How Do I Fix My Bricked Android Phone?

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Dear Lifehacker,

Rooting my Android phone went well, but I've tried to flash a custom ROM and now I think I've bricked my phone. Is there anything I can do?

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Image remixed from an original by Fe Ilya.

Dear Brickdroid,

First of all, lets get something straight. Most people use the term "bricked" improperly. A bricked phone means one thing: your phone won't turn on in any way, shape or form, and there's nothing you can do to fix it. It is, for all intents and purposes, as useful as a brick. A phone stuck in a boot loop is not bricked, nor is a phone that boots straight into recovery mode. These are things you can usually fix, and they're a lot more common than a truly bricked phone. If your phone is actually bricked, you won't be able to fix it yourself (but there are things you can do—see the end of this article). For those other problems, you have a few options.

If Your Phone Keeps Rebooting: Wipe Your Data and Cache

If you've flashed a ROM and your phone won't boot into the home screen, it's probably because you forgot to wipe your data and/or cache. It's trying to boot into the ROM, but some leftover data from your last ROM is causing it to error out, and it'll reboot itself over and over again. If your phone's eating a big bowl of boot loops, your first course of action should be to wipe its data and cache, which you can do from recovery mode. This method assumes you're using ClockworkMod Recovery, like the majority of Android users, but if your particular phone uses a different third-party recovery (like AmonRA), you should still be able to find these options in the interface. They might just be in a different place. To wipe your data and cache:

  1. Power down your phone. Turn it back on and boot into Recovery mode. This is a bit different for every phone, so you'll have to Google how to do it for your specific model. Usually it involves holding down another button, like Volume Down, as you turn your phone on. HTC phones will have to then select "Recovery" from a menu, while other phones will boot directly into ClockworkMod. You'll know you're in ClockworkMod by the words "ClockworkMod Recovery" at the top of the screen.
  2. Use your volume keys to navigate the menus, and your power button to select menu items. Scroll down to Advanced, and choose "Wipe Dalvik Cache". When that's finished, go back to the main screen and choose "Wipe Cache Partition". Lastly, head to "Wipe Data/Factory Reset". This will delete all your settings and apps, but you should still be using the correct ROM.
  3. Reboot your phone.

With any luck, it should boot right into your ROM. If that didn't work, try the below method with the same ROM (or with a different ROM) and see if you get different results.

If Your Phone Boots Straight Into Recovery: Flash a New ROM

If, when you boot up your phone, it goes straight into ClockworkMod, then there's likely an issue with the ROM you flashed. Note that some ROMs boot into recovery mode automatically after flashing, so reboot your phone once from recovery mode to make sure you're having a problem. HTC users: if you boot up your phone, it might go straight into the bootloader—check to see whether you can choose "Recovery" from the list before continuing to the next step. HTC phones usually don't boot straight into recovery.

In this case, you'll want to reflash the ROM from scratch. Try again with the ROM that messed up your phone, if you so choose, but if that doesn't work, try an entirely different ROM. The best way to do this is to download a ROM from somewhere on the net and putting it on your SD card. You'll need to take the SD card out of your phone, and you'll need an SD card reader that you can plug into your computer. Here's how it works:

  1. Plug the SD card into your computer. Drag the ROM's ZIP file to your SD card, and wait for it to copy.
  2. When it's done copying, eject the SD card and put it back in your phone. Reboot into Recovery mode. This is a bit different for every phone, so you'll have to Google how to do it for your specific model. Usually it involves holding down another button, like Volume Down, as you turn your phone on. HTC phones will have to then select "Recovery" from a menu, while other phones will boot directly into ClockworkMod. You'll know you're in ClockworkMod by the words "ClockworkMod Recovery" at the top of the screen.
  3. Use your volume keys to navigate the menus, and your power button to select menu items. Scroll down to "Install ZIP From SD Card" and navigate to the ZIP file you just copied over. Give it time to flash the ROM.
  4. When it's done, reboot your phone.

Hopefully, your phone should successfully boot into the new ROM. From there, you can probably assume that the previous ROM that messed up your phone isn't going to work, and you'll have to find another ROM for now—or find another copy of that ROM that isn't corrupted. Remember to make backups of your working ROMs so you don't lose all your data!

If Your Phone Boots Straight Into its Bootloader: Restore From a Stock ROM

If you're really having trouble, one of the most surefire ways to get your phone working again is to restore from the original ROM your phone came with—unrooted, stock, stable goodness. Each manufacturer and phone has a different method for doing this, and we can't go into too much detail here, but we can steer you in the right direction.


Note that this will unroot your phone, and return it to exactly how it was when you bought it from the store. You'll lose all your apps, settings, ClockworkMod recovery, you'll get over-the-air updates again, and you'll even have to re-activate your phone if you're on a CDMA provider like Verizon or Sprint.

For Motorola Phones: If you have a Motorola phone, you'll need to use RSD Lite, the program that Motorola and its partnered carriers use to restore almost-bricked phones. We've actually run through how to use RSD Lite before, so check out step one of our original rooting guide to restore your phone to its original factory ROM. RSD Lite isn't exactly an official program open to the public, so you'll have to Google around to find a version that works for you. You'll also need an SBF file for your device, which is the original stock ROM that RSD Lite will flash to your phone. Google for this as well. RSD Lite only runs on Windows, so if you're a Mac or Linux user, you'll need a Windows partition or a friend with a Windows machine to help you out.

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For HTC Phones: HTC phones can flash stock ROMs, known as RUUs, right from the phone's bootloader. You'll need to Google around for your device's specific RUU file, but once you download it, save the ZIP file to your SD card, and rename it (to something like—the download page for the RUU file should specify which filename is required), booting up your phone should automatically flash the stock ROM from HBOOT, HTC's bootloader. Check out the video at the left to see an example of this on the HTC Thunderbolt.

For Samsung Phones: If you're using a Samsung Galaxy phone, you can use a tool called Odin to reflash an OPS file, which is a stock ROM that will return your phone to factory settings. You'll need a Windows machine and a copy of Odin, which you can find by Googling around the net (as its not an official tool). Check out the video to the left to see an example of Odin, and check out The Unlockr's guide to using Odin to familiarize yourself. You may need to Google around for your specific device's OPS file and instructions.

If You Get Errors with Any of The Above Methods: Reformat Your SD Card and Don't Give Up

This is less likely, but it's a problem I and a few others have run into on occasion: sometimes your SD card just gets corrupted, which makes the above methods useless (since they rely on your SD card to work). Take your SD card out of your phone, put it into your computer using an SD card reader, and format it. It's very important that you format it through an SD card reader directly and not by plugging in your phone in USB mode—I learned this the hard way. Format it as FAT32 and try the above methods again.


Other errors, like during the ROM flashing process, might give you a hint as to what's wrong. Try heading to the XDA Developers forums and asking for help, as your phone could have one of a million specific problems we can't address here today. Remember, if your phone turns on, there's still a good chance you can recover from whatever error you're experiencing, so don't give up just yet!

If Your Phone Is Truly Bricked: Take It Into the Store and Play Dumb

If your phone is actually bricked—that is, it won't turn on at all, no matter how hard you try—it's time to give up and move on. The first thing you can do in this situation is try to take it back to your carrier's store and play dumb—just say something like "I don't know what happened, but my phone won't turn on anymore" (don't tell them you rooted it, obviously). Most carriers don't have time to deal with such issues and they'll just give you a new phone. Sure, it's a tad evil, but it should work most of the time.


If they're wise to your act, though, you can try another store or just sell your bricked phone for a few bucks on Craigslist. Sadly, if no one will replace your phone, you'll have to buy an entirely new one. Such are the dangers of rooting, but don't be discouraged! Bricking your phone is pretty rare, so I wouldn't worry about it being a common occurrence. As always, though, when you void your warranty, only do so if you're ready to replace that device completely, since you never know what can happen.



P.S. If you're an iPhone owner and are having the same trouble with your device, be sure to check out our guide to troubleshooting a nearly-bricked iOS device.

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You can contact Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

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