How to handle a bad flash on your Android

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: July 24, 2013

Accidents happen in almost any given situation: You spill your morning coffee on your pants, you miscalculated how far that crack in the sidewalk really was and ended up eating concrete, or maybe you dun goofed trying to mod your Android device and now you're stuck in a constant bootloop. Sounds like a pretty bad day, but fortunately there are ways to remedy these types of things. Today, we're going to specifically focus on how to rememedy an "oops" that you may be experiencing after trying to make changes within your Android device.

As a certified derp (which, if you're not familiar with the term, means "moron") with an undying curiosity to constantly mod my Androids, I've run in to more pickles than I'm willing to admit. Fortunately, even when I thought that my phone was facing certain death, I've always been able to find a solution to my problem with a few general tips and tricks. They may not work for everyone, but they should at least get you headed in the right direction, if nothing else.

Step One: Assessing the Situation

Your first instinct after finding yourself in a "situation" (constant boot loop, stuck in recovery, etc.) is to apply your palm directly to the forehead and wonder why you decided to mod your device in the first place. You're likely having fleeting thoughts of "There wasn't anything really wrong with bloatware," and "I actually kind of liked that NASCAR app, and now I'll never see it again!" The most important thing here is to remain calm and to stop kidding yourself about liking that NASCAR app, because nobody does. Fortunately, you can turn that frown upside down because as long as your screen is turning on there's a high probability that you can get your phone back to normal, you just have to know where to look.

If your phone doesn't seem to be showing any signs of life (as in, not turning on at all) your situation may be more dire, but all hope is not lost.

Step Two: Basic Troubleshooting

For a device that doesn't turn on at all, your best troubleshooting options would be to pull the battery if you have the option, and if that doesn't work or if you don't have that option, try to plug it in to a computer or another charging source. Your phone might just be dead or needs to connect to a computer to work. Even if your screen doesn't turn on, it's still a good idea to see if the phone itself can still connect to the computer. Android does allow you to sideload and push files to the phone through your computer. If none of these work, and your computer cannot recognize your phone, you're probably out of luck in this scenario and you'll need to take your phone up to your carrier's retail store or contact the manufacturer for further instruction. There's not much troubleshooting you can do with a device that won't turn on. This is what most people refer to as a "brick".

For a phone that does still turn on, you have a much better chance at being able to recover from the situation, especially if you have access to a backup. Most root and mod guides will tell you to make a NANDROID backup of your device from your recovery every time you decide to make a change, just in case a situation (like getting stuck) arises. It's also a good idea to save this NANDROID backup on your computer. As long as your phone is recognized by your computer, you should be able to push a saved backup to your Android through a program called ADB, which will require you to use specific command prompts to do so. If pushing the backup was successful, this should solve any "oops" issues you had since it would have restored your phone back to a point in time when it worked.

Step Three: When Basic Troubleshooting Doesn't Work

Sometimes basic troubleshooting doesn't work. Maybe you forgot to make a backup, or maybe you don't have access to your SD card or the internal storage that contains said backup for whatever reason. Don't fret yet, because there's still a lot of resources to check before throwing your phone against a wall (which I highly recommend not doing). Google is your best friend at this point. Whatever issue you are having has likely been experienced by somebody else before you, so doing a quick Google search using key words like the issue and the make and model of your phone (i.e., "Galaxy S4 stuck in bootloop" or "LG Optimus G Pro stuck in recovery") could pull up any forum threads or articles that have been written about the issue before, and perhaps contains a solution as well.

Step Four: When Nobody Else Has This Problem But You

Do you ever ask yourself, "Is it just me, or..."? As a matter of fact, sometimes it is just you! You may very well be the first person to experience an issue that nobody has ever dealt with before - all the more reason to talk about it, you pioneer, you! Fortunately, there's a whole community full of people that are devoted to fixing these kinds of issues and solving these problems for people that might come across the same issue in the future. One of my favorite resources for sorting out these types of issues (and also for finding mods and ROMs) is a website called XDA Developers. As long as you've thoroughly searched the forum to make sure that the topic hasn't already been covered (sometimes Google misses these if you don't type in the right key words) you should be safe to explain your situation and ask how to solve it in the appropriate sub-forum. Any time I have ever had to ask a question I have had several developers help me through the issue and point me in the right direction to the resources I needed to resolve any issues.

Step Five: Patience

It's important to remain patient throughout this process. Unfortunately, even the smallest mistake can require hours of work in order to undo your initial mistake. It's tedious work, but that's the risk we take by playing with fire. You know what they say, if you mess with the bull, you get the horns. But, as I previously mentioned, if your phone at least turns on you have a high probability of getting your phone back to normal with no problems.

It's been my experience that by making the mistakes in the first place is what helps me learn more about what processes do what. It's frustrating when it happens, but after having more than enough "oopses" of my own I've still yet to run into a problem that hasn't been able to be reversed. Not to say that it doesn't happen, but it's a lot less likely than most people think.

Readers, what kind of "oops" situations have you found yourself in? Have you completely bricked your phone before, or were you able to figure out a solution to what you thought was a permanent brick? Share your stories with me in the comments below!

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