screen. When you see the six-digit code appear on your phone after scanning the bar code, enter that code into your computer and then click "Verify and Save".

You have to repeat this process for all the services you've chosen to use with two-factor authentication via Google Authenticator (such as logins to your Apple, Amazon, Dropbox, or Facebook profiles). But be very careful: before deleting the Authenticator app from your old phone, you must be sure that you've moved all protected profiles to the new one, otherwise those profiles will be blocked.