Fix It: How to Unbrick Your Android

What to do when your Android won't respond

A droid holding a wrench and toolbox standing atop a smartphone

Palto. Getty Images.

An Android smartphone or tablet that won't turn on is considered bricked; it's about as useful as a brick because it has no available functionality. But don't give up hope, because you might be able to unbrick your device. Keep reading to learn about the causes of bricking and ways to unbrick an Android device.

Instructions in this article apply broadly to all Android smartphones and tablets.

Causes of Bricked Android Devices

A device that powers on but it is nonfunctional is considered soft bricked. A device that will not power on at all is hard bricked.

A soft bricked device may boot into recovery mode or freeze at the start up screen. For example, if you tried to install a custom ROM without first wiping the data from the original ROM, your device may encounter errors while booting, which can cause it to get stuck in a boot loop.

Other potential causes of bricking include:

  • Improper installation of important updates
  • Problems related to rooting your Android device
  • Missing or corrupted system files
  • Physical damage or faulty hardware
  • Accidentally downloading malware

How to Unbrick an Android Phone or Tablet

Not everything on this list will work for everyone, but there is likely something here that will unbrick your Android device. Try each of these steps until your device is back in working order:

  1. Remove and reinsert the battery. If possible, take out the battery and put it back in place securely. Also, plug in your device's charger to make sure that a faulty battery isn't what's preventing it from turning on.

  2. Contact the manufacturer. If your device is under warranty, the manufacturer might fix or replace your device free of charge. If you have rooted your Android device to install custom firmware or sideload apps, then your warranty is likely void, so you'll have to fix any problems on your own.

  3. Contact your phone carrier. If your phone is bricked, contact your service provider. They may be able to restore your phone and even recover your data in the store.

    Back up your Android data on a regular basis to avoid losing it.

  4. Take it to a phone repair shop. If your device is physically damaged and you have no warranty, your best bet is to take your device to professional phone repair shop. They have access to tools and parts that you probably don't, so paying them to fix it may be the more economical option.

  5. Store it in a bag of rice. If your device isn't working because of water damage, keep it in a plastic bag filled with uncooked rice overnight. The rice will absorb some of the water, thus improving your chances of resuscitating the device.

    If your phone is physically damaged, remove the SIM card so that you can recover your contacts.

  6. Replace the screen. If your device turns on, yet the screen remains black, then your device might not be bricked. Instead, the display could be the problem. Take it to a repair shop or replace the screen yourself.

  7. Perform a hard reboot. If your device turns on and then immediately freezes up, try a hard reboot. This is usually accomplished by holding Power + Home, but it differs by device.

  8. Reboot in recovery mode. Try rebooting your device in recovery mode:

    1. With your device turned off, press Volume Up + Power to boot in recovery mode.
    2. Use the volume buttons to navigate the menu and highlight Reboot system now.
    3. Press Power to select the highlighted option.
    4. Wait to see if your device reboots as normal.

    Steps for booting to recovery mode may be different depending on your device's model. Consult your phone or tablet's manual for further guidance.

  9. Wipe the cache. Deleting temporary files can sometimes do the trick.

    1. Boot your device in recovery mode.
    2. Select Wipe Cache Partition.
    3. Select Reboot system now.
  10. Restore your Android device to factory settings. If you've made modifications to your device that resulted in a soft brick, a factory reset can reverse those changes. Performing a factory reset on your Android device will restore the system to the state it was in when you purchased it. Consequently, you will lose everything you have downloaded and installed.

    To factory reset a soft bricked Android device:

    1. Boot your device in recovery mode.
    2. Select Wipe Data / Factory Reset.
    3. Select Yes to reset the device and wait. When the process is finished, you'll return to the recovery mode main menu.
    4. Select Reboot system now.

    If successful, Android will boot up as normal, and you will have to set up your device.

  11. Reinstall the factory version of your OS. If your device has an SD card slot, you can reinstall your device's OS.

    This method will also erase all of your personal files.

    1. Search the web for a ROM file of the factory firmware for your device. A good place to begin is the XDA developers forum. In the search bar, enter your device name + stock rom.
    2. Download the appropriate ROM (typically contained in a ZIP file) to an SD card.
    3. Insert the SD card into your device.
    4. Boot your Android device in recovery mode.
    5. Select Install updates from sd card.
    6. Select the ZIP file containing the ROM.
    7. Select Reboot system now.

    Flashing an incompatible ROM can hard brick your device. Make sure to download the correct firmware for your model.

  12. Use an Android unbricking tool. If you're not comfortable using Odin, there are more user-friendly tools for unbricking specific devices. For example, the Fone Lab Android Data Recovery program is a versatile unbricking tool used to recover Samsung phones and tablets. It is available for both Windows and Mac.

How to Unbrick a Samsung Android Device

Unfortunately, there is no one program capable of fixing all types of Android phones and tablets and Samsung creates a particular problem, because Samsung devices run on a proprietary version of Android. Fortunately, there are a couple of programs that might be able to help you get your Samsung phone back into working order.

  1. Use Odin to unbrick a Samsung phone. Odin is a program developed by Samsung to install custom firmware on Android devices. It can be used to fix bricked Samsung Android phones provided you have a computer running Windows.

    You must be logged in as an administrator to run Odin on your PC.

  2. Use FoneLab to unbrick your Samsung Android device. If you have a Samsung device, you can use the full-featured version of FoneLab to unbrick it.

Although there is a free trial version of FoneLab (alternately known as the U.Fone Toolkit), most features including unbricking and data recovery are only available with a premium subscription.

  1. Connect your Android device to your computer with a USB cable.
  2. Download and install the Fone Lab Android Data Recovery tool on your computer.
  3. Open Fone Lab and select Broken Android Data Extraction.
  4. Select Start on the right side of the window under the Android icon.
  5. Select the option that best applies to your device and select Next.
  6. Choose your Device Name and Device Model, then select Confirm.
  7. Follow the on-screen instructions to boot your device in download mode, then select Start to download the recovery package.
  8. Once finished, manually reboot your device if doesn't reboot automatically.

If the process was successful, then your Samsung device should work as normal.

If you're not sure how you bricked your phone in the first place, you may need to take some additional precautions going forward. To prevent bricking your Android: Don't root your device. Avoid downloading anything that doesn't come from the official app store. Don't delete or alter important files. And always keep your phone inside a protective case.