If you have decided to take a trip to the land of custom ROMs and Android hacking in general, you’d need to take one first step – flash (install) a custom recovery. In this article, we explain what exactly is a ‘custom recovery’, how you install it, and what are some popular solutions.
Let’s start with the fact that every phone ships with stock recovery software. Stock recoveries vary slightly between phone makers, but they are identical in their essence – they allow you to manually flash official updates and clear your phone’s cache. Sounds limited? It is, and that’s why custom recoveries exist.
Custom recoveries that we’ll flash here replace the limited stock ones, adding all sorts of functionality to your phone. Flashing a custom recovery is often a key part of the rooting process, but that is not its only use. Here is a short summary of all that you can do with a custom recovery:
Create and restore a backup image – A backup image makes a copy of all your phone settings, application and app data. Such a backup copy is crucial if your hacking experiments fail – in such cases, you can use the created backup image to restore your phone to a fully functional earlier state without losing any data.
Flash custom ROMs – custom ROMs can completely overhaul the looks and functionality of an Android smartphone, and usually they are the main reason for first flashing a custom recovery.
Important: You have to unlock the boot-loader on your phone before flashing a custom recovery! Be careful!
How to flash a custom recovery:
Now that you know what a custom recovery is and what it does, it’s time to go through some popular names of recovery software. Clockwork Mod (shortened to CWM) and Team Win’s Recovery Project (commonly referred to as TWRP) are the two most popular solutions, and while the two differ slightly, they both have the essential features you need.
USB drivers for your phone must be installed on a computer. You can grab them from the official website of the company that made the phone.
Your phone must be connected to your computer via USB. If you get stuck at some point in the tutorial, a common fix is to try disconnecting the phone and re-connecting it again.
1. Enable USB debugging on your Android device (here’s how to do it). Connect your phone to a computer via USB.
2. Now, it’s time to open Command Prompt (terminal) and get serious. Don’t worry, all you’d need to do is copy and paste some code in it, it’s not hard at all. To open the terminal in Windows 7, hit the ‘Windows’ key, type ‘cmd’, and hit Enter; in Windows 8, you’d need to navigate to the new Modern UI home panel, and just type in ‘cmd’ there.
Once you open the terminal, you need to change the folder to Platform Tools in the Android SDK. Typically, it looks something like this, but you have to find the exact path where you installed the Android SDK on your computer:
To change the folder you just copy the above path (as it is on your computer) and put ‘cd’ in front of it, so the whole command would look like so:
cd C:/Android SDK/adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-20131030/sdk/platform-tools/
3. In the terminal, enter the following:adb devicesMake sure your device is listed.
Next, type in:adb reboot bootloaderWait for the phone to reboot in bootloader mode.4. Now, go to the platform-tools directory (a sub-directory of the Android SDK), and open Command Prompt there (you can do so by Shift + Right-click > Open Command Prompt).
In the command line, enter the following:fastboot devicesMake sure that your device is listed.
Finally, type in:fastboot flash recovery FILE.IMGReplace ‘FILE.IMG’ with the recovery you want to flash. We have given you links for CWM and TWRP at the beginning of the article, but if you’ve missed them, you would need to download them now from the following links:
Here’s how that recovery file name typically looks (this is the image for a Moto G):cwm-184.108.40.206-MotoG4.4.imgcwm-220.127.116.11-MotoG-GPE-4.4.imgtwrp-18.104.22.168-MotoG4.4.img
5. IMPORTANT! After you have flashed the recovery, it is crucial that you you don’t just reboot your device. Go to ‘Recovery’ by using volume down to scroll. Don’t scroll using the Volume Up button! In this case, Volume Up serves as the ‘Select’ button. Once you have gone to ‘Recovery’, only then press the Volume Up to boot in recovery mode.
If you don’t follow these instructions, your device will simply re-flash the stock recovery, and you’d have to start all over with the custom recovery flash process.
And voila, that’s it! You now have custom recovery flashed on your phone, congrats!
Note: You can use this how-to tutorial guide to install custom recovery on phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 2, HTC One (M8), LG G3, LG G2, Moto X, Moto G, Sony Xperia Z2, Xperia Z1, etc.