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How to Use Android Recovery Mode – WIRED

Wipe cache partition: Temporary system files are stored here, but you won’t find the option to wipe the data on every Android device. Google changed the way this works with Android 7.0 Nougat by introducing seamless updates. Not every Android manufacturer supports seamless updates, most notably Samsung phones, so you will still see this option on a Galaxy S21, for example. If the option is present, give it a try. Select Reboot system now when it has finished to find out if it solved your problem.

Wipe data/factory reset: As a last resort, you can use recovery mode to factory reset your Android phone, which will wipe all apps, data, and files, including text messages and photos. Just be aware that you will lose anything you have not backed up. If you use this method to wipe your phone, you will have to sign in with your Google account during setup. If you can’t sign in with a Google account that was previously used on the phone, then you won’t be able to use the phone at all. This theft protection feature cannot be bypassed. Read our guide on how to factory reset an Android phone to learn more.

Recovery mode also offers options for people looking to install new firmware or custom ROMs on their device and provides access to run tests and install updates from a connected computer or SD card. The options differ from phone to phone, depending on the version of Android and any modifications from the manufacturer. Most of the following stuff is for developers. Ignore it unless you know what you’re doing.

Reboot to bootloader: This will take you back to the bootloader menu, where you can access recovery mode and other options.

Enter fastboot: Only available on Pixel phones and a handful of other devices, fastboot is a tool that allows developers to send commands from a computer to an Android device. It requires the Android SDK (software development kit).

Apply update from ADB: ADB stands for Android Debug Bridge, another tool used by developers to send commands from a computer. It requires you to install the Android SDK, and you can learn more about it at the official Android Developer website.

Apply update from SD card: This is to install Android firmware from an SD card.

Mount /system: This gives access to core files and folders that are usually inaccessible. You can mount a partition to view data and edit it.

View recovery logs: This shows technical logs that list events and actions in recovery mode.

Run graphics test: This is for developers to run tests with the GPU (graphics processing unit).

Run locale test: This is another tool for app developers to test things related to language translation.

Power off: This turns the device off.

Repair apps: This option only seems to appear on Samsung phones, and it triggers app optimization. You may notice “Optimizing apps” appears on screen sometimes after a software update; this allows you to trigger the process manually, and there’s a chance it could help if you are having problems with specific apps.