How to Save a Bricked Android Smartphone

Android phones are lot of fun, they let us install custom ROMs, kernels and do all sorts of cool stuff to them. But there are times when the phone just can’t take it and it breaks. When an Android smartphone becomes bricked, it means that it encountered an error and it cannot boot any more, but do not fear, you can still save a bricked Android smartphone! We’ll show you how.

What is a “bricked Android”?

Many do not fully understand what is a bricked phone. Let me explain, there are two types of bricked phones: soft brick and hard brick. These are totally different and at least for one of them, you can still hope to save your smartphone.

Soft brick: the soft brick is when a software error has occurred and your phone is either in a boot loop (it cannot boot the ROM, instead it reboots) or it boots only in bootloader. Also, in some rare cases, the phone does not power up. I myself experienced a soft brick when my phone entered only in bootloader and it froze in recovery, but I was able to save it. If you have this sort of a problem, then you might save your bricked Android smartphone with some luck.

Hard brick: your phone is completely unresponsive and the problem is caused by a hardware malfunction. If this is the case for you, then your phone has become a very expensive brick (hence the name) or a very cool paperweight. There is not much you can do in this case (or, at least to my knowledge).

You should go to your dealer (if you still have warranty) and hope that they will change your phone. Better play dumb in this case and do not say you have rooted your Android smartphone, because the root process voids your warranty. Although the true bricking (hard brick) makes your phone useless, keep in mind that this rarely happens.

Before we begin, know that you will need to have installed the Android SDK and drivers on your computer, because in some cases you will need to use the adb shell, Also, you might need the Odin Flasher to reflash a new ROM to your smartphone. We provided the download links in the How to Root a ICS Smartphone article.

How to save a bricked Android smartphone

How to Save a Bricked Android Smartphone (1)

If you were flashing ROMs and Kernels and your phone happened to get soft bricked, then there are a few ways to save it. It depends on how your phone reacts and of course, on what Android smartphone you have. I’ll start with some general fixes that should work on most smartphones. Depending on what problem you encounter, check the methods below:

If your phone is in a boot loop (keeps rebooting when trying to boot the ROM)

Usually, this type of error occurs after installing a new ROM on top of an existing one, without first deleting the old files. If you have this problem, you can try formating the Cache Partition, Dalvik Cache and User Data. All of these can be done within the Recovery Mode (this only works on a rooted Android phone with ClockworkMod Recovery or other custom recovery). After wiping all of the data from your previous ROM, reboot your phone and it should boot the new ROM. If the problem still persists, delete all the cache files and the user data and do a new flash of your desired ROM.

If your phone boots straight into Recovery Mode or Bootloader

How to Save a Bricked Android Smartphone (2)

If this is the case, then a clean install of a new ROM will get rid of this problem. Mount your SD card either from the Recovery Mode (Mounts and Storage-> Mount SD Card) or remove your SD card from your smartphone and plug into a card reader, and you can copy the new ROM on your card and flash it from the phone’s recovery (Install ZIP from SD card -> Choose ZIP from SD card -> Install -> Yes ).

If the problems persist, then unroot your smartphone and install the stock ROM (the one that phone came with). To find the stock ROM, do a Google search of your model. After downloading the stock ROM, flash it using the known method. Each phone manufacturer has different ways to reverting back to the original ROM, but for most of the devices running Android, Odin will work pretty good.

If you still encounter errors or cannot complete the processes above, try formatting your SD card to a FAT32 partition using a card reader (only if you have a removable SD card) then repeat the process.

If your phone does not start at all

If your phone is soft bricked to the degree that it won’t even start, so you cannot go into “Downloading Mode” and run Odin, there is a way to do this. However, to my knowledge, it works only on Samsung devices, so do a little digging before you try it. You will need a micro USB cable (the one that you connect your phone to your computer) that you don’t use any more. This is because you will have to cut the microUSB jig (the end that goes in your phone) and peel the plastic away until you get to the actual connectors. Notice that it has 5 pins, you will only need the last two pins (pin 4 and 5).

Next, you will need to buy 3 resistors of 100k Ohm each and solder them in series (you should have ~300k Ohm resistance, keep in mind that it won’t work if you have a resistance under 300k Ohm). Now, isolate the resistors very good, because if you touch them, their resistance will change, and the then take two remaining ends (a positive and a negative) and touch them to the two pin connectors from the microUSB port. Keep them together for about 4-5 seconds and your phone should go into Downloading Mode. From here, you can use Odin to flash your Recovery Image and ROM.

Here is a video explaining the entire process:

A new way to save bricked Android smartphones

A new software has appeared that can unbrick your soft bricked phone with only one click. It might work for your phone, but if you have tried to unbrick it with the methods above and still no success, I don’t think it would do you any good. But nevertheless, do not stop trying. The program is called OneClick UnBrick, brought to us by XDA Developers member AdamOutler.

The app is cross platform and it should get rid of a soft brick with only 1 click. Give it a try and tell us how it works! Also, for users of adb shell, a new app has arrived that can help you use adb much more simpler. It’s called QtADB and it is free to download from their website.

If everyting else fails

If every other method fails, before you toss your Android phone out the window, try asking for some help on XDA Developers. Their forum has lots of useful information and their experts can point you in the right direction.

This is how to save a bricked Android smartphone. If you have a problem with your phone, try the methods above to see if you can save it! If neither of the above methods work, then you might have a hard bricked phone on your hands. If this is the case, go talk to your dealer and see if they want to change it. Remember not to admit rooting the phone!

 
Author

I often wonder, where is technology heading? What do all of these advances mean for us and for our future? I sometimes miss the days when I didn’t know how to use a floppy disk, or how a computer CPU works, but now, until I find an answer to my questions, I’ll keep tracking these advances and show everything I find to those who share my interests.