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How to flash a custom recovery (like CWM or TWRP) on Android

Posted: , by Victor H.

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How to flash a custom recovery (like CWM or TWRP) on Android
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 bootloader on your phone before flashing a custom recovery! Here’s how to do it on Motorola phones.

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. ClockworkMod (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.

Pre-requisites:
  • 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:
Samsung Android USB drivers here
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


  • 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:
Download CWM here
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.


1. Enable USB debugging on your Android device (here's how to do it). Connect your phone to a computer via USB.

How to flash a custom recovery (like CWM or TWRP) on Android


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:
C:/Android SDK/adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-20131030/sdk/platform-tools/

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/

How to flash a custom recovery (like CWM or TWRP) on Android


3. In the terminal, enter the following:
adb devices
Make sure your device is listed.

Next, type in:
adb reboot bootloader
Wait for the phone to reboot in bootloader mode.

ClockWorkMod

ClockWorkMod

TeamWinRecoveryProject

TeamWinRecoveryProject

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 devices
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:

    Here’s how that recovery file name typically looks (this is the image for a Moto G):
    cwm-6.0.4.6-MotoG4.4.img
    cwm-6.0.4.7-MotoG-GPE-4.4.img
    twrp-2.6.3.1-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.

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    24 Comments
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    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 06:05

    1. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1117; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


    Wait for it....."The beauty of Android". ;)

    Sorry, that was terrible. If only there was a delete button.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 06:35

    2. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7354; Member since: 14 May 2012)


    I was going to show you this article since you want to try rooting, but you beat me here. Did you actually do it or no?

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 06:39

    3. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1117; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


    No I needed to downgrade the kernel to root without unlocking the bootloader - not sure if downgrading such would wipe everything. :s

    Just want to save app data from my old phone to use for the new one. Lesson learnt - when buying a new phone, root it ASAP!

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 06:44

    4. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1117; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


    Cont.: which is what I have done with the new one.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 06:59

    7. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1117; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


    Anyways put a link up of the srticle.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 07:42 1

    10. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 3755; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)


    It's never too late to root your phone. The reason you want to root your phone is so you can have FULL control. Once you root you can always put the most up to date ROMs & Kernels.

    Just back up you phone to your PC just so you don't lose anything important & follow directions & you will be fine. The only time you could ever f*ck something up is if you deviate or just not follow directions.

    Trust me I have been rooting EVERY phone I have ever owned that has been Android that is. Root is the only WAY to go & the reason why to me Android is the CLEAR winner in the mobile world.

    My rooted Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is by FAR the most epic phone I have ever had the pleasure to root & install a custom ROM. TouchWiz is pure garbage. I have an AOSP ROM BUT with all the core Samsung Galaxy Note 3 functionality & it's truly a pleasure to use...

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 08:06

    11. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1117; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


    I just want my app DATA backed up from my non-rooted phone - in any way, root or no root.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 08:15

    13. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 3755; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)


    Hope this helps...

    http://www.phonearena.com/news/How-to-backup-your-app-data-texts-and-call-logs-on-Android-without-root_id50584

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 08:20

    15. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1117; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)


    I've seen that before but it doesn't work on Sony (and Moto) phones - Sony's disabled something on their phones.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 08:31

    16. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 3755; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)


    ???

    That is very interesting... All I have to say is WOW. Looks like the only way you will be able to achieve what you want is through root.

    Better get going on your root adventure. It will open your eyes to how locked down you really are when running STOCK...

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 06:53 1

    5. antonioli (Posts: 169; Member since: 08 Sep 2013)


    I made it for the first time. The options are more interesting by far.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 06:58 1

    6. kaikuheadhunterz (Posts: 686; Member since: 18 Jul 2013)


    You don't actually need the whole Android SDK, just the necessary files

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 07:06

    8. Victor.H (Posts: 406; Member since: 27 May 2011)


    True. We recommend getting the whole Android SDK, though, in case you want to continue with development further on.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 07:35

    9. GTX_Ti (unregistered)


    May be Mini-SDK from XDA.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 08:08

    12. tedkord (Posts: 4275; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


    It's been a while, but if you're already rooted, can't you just install ROM Manager on your phone and use it to install CWM over your recovery partition? Or GooManager if you prefer TWRP? Much easier. Just make sure it supports your device.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 13:46

    18. networkdood (Posts: 6247; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


    Yes..you can..that is how I do it...twrp is great.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 08:17

    14. AfterShock (Posts: 2106; Member since: 02 Nov 2012)


    I am thankful, PA didn't suggest a took kit.

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 10:11

    17. water99211 (Posts: 11; Member since: 11 Dec 2013)


    Phone Arena, you guys should do a article explaining how to combine your micro sd card with your phones memory to putt apps on it for rooted phones :D

    posted on 20 Mar 2014, 13:47

    19. networkdood (Posts: 6247; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


    Some devices have toolkits on XDA that can make this process even easier..as long as you have the drivers for tour computer...

    posted on 26 Apr 2014, 12:12

    20. headaxe (Posts: 2; Member since: 26 Apr 2014)


    Hi, what do you mean on step 4? I can't understand where i have to put the FILE.IMG (Cwm recovery image).

    posted on 26 Apr 2014, 12:24

    21. headaxe (Posts: 2; Member since: 26 Apr 2014)


    By the way (also in the step 4) my phone doesn't appears on the cmd line! What can I do?

    posted on 13 May 2014, 13:20

    22. srujan21 (Posts: 2; Member since: 28 Nov 2012)


    How to replace one with another ?

    posted on 24 Jun 2014, 20:28

    23. HC1Gunner (Posts: 1; Member since: 24 Jun 2014)


    Everything goes great until step 3. In the terminal enter the following:
    adb devices, my device is listed

    Next, type in:
    adb reboot bootloader
    Wait for the phone to reboot in bootloader mode.
    Which results in the following below

    Phone shows green Android character and says...Downloading... do not turn off target!!

    at top left it says...

    ODIN mode
    Product name: SGH-I537
    Current binary: Samsung official
    System status: Official
    KNOX Kernel Lock: 0x0
    KNOX warranty void: 0x0
    CSB-CONFIG-LSB: 0x30
    Write Protect: Enable (text grayed out)
    eMMC Burst mode Enable (text grayed out)

    4. Now, go to the platform-tools directory (a sub-directory of the Android SDK)
    In the command line enter the following:
    fastboot devices
    Make sure that your device is listed.
    Nothing appears to be listed..
    C:\Android_SDK\PC_tools\sdk\platform-tools>fastboo​t devices

    C:\Android_SDK\PC_tools\sdk\platform-tools>

    posted on 04 Jul 2014, 10:42

    24. IlyasMiah (Posts: 1; Member since: 04 Jul 2014)


    On step 3, after typing in 'adb reboot bootloader' it restarts, but doesn't go into bootloader mode.

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