When you own a rooted Android phone running a custom ROM, you need to take some precautions or risk “bricking” (destroying) your device. While many methods can recover seriously bricked devices, it’s better to not place that kind of stress on yourself (and your device). Learn from my mistakes.
After selling my beloved Nexus 4 on eBay, I needed to wipe my personal information off the phone. Unfortunately, using a toolkit to restore my device back to stock failed. Thankfully, based on recommendations from experts, I was able to fully restore my device. I also learned a few new things.
Six Things to Do after Rooting Your Android Device
IMPORTANT: Many phone manufacturers now include a feature known as “OEM unlocking”, which allows users to modify their Android device. Some manufacturers void the phone’s warranty if the user unlocks their phone. Unfortunately, this is now an essential first step to modifying any phone or tablet.
#1 Install a Custom Recovery
By default, the Android operating system possesses three methods of recovering a futzed/corrupted system: Download mode, the Bootloader and the Recovery. The most important of these is the Recovery, since it allows the restoration of a factory image — the original copy of your operating system. A custom recovery replaces the baked-in recovery inside of your phone and can perform a much wider range of options than the default system.
Most important, a custom recovery can allow you to make backups of your operating system. The backups are useful, even if you aren’t planning on installing a custom ROM.
Two of the best custom recoveries are Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP) and ClockWorkMod (CWM). CWM and TWRP are the two best-known custom recoveries. Unfortunately, not all devices are compatible, but if yours is, make sure to install one of the two.
#2 Familiarize Yourself with Fastboot or ADB
Before you get started modifying your phone, make sure that you’ve familiarized yourself with the Fastboot or ADB (Android Debug Bridge) commands. In particular, you should know how to recover your device by flashing a factory image from the command line. Secondarily, you can manually transfer important files to your device. Both methods provide an excellent contingency plan for bricked devices.
Here’s a detailed guide from AndroidForums on how to set up and use Fastboot. Fastboot is a command that allows you to access your Android handset directly from a computer. Most important, Fastboot can permit the installation of a factory image from the command line. So even if you’re unable to install a custom recovery, you can still recover from an unbootable condition.
Another handy function permits users to transfer files (also known as “pushing” or sideloading) from their computer to their device.
#3 Make a Backup of Your Device
Here’s where I screwed up. I deleted my internal backups to make room on the phone. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t restore from internal memory and had to rely on Fastboot and my WugFresh toolkit. While toolkits easily root Nexus devices, they can be problematic to work with.
If everything goes wrong, keeping an internal backup on your device will let you recover from a damaged or corrupted operating system, without resorting to the command line. It’s important that you keep your backup in an easily accessible location, such as on an SD card or near the root directory of your device’s storage system.
It’s extremely easy to make a backup from within your recovery. Just go to “Backup” and choose all the available partitions. You can restore one, some or all of these in the event something goes wrong. Also if you ever decide to install a new ROM, you can always restore your apps using this method. It’s a lot easier than using even Titanium Backup to restore your apps.
#4 Keep a Full Nandroid Backup On Your Phone
Backing up your System and Data directories aren’t complete backups. Creating a full backup of your operating system also includes several other directories that the default options in most custom recoveries don’t select. Check everything when you make a backup.
#5 Keep Another Backup on Your Desktop PC
It’s a bad idea to keep just one copy of your mobile’s operating system around. After making a backup of your device, copy this to your desktop computer. There’s a variety of ways to do this, the easiest is to simply access your rooted device’s internal storage from your PC and copy the entire BACKUPS folder to your desktop.
Accessing your device is simple: Just connect it. You may be prompted on your device to permit access from your PC. After that, it will show up as a removable drive/device.
After that, navigate to the root directory of your internal storage and find the appropriate recovery directory. If it’s TWRP, it will be labeled as such.
This is the opposite of pushing (also known as sideloading) files to your device. It’s known as “pulling”. You will want to place this someplace safe, such as Dropbox or another cloud storage solution. If you do elect for cloud storage, also consider encrypting the files, just in case of a security breach.
#6 Learn How to Hard-Reset Your Device
The most reliable way to reset your device is by pulling the battery. Unfortunately, not all devices support battery pulls. Fortunately, most manufacturers include a hard reset function that works in the event of an emergency. For example, when my Nexus 4 with non-replaceable battery became boot-looped, I was able to reset my device using a hard reset function: holding down the power button for 10-seconds.
To find your hard reset method, just Google your phone’s model + the phrase “hard reset” or “reset”. Keep in mind that some manufacturers take “hard reset” to mean a factory reset. You don’t want that.
By the way, technically speaking, the Nexus 4’s battery is replaceable.
The most important thing you can do with your rooted Android handset is prevent it from getting broken. One of the best ways is to have a backup on hand. To this end, you will want six things:
(1) custom recovery, (2) know ADB and Fastboot commands; (3) keep a factory image on your phone; (4) keep a Nandroid backup on your phone; (5) keep copies of both backups on a computer; (6) if you can’t replace your battery, know how to hard reset your phone.
If you take the necessary precautions, the chances of bricking your device drop dramatically.
Anyone else love not perma-bricking their devices? Let us know in the comments.