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 bootloader on your phone before flashing a custom recovery! Here’s how to do it on Motorola phones.
How to flash a custom recovery
- 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. Get the latest:
HTC Android USB drivers (included in HTC Sync) here
LG Android USB drivers here (go to “Software updates” > Select your phone > Click on “Install USB Drivers”)
Sony Android USB drivers here
Motorola Android USB drivers (included in Motorola Device Manager) here
- Android SDK must be installed on your computer. You can download from the official Android developer portal.
- Download the latest version of either CWM or TWRP (we prefer CWM, but both work equally well). For CWM go to this website, find your device, and download the image for it:
For TWRP go to this website, click on “Get TWRP for your device” and type you device's name to download the image for it:
- 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.
How to flash a custom recovery (like CWM or TWRP) on Android
1. Enable USB debugging on your Android device. Connect your phone to a computer via USB.
2. Now, it’s time to open Command Prompt (terminal) and get serious
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
Make sure your device is listed.
Next, type in:
adb reboot bootloader
Wait for the phone to reboot in bootloader mode.
4. Go to the platform-tools directory
In the command line, enter the following:
Make sure that your device is listed.
Finally, type in:
fastboot flash recovery FILE.IMG
Replace ‘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:
Download CWM hereDownload TWRP here
Here’s how that recovery file name typically looks (this is the image for a Moto G):
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!