Migrating Google Play application install data

Today I realized that after I had removed one of my old Google accounts from my phone and replaced it with a new one, I no longer received automatic updates for most of my installed apps. Oops!

While you can get a download of your data, including the app installs, Google doesn’t offer any kind of migration tool for this data.

I found a few ways to tackle this situation, none of them perfect:

  • If an installed app had an update available, and I went to the Play Store and manually updated it, it would appear in the list of installed apps. Not all of the apps had updates available though so it would have required frequent attention until all of the apps were updated.
  • Uninstalling and installing an app would do the same trick, but it would essentially lose all information stored with the app so it would have been a lot of work to resetup all accounts, configuration and stored data (and impossible in some cases, like game progress).
  • Linking the old Google account to my phone allowed automatic updates to work, but even after the updates the apps weren’t registered with the new account.

However, I was ultimately able to figure out a semi-manual way to get the apps appear under My Apps in the Play Store:

  • Log in to the new Google account on a computer
  • Go to the Play Store
  • Find the application that is missing from “My Apps”
  • Click “Install” and select the device where the application is missing

After doing this, the Play Store told me the app would be soon installed on the device. Instead of doing any kind of installation, it simply made the app appear on the app list again. Hooray!

I’ve yet to confirm that this enables automatic updates for the apps, but I have no reasons to think it wouldn’t…