Monday, 10 October 2016

What is a custom Recovery & why should you install one?

Android is a land of adventures for those who enjoy it and a mysterious maze for those who don’t understand. If you own a smartphone running proprietary OS like iOS or Windows, you won’t get the opportunity to customize the software to a deeper level. Android is a bit different from other mobile platforms as its source code is distributed under Open source agreements which will allow the entire world to look into each and every byte of the code in your smartphone.Many interested developers have put a lot of efforts to improve the Android environment and you could see a lot of custom modules for Android which would changes the entire the operational behavior of the device. If you’ve ever visited any development forums or websites, you might have noticed a term called Custom Recovery in a lot of places. So, have you ever wondered what is a custom recovery and why should you install one on your Android smartphone?

A Recovery is a limited boot mode in Android environment independent of the Android operating system, so even if you can’t boot into your device’s OS, you might boot into the recovery mode. Today we’ll see what’s a custom recovery, the functions it provides on your device and whether or not you should install a custom recovery on your smartphone. But before diving into the custom modules, first you have to learn a bit or two about the stock modules that are native to Android ecosystem. So before jumping to the custom recoveries, let’s see what is a stock recovery on Android which comes along with the Android OS.

What is a Stock Recovery?

Android operating system comes with a native recovery that is developed by Google for formatting and updating the software on the device. This recovery is usually addressed as Stock Recovery and comes with minimal functionality. Most OEMs leave the stock recovery intact without adding any further functionality. Once you unlock the bootloader on your device, you can boot into the stock recovery by pressing specific hardware buttons on your device. Most of the stock recoveries provide the below functions:

  • Rebooting the system
  • Applying update from ADB
  • Applying update from SDcard or Internal storage
  • Wipe data/Factory reset
  • Wipe Cache partition

The stock recovery offers minimal functionality and usually have no importance at all except for the time when you want to flash OTA updates manually. It can’t be used to flash custom ROMs or kernels, taking backups or restoring your device. However, taking the stock recovery as a base, many developers developed custom recoveries which include a lot of additional features.

What is a Custom Recovery?

A custom recovery is an improved version of stock recovery and is device specific, which means you shouldn’t flash recoveries that aren’t meant for your device. Flashing a custom recovery replaces the stock recovery and install the custom recovery module. With a custom recovery, you can flash custom ROMs, kernels, wipe partitions, take nandroid backups and restore them. Once you take a backup of your device, you can restore it if you get into any trouble with the OS.
ClockWorkMod (CWM), TeamWin Recovery Project (TWRP), and Philz recoveries are the most popular custom recoveries on Android. These recoveries are available in one or more variants like touch and non-touch versions depending on the device. Every custom recovery has its unique features and it’s up to the user which recovery to choose for his device. So, here’s a brief info about these three popular custom recoveries on Android.

ClockWorkMod (CWM) Recovery

Clockworkmod recovery is the original custom recovery that is developed by Koushik Dutta and is the most popular recovery of all (arguably). Several variants of the CWM recovery are available for the devices, including: Standard version which uses hardware keys for navigation and selection, Swipe version which uses basic up/down/left/right swipe gestures to navigate and select options and the Touch version which is entirely touch driven.
The CWM recovery features a built-in file browser for selecting flashable Zips, ADB, backup and restore and other functionalities. Clockworkmod’s ROM Manager app provides an easy installation of CWM recovery if your device is officially listed in CWM database. However, you can always use the fastboot method or some other method to flash the recovery on your device.

TWRP Recovery

Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP) is a touch-based recovery environment which is fully touch driven and has one of the most complete feature set available on any Android recovery. It provides all the important features like file browser, backup and restore, SDcard partitioning, wiping partitions. Additionally, it uses a themable UI and also allows you to connect your device in MTP mode if you forget to place any file on your device before booting into recovery.
Personally, TWRP is my favorite recovery as it is simply awesome and provides better interface and feature than other recoveries. Most importantly, it has some unique features like MTP mode, themable UI etc… which puts it on top of other recoveries.

Philz Recovery

Philz recovery has gained popularity in the recent years and stands in the top custom recovery list. It was written by Phyto Wardt (Phil3759) with a tagline “CWM Advanced Edition“. Indeed, it is an advanced version of CWM and provides more filesystem tools and advanced options which are not available in CWM recovery. Some of the changes made to PhilZ Touch are later implemented in the CWM recovery as well.

Should you Install a Custom Recovery?

In most cases, the answer and my suggestion would beYes. A custom recovery offers more functionality compared to the stock recovery and it helps to take complete system backups which can be stored when you made a mess with your device. The only catch is that you’ll lose warranty if you install a custom recovery or tamper any system module. However, you can always restore stock firmware to get back your warranty but it is not always guaranteed. So, it’s your choice to install custom recovery or not but it is advisable to install it.

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