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How to update your Android firmware

One of the things that interests most Android users is whether their handset will receive updates, whether you own a Galaxy A3 (2016), OnePlus 2 or LG G4. On Apple iOS devices, since there are only a handful of devices that are under Apple’s control, updates are regularly rolled out across all the devices at the same time. With Android, however, it can take ages to start a roll-out and even then, there are no guarantees your device will be seeing the update, or there may be issues associated with the update itself. There are generally two ways to update your device: over the air (OTA) or manual updates, which is a bit more complicated. We’ll show you how to do both across various devices.

How to do automatic updates

Usually software updates roll out to our devices automatically, which happens OTA (over the air). When this happens, you’ll receive a notification that will tell you that an update is ready to install and all you need to do is click on it to start. If, for whatever reason, it isn’t being pushed to your device or you accidentally cleared the notification, you can check manually if there is an OTA update available by heading to About Device > System Updates > Check for Updates. This exact terminology will vary depending on what type of device you own, but it should be in the same general area.

AndroidPIT huawei p9 nougat
Can't wait to get Nougat on your Huawei P9? / © AndroidPIT

How to manually update

There are various reasons for manually updating your device, but some of the most common are that you don’t have a stable mobile or WiFi network, or you’ve rooted your device and aren’t receiving OTA updates anymore. In the case of devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5 which won't be getting an official Android Nougat update, you might even turn to custom ROMs like Lineage OS.

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1. Locate a ROM

The first step to performing a manual update is locating a ROM that you want to install on your device. In case of an official ROM, we would check the appropriate website for each manufacturer and locate the proper ROM for our model of device. The firmware of the more popular manufacturers can be found here: Samsung (SamMobile), Sony (Xperia Firmware or Flashtool), LG (LG Phone Firmware), Huawei (EMUI) or Motorola (Motorola Firmware). You can find information on the best custom ROMs here.

2. Installing the ROM

To install the ROM, you’ll have to locate the specific program which is suitable for your brand of smartphone or use a custom recovery, which requires your device to be unlocked and rooted. You can learn more about installing custom ROMs here.

KIES: This program is used to update Samsung branded devices, allowing us to download the ROM and install it to the mobile device from your PC. KIES itself downloads the firmware for you based on your device and location, so if a ROM hasn't been rolled out to your device or location, you won’t be able to install it using KIES.

Odin: Another program that allows you to install ROMs on your Samsung devices. The advantage here is that unlike KIES, you can install the ROM you’ve downloaded yourself, such as from SamMobile. For a brief overview, you can check out any of our various tutorials on how to root your Samsung devices.

odin samfirm sammobile update
 Install the best ROM for your device. / © ANDROIDPIT

Flash Tool: This tool is used to flash ROMs onto Sony Xperia devices. You’ll have to keep in mind that this will only work on Xperia devices that have their bootloader unlocked. Right now, it’s in beta stages but works across most Windows PCs.  

HTC Sync Manager: As the name suggests, this program is used to install updates, among other things, on HTC devices. To get it, you can head over to the official HTC website and grab it. Once installed, you just have to connect your smartphone to your PC via USB and then fire up the program. It will search for software updates for you, but only official updates will be available to you.

HTC One Tool Kit: This program was developed by some folks over at the XDA Developers Forum and works for HTC devices. In this tool kit you can unlock your bootloader, root some devices, and of course, install official and custom ROMs on your HTC. You can grab the toolkit from the following link: HTC One Toolkit.

LG PC Suite: This program will update LG devices and can be downloaded by hitting LG's device search page and searching for PC Suite - just download the one for your device. Once the program is installed, you just have to click on the box Check Phone Update. As with some of the other official programs, this will only install official updates for your device.

lg pc suite 02 700x444
© LG

KDZ Firmware Updater:  This is another program that allows you to update and flash ROMs, both official and custom, to LG devices. Note that although the installation of this program is relatively simple, you may have some issues with Windows Vista or 7 because you’ll need to make sure you give the program administrator privileges. You can grab the program from the following link: KDZ Firmware Updater.

RSD Lite: Motorola users usually don’t have problems with receiving updates, however, this toolkit will allow you to flash stock firmware on your Motorola again if you ever have any issues.  You can grab the program from the following link: RSD Lite.

Custom Recovery: If you don’t see a compatible program in the following list for your device or manufacturer, the best option may be to install a custom recovery on your device. This is one of the simpler methods for flashing custom ROMs and backing up your device and is accessed when you reboot your device. As such, you can download custom or official ROMs straight to your device and then install them without having to use a PC a middle man.

ROM Manager: This app, for rooted devices, allows us to see which ROMs are available for your device. This also offers users to install ROMs straight from the app and provides a pretty simple solution for you to browse and try out different ROMs.

ROM Manager Install on Google Play

Do you use any alternative methods to install updates to your device? Share them with us in the comments if so.

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