How to Unbrick Your Android Phone: 4 Methods for Recovery
So you’ve bricked your phone. You flashed a ROM, installed a mod, tweaked a system file, or did something else—and now your phone won’t boot.
Don’t panic! It’s almost certainly fixable. Here’s how to unbrick an Android phone.
How Is Your Phone Bricked?
The steps for how to unbrick a phone depend on how it’s bricked in the first place. There are two categories of bricked phone:
- The soft brick. The phone freezes on the Android boot screen, gets stuck in a boot loop, or just goes straight to recovery. So long as something happens when you press the power button, it’s soft bricked. The good news is these are pretty easy to fix.
- The hard brick. You push the power button and nothing happens. Hard bricks can be caused by issues like attempting to flash an incompatible ROM or kernel, and there’s normally no software solution for them. Hard bricks are terrible news, but fortunately they’re quite rare.
Most likely you’re soft bricked, and you’ll see something like the image above. While the differences in how various devices work make it hard to come up with a catch-all solution to unbrick Android, there are four common tricks you can try to get yourself back on track:
- Wipe the data, then re-flash a custom ROM
- Disable Xposed mods through recovery
- Restore a Nandroid backup
- Flash a factory image
Before you get started, make sure your phone and computer are set up and ready with the proper tools.
What You Need to Unbrick an Android Phone
Chances are you already have most of the tools you need to unbrick your phone. They’re the same tools you used to root your device and flash ROMs, so you should already be familiar with how they work. Even so, double-check before you begin.
Most important is a custom recovery. You likely installed this when you rooted your phone, but it can sometimes get overwritten by the stock recovery, or wiped entirely. If you do need to reinstall it, we recommend going with TWRP. It’s a fully featured custom recovery that’s to easy to use, and has builds for most popular devices.
Next, you might need Fastboot and ADB. These are commonly used for rooting and flashing system mods, and you can get both from the Android Developers website. Check our primer on how to use Fastboot and ADB if you aren’t familiar with them.
And finally, some manufacturers use special software to flash factory images. Hopefully you can avoid doing this, but if you need to you can use Odin for Samsung, the LG Flash Tool for LG devices, and the HTC Sync Manager for HTC. You can also try the ZTE Unbrick Tool if you’ve got a ZTE device.
Most of these tools will let you fix a bricked Android phone using a PC. However, you can often do the job directly on the phone itself.
1. Wipe Data and Re-Flash a Custom ROM
Try this method if: You flashed a ROM and now Android won’t boot.
One of the most likely causes of soft bricking your phone is when you have problems when flashing a custom ROM . The culprit here is often that you didn’t wipe your data first.
This is referred to as a “dirty flash,” and occurs when you choose to forego the inconvenience of having to restore your apps and data by flashing a new ROM on top of your old one. As a general rule, you can get away with it if you’re flashing a newer version of your existing ROM, but you must always wipe your data whenever you flash a different ROM.
Fortunately, it’s easy to fix—as long as you’ve backed up your phone properly. If you haven’t, well, you’ve learned an important lesson the hard way. Follow these steps:
- Boot into your custom recovery
- Navigate to the Wipe option and choose Advanced Wipe
- Check the box marked Data (you can wipe the system, ART cache, and cache again too), then hit Confirm
- Re-flash your custom ROM
Wiping your data effectively performs a factory reset, but it shouldn’t clear your internal storage or SD card (although, again, you should back it up just to be safe). When you restart your phone, you’ll see the Android setup screen. After entering your Google account information, your apps should begin reinstalling automatically.
If you need to, you can restore your data from your Nandroid backup. See the Restore a Nandroid Backup section below.
2. Disable Xposed Modules in Recovery
Try this method if: You get boot loops after installing a new Xposed module.
The Xposed Framework is one of the simplest ways to mod your phone, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The best Xposed modules are so easy to install—many of them are available in the Play Store—that they lull you into a false sense of security. It’s unlikely anyone makes a Nandroid backup before installing a new Xposed module, even though they can brick your phone.
Use ADB Push to Install the Xposed Uninstaller
The best way to deal with these problems is with the Xposed Uninstaller. This is a small flashable ZIP that you can install through the recovery to remove Xposed from your device.
If you don’t already have it on your phone, you can put it on an SD card, or you might be able to copy it over using the ADB push method:
- Download the Xposed Uninstaller to your desktop.
- Connect your phone to your computer via USB and boot into recovery.
- Launch the command prompt (Windows) or Terminal (Mac) and use the cd command to change the directory to where you have adb installed.
- Type adb push [full path to xposed uninstaller.zip] [full path to destination]. On Mac and Linux, precede the command with ./ (such as ./adb).
- When the file finishes copying, flash it through the recovery.
How to Disable Xposed Modules in Recovery
If you can’t use ADB push, try either of these solutions.
This method lets you disable Xposed through recovery:
- Boot into recovery, then navigate to Advanced > Terminal command
- Create a file called /data/data/de.robv.android.xposed.installer/conf/disabled
- Reboot your phone
This method prevents Xposed modules from starting:
- Boot into recovery and select File Manager
- Navigate to the folder /data/data/de.robv.android.xposed.installer/conf/ then delete the file modules.list
- Reboot your phone
None of these solutions will undo any changes the modules have made to your system. If these changes caused your phone to brick, you will have to restore your Nandroid backup.
3. Restore a Nandroid Backup
Try this method if: You need to remove other system mods, replace a tweaked system file, or if the methods above didn’t work.
The Nandroid backup is the safety net for Android mods and tweaks. It’s a complete snapshot of your phone—not just your data and apps, but of the operating system itself. So long as you can access your custom recovery and have a Nandroid backup, you will be able to get your soft bricked phone up and running. To do so:
- Boot into recovery and navigate to Restore
- Select your backup, confirm, and wait while it’s restored
- Reboot your phone
Nandroid backups are a bit of a pain to make. They take a while and cannot be done in the background. But they’re worth it: they’re the simplest way to unbrick your phone.
Recover Data From a Nandroid Backup
A Nandroid backup can also save the day if you had to wipe your data and didn’t back it up in an easily restorable form. It’s possible to extract specific parts of a Nandroid, so you can restore your apps and data without needing to restore the operating system as well.
Here are the instructions for this:
- Boot into Android and install Titanium Backup from the Play Store.
- Tap the menu button and navigate to Special Backup/Restore > Extract from Nandroid Backup.
- Select your backup from the list.
- Choose whether to restore apps, data, or both, and select them (or hit Select All).
- Tap the green tick icon to start the restore process.
4. Flash a Factory Image
Try this method if: None of the other options work.
If your attempts at unbricking Android have failed so far, the nuclear option is to re-flash a factory image. This restores the phone to its original state and will wipe your internal storage as well as everything else. It’ll also unroot your phone.
Because it wipes everything, you might be better off trying to flash a stock ROM first. OnePlus actually offers flashable ROMs for recovery rather than factory images, and you’ll find similar for virtually every device at xda-developers.com. In many cases you’ll be able to flash a pre-rooted stock ROM for added convenience.
Where flashing a factory image differs from flashing a ROM is that it happens over a connection to your desktop computer rather than through recovery. Some devices use the Fastboot tool from the Android SDK, but others use custom software. Samsung uses the Odin tool, for instance, while HTC uses the HTC Sync Manager.
Because of the different methods used, the instructions for flashing a factory image differ for each device. And not all manufacturers make their firmware publicly available, so you have to find them from unofficial sources.
Here’s where to find factory images for some popular Android brands:
What About Hard Bricks?
First make sure the phone really is bricked—plug it in and leave it charging for a while. Attempt to reset it by holding the power button down for 10-15 seconds (or pulling your battery if you’ve got an older device).
If it is definitely hard-bricked, then you may be out of luck. A few phones can be revived with a USB Jig, a tiny device that plugs into the USB port and puts the phone into Download Mode to reinstall the stock firmware.
You can find these for cheap on Ebay, but only for a very small number of devices. Even then, there’s no guarantee that they’ll work.
Beyond that, you may need to send your phone in for repair (though rooting it might have voided your warranty) or seek out a local phone repair person. But you most likely will end up needing to buy a new device.
Tweak Android Safely
Hopefully this guide has helped you to unbrick your Android phone. And hopefully your experience hasn’t put you off rooting and hacking Android altogether.
But if you’d rather play it safe in future, you can still have a lot of fun with your phone. Take a look at our guide to the best Android tweaks you can make without rooting for some amazing ideas.
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