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Recovery in Android: all you need to know

Recovery in Android: all you need to know

Many of us in our Android experience will come across the term recovery mode. The odds also increase if you’ve ever tried to customize your device with any kind of advanced modification, like when flashing a custom ROM or when adding a unique function for example. Today, we’ll look at everything you need to know about recovery mode, which could in the end, lead you to making better decisions when modding in the future.

5 nexus recovery fastboot start
© AndroidPIT

What is recovery mode?

First of all, recovery mode is independent from the execution environment of the Android OS, and it is located in another partition of the internal memory. This separation allows you to access it, even if the main system is damaged (bricked), providing the user with the tools to repair it. It’s for this reason that there’s a basic version on any Android device.

The point in time at which we decide whether we will start the phone in normal (Android) or recovery mode, can be determined with the bootloader. You basically force the phone to start in recovery mode, providing the bootloader is not locked by the manufacturer. You can check online to see if your device is locked, and if it is, here’s a guide on how to unlock the bootloader.

recovery 01
© AndroidPIT

How to access recovery mode

Recovery mode can be accessed many different ways depending on the device and other factors.

Key Sequences

For most devices, you can get into recovery mode when turning on a phone by simultaneously pressing certain keys. Underneath you will see a breakdown of all the ways to get into recover mode for various devices.

  • Power + Volume Up + Home : the most common and compatible .
  • Power + Volume Down + Home : Galaxy Fit GT 5670, GT-S5660 Galaxy Gio, Captivate Glide.
  • Volume Up + Volume Down + Home : Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Galaxy i5500 Corby.
  • Volume Up + Volume Down + Power : AT&T Captivate, T-Mobile Vibrant, Verizon Fascinate, Galaxy S, Galaxy S 4G, Mesmerize, Galaxy S2, Infuse 4G, AT & T Galaxy S2 SGH-1777 AT & T Galaxy S2 skyrocket sgh-1727 t -Mobile Galaxy S2 SGH-T989, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy W i8150.
  • Power + Volume Down : Galaxy Tab 2 (7 and 10.1), Galaxy Tab 7.7, Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Note 10.1, T-Mobile Sidekick 4G.
  • Power + Volume Up : p1000 Galaxy Tab, Nexus S, Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy Player 4.0, Galaxy Player 5.0, Galaxy Note (AT&T).
  • Volume Down + Call + End Call : Galaxy Spica, Intercept
  • Home + Power : s5830 Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Mini.
  • Volume Down + Camera + Power : Sprint 4g.
  • Volume Up + Volume Down + Home + Power : Reported for the poor owners of the Galaxy Ace Plus s7500 (make sure you have particularly large hands, or call a few friends to support).

Give each method a try, and if it doesn’t work for you, let us know which device you use in the comments below, and we’ll try our best to help you out. If you know of any other ways, it would be great to hear your feedback.


Some apps allow you to access recover mode by simply pressing a button, but this requires that you have root access. The app that gives you this quick access is called Quick Boot (Reboot).


If you don’t have root access, and the key combination above doesn’t work for you, you can try to enter recovery mode from your PC. This method is easy and fast. First you’ll need the drivers installed on your computer, and get the programs Minimal ADB and Fastboot.

  • First, download the ADB and Fastboot software on your PC.
  • Then open the program.
  • Turn on USB debugging on your device, and connect your device to your PC.
  • Ensure that your device has been recognized, then type the command ‘’adb devices’’ and press enter. If you get alphanumerical code under ‘’List of devices attached’’, then all is fine.
  • Type in the command ‘’adb reboot recovery’’, and then press enter. The phone will then reboot in recovery mode.
recovery 02
Example of stock recovery. / © AndroidPIT

As already mentioned, recovery mode was created with the intention to allow you to update the firmware or repair it. Below, you’ll see a list of the main basic functions and what they are.

  • reboot system now : you can reboot the device.
  • apply update from...: allows you to install an official firmware that has been previously downloaded and moved to a particular position. Depending on the stock recovery, you can do this from the internal memory ("update.zip "-" *.img "), from SD (option" external storage") or PC ("adb").
  • wipe ... : wipe erases the content specified in the option. In the case of "data/factory reset ", this will reset the phone to factory settings, while "cache partitions" is one of the most common remedies to solve the bootloop problem (when the device continues to show the initial animation without launching Android).

Custom Recovery

A custom Recovery offers more functions in addition to those of the stock recovery feature:

  • Backup and restore: allows you to perform full backups, called nandroid. You can save applications, data, settings and all your customizations in one go, which creates an exact copy of all your data on your device.
  • install zip: this allows you to install any custom ROM, in addition to official firmware, directly onto the phone.
  • advanced: this is an option that opens a second menu full of other functions. Among the most commonly used is " Wipe Dalvik Cache ", a recommended wipe (I would even say mandatory) when installing a different ROM.
galaxy nexus recovery cwm
Example of a custom recovery (ClockworkMod). / © AndroidPIT

How to install a custom recovery

There are several good custom recoveries, but the most popular and reputed is ClockworkMod. You can find this recovery by simply opening the ROM Manager app and following the procedure from beginning to end. You’ll need root access to be able to use it.

ClockworkMod Recovery screenshot 1
© AndroidPIT

Now you know everything about recover mode! If you have any doubts or problems, feel free to let us know about them in the comments below.

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