The first thing any pilot using the Betaflight firmware should learn is how to do a settings backup. For ARF quadcopters, this is critical to capture any important settings changes the manufacturers have made over the Betaflight defaults to get the quadcopter to fly. It is also a good idea to do a backup any time you install a Betaflight update. These updates sometimes wipe your settings, so a backup will be your only way to recover your quadcopter to the way it was flying before. It can also save you hours of frustration attempting to figure out what setting changes caused unwanted flight behavior.
The Built-in Betaflight Backup & Restore
If you’ve spent any time in Betaflight Configurator, you’ve likely noticed the “Backup” and “Restore” buttons on the main Setup page:
Here’s the thing about these buttons though: they don’t work. Betaflight has been under intense software development over the last two years, and the developers simply have forgotten to make sure that the built-in “Backup” and “Restore” work with all the new features they have been adding. In my experience, these buttons only reliably restore basic PID settings, serial port info and rates. Some notable things they do not save are:
- Filter settings
- Resource maps
- Software serial port settings
- OSD settings
- Pretty much any new Betaflight feature (AIRMODE, ANTIGRAVITY, SOFTSERIAL, etc..)
For this reason, the best way to back-up and restore Betaflight settings is using the CLI tab. Don’t worry – it’s not too difficult!
How to Backup Betaflight Using the CLI
Generating a backup using the CLI has been made simple. Go to the “CLI” tab of Betaflight Configurator and type your command (generally “diff” — described in more detail below). Hit Enter and you should see a wall of text getting outputted in the console. Click “Save to file” to save your backup.
There are two commands you can use to backup Betaflight: diff and dump. For most users, we recommend you use diff. Both commands are described below.
Backing up Betaflight With diff
The diff command looks at all of the possible Betaflight settings and compares them with the default settings for your flight controller. It will only print the settings that have changed to the console. This makes for a nice, small output file that is easy to audit if/when it comes time to use it for a restore. It is also often much easier to use when you are looking for settings that may be causing trouble.
Backing up Betaflight with dump
The dump command is the hail-mary of backups. It simply prints out every possible Betaflight setting and what value is assigned to it. We don’t like it for backups because some settings are intentionally changed by the developers between Betaflight releases. If you only backup and restore CLI dumps, you won’t be getting these changes. At best, this will make your quadcopter miss out on a cool new feature or improvement – at worst, it won’t fly at all.
Dump is useful for some things, though. If your quadcopter was working in Betaflight 3.2 but stopped working in 3.3, you can find out what settings the developers changed which may have caused that using the dump command. It is also useful for finding a particular setting when you don’t know its name.
How to Restore a Betaflight Backup
CLI backups must be restored using the CLI. This process is described below, but first you must understand some of the caveats of restoring a backup.
Audit Your Backup Files Before You Restore!
CLI backups can be opened in a standard text editor:
Depending on what your intent is, you may not want to restore every single setting you backed up. For example, if you updated your Betaflight firmware to a new version, changes to the PID algorithm and software filters may mean that it’s a good idea to start at the default PID settings and re-tune your quadcopter. Similarly, the way RC rates work occasionally changes, and you may want to review your own rates.
On the other hand, if you are restoring Betaflight to the exact configuration it was previously working in, you should just do a blanket-restore of all settings. Just make sure you are using the same version of Betaflight. The version will be in the top of your back-up file.
To audit which features you restore, go through the backup file using a text editor. Take a good look at each feature and try to figure out how/why it was changed. Descriptions for most settings can be found with a quick Google search. As was mentioned above, consider removing any changes to the PID or filter settings when doing a restore on a new version of Betaflight – chances are you are going to need to re-tune your quadcopter anyways: you might as well start somewhere that worked well for the developers.
Performing the Betaflight CLI Restore
Once you’ve decided what settings you want to restore, just paste them directly from the backup file into the CLI text box. You can paste multiple lines at once. Hit enter to execute all the commands you have entered. Finally, enter “Save” to apply the settings to your flight controller:
This will automatically reboot the flight controller and send you back to the home screen. Browse through the various set-up tabs to verify that all your settings were restored.