Like Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 support automatic device settings sync to SkyDrive, allowing you to restore those settings if you lose and choose to reset your phone. But Windows Phone 8 also supports backing up text messages and personal photos and videos to the cloud.

If you’re familiar with Windows Phone 7.x’s non-existent backup functionality, you understand how big a deal this is.

Windows Phone 8 can automatically backup your device settings to SkyDrive in a manner that is similar to Windows 8. This way, if your phone is stolen or lost, you upgrade to a new phone, or simply choose to reset your current phone, you can restore your previous configuration easily. This backup includes settings for Photos, Camera, sound, Messaging, and the device theme and wallpaper/background.

You typically enable backup during the initial device setup. But you can check and modify these settings by visiting Settings, System, Backup.

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Three items are listed here: App list + Settings, Text messages, and Photos. The first includes Internet Explorer Favorites, the list of installed apps, and “most” device settings. (I’ll need to research this further to see exactly what that means.) Text messages refers to SMS and MMS messages, which are routed through the Messaging app; you can separately enable/disable text message backup in Messaging settings.

And, yes, that last item is what it sounds like: Windows Phone 8, finally, lets you automatically upload photos and videos (i.e. those taken with the device’s internal camera) to SkyDrive in full-quality, a first. (Doing so requires a Wi-Fi connection.)

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To restore your phone, you must be setting it up for the first time (in the case of a new phone) or be resetting your current phone. During Setup, use the same Microsoft account to sign-in, and you’ll be asked whether you wish to start fresh or restore your phone’s settings from a backup. If you choose to restore, the backup will download and be applied to the device. Likewise, it will automatically download any apps you had previously installed.