What Does Bricking a Device Mean?

Don't accidentally brick your computer or smartphone

If your laptop, smartphone, or tablet won't turn on, it can be considered "bricked." Learn the causes of bricking and what you should do if you accidentally brick your computer or mobile device.

The following information applies broadly to various electronics.

What Does "Brick" Mean?

A "bricked" device has lost all functionality. In other words, it's as useful as a brick.

In the context of electronics, "brick" can be used as a verb, adjective, or noun. The term isn't exclusive to desktop and laptop computers. Blu-Ray players, routers, digital cameras, and game systems can all be "bricked."

Hard Brick Vs. Soft Brick

A device capable of powering on is not technically bricked. If your device turns on, but it doesn't do anything else, it can be considered a "soft brick."

This distinction is important because you can often fix malfunctioning laptops or phones with special recovery software. However, just because a device is "hard bricked" doesn't necessarily mean it's broken beyond repair.

What Causes Computers to Become Bricked?

Bricking is often the result of hardware issues caused by physical damage; however, software problems can also prevent a device from starting up, especially if you make changes to important system files. Therefore, any form of modding, hacking, or rooting your devices carries a risk of bricking. Accidentally downloading malware can also cause a device to become bricked.

IoT devices that depend on online services can become bricked if the manufacturer discontinues the service. For smaller electronics that run firmware such as MP3 players, internet routers, or the Nintendo 3DS, losing power during a system update can cause bricking. That's why it's important to keep your devices plugged in during updates.

Unplugging a laptop while updating the operating system shouldn't cause bricking, but losing power while updating the system BIOS can be catastrophic. Fortunately, most devices feature a failsafe to prevent such scenarios.

Ways to Fix a Bricked Device

Steps for fixing a bricked device differ depending on the exact model and the underlying issue.

Activate Recovery Mode

Sometimes, a device may appear to be bricked, but it can actually be recovered. For example, if you jailbreak your iPhone and it won't turn on, you might be able to restore it using DFU Mode.

Perform a Factory Reset

Many smaller electronics have a button or switch that restores the device to factory settings, which can resolve a lot of problems. Consult the instruction manual for guidance.

Contact the Manufacturer

Modifying a device's firmware will likely terminate the warranty, but if your device becomes bricked during a routine software upgrade, the manufacturer should fix or replace it.

Look for an "Unbricking" Tool

There may be a user-developed tool specifically for fixing your device. For example, the Kindle Fire Unbrick Utility can unroot a bricked Fire tablet. Such tools often require the use of additional hardware, such as a laptop.

Manual Repair

If you're sure it's a hardware issue, and you don't have a valid warranty, try fixing the problem yourself. Be careful when replacing broken hardware so you don't cause more technical problems.

Was this page helpful?