Android Recovery Mode

How to use TWRP to flash an Android device that refuses to boot to TWRP?

This post was most recently updated on July 13th, 2020.

Reading Time: 4 minutes.

Last Christmas holiday I was tasked by older relatives to fix an Android tablet they had bought. One of those absolutely useless, 100€ devices that can’t really run any apps, and struggle to even start. My first proposition was to return the device – but it was already past the return window.

Lenovo‘s bloated nightmare-version of an Android was likely the biggest reason for slowness. My second course of action was to change the launcher and disable everything I could, but the device still couldn’t run YouTube, Spotify or YLE Areena.

So, on to flashing we go!

Prerequisites

A couple of first steps were easy:

  1. Enable Developer mode
  2. Enable Debugging over USB
  3. Install ADB and Fastboot drivers (you can get them from here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=48915118#post48915118)
  4. Download the right TWRP image for your device (an example: https://unofficialtwrp.com/lenovo-tb-x103f-root-twrp/).
  5. Upload your custom ROM of choice to the internal storage of the device
  6. Upload custom Google Apps package to the internal storage of the device (https://opengapps.org/)

I won’t go into details, as I suppose you’re following a tutorial on XDA-developers or something, and only ended up on this article since you ran into the same issues I did. The tutorials do a good job detailing most of the steps, but fell short when you run into issues.

Also, you won’t need Magisk or similar if you’re working with an otherwise useless device, and don’t need any backups (because nobody’s been able to generate anything worth saving on the device so far). And if you’re following tutorials on getdroidtips.com or something, be mindful which links you’re clicking and which files you download on MediaFire.

Anyway, back to the topic.

You should make sure your adb and fastboot installation path is included in your PATH variable – or, alternatively, just open your command line window (as an admin) to the installation directory directly.

Unlock your bootloader

Next you’ll need to make sure you can boot any media instead of the built-in one. To do this, connect the device with USB, debugging enabled, and run the following:

fastboot oem unlock-go

If that gives you an error, try this command instead:

fastboot flashing unlock

All good? Awesome! Onwards, then:

Install custom loader such as TWRP

After this, it’s supposed to be easy to flash TWRP to the device and boot to it using the commands below (the mentioned image needs to be in the folder you’re running the commands from):

adb reboot bootloader
fastboot flash recovery TWRP-3.0.2_TB-X103F-beta.img
fastboot reboot

That was successful for me. But Lenovo had, unfortunately, made more annoying decisions. +Vol and power would take the Android tablet to recover mode – but even with TWRP successfully flashed to the recovery partition, you’d always be greeted with the useless, out-of-the-box recovery mode.

Curiously, though, -Vol takes the user to a diagnostics mode that’s in Chinese(?). I couldn’t make anything out of it, so I decided to pursue another route.

I spent a while reflashing, using different medias, rebooting the device (which somehow takes multiple minutes), but to no avail. I couldn’t find a way to force the device to start in TWRP instead of the out-of-the-box recovery mode.

But luckily, there’s another workaround available!

Using fastboot you can actually flash the whole device, if you have a suitable media at hand (I didn’t), or force booting to TWRP from a media that’s on your laptop. The latter ended up being my choice, and worked nicely.

How to load TWRP without replacing the built-in bootloader

Simply run this below (supposing you have the .img file in your working directory already):

fastboot boot TWRP-3.0.2_TB-X103F-beta.img

This should, after a while, boot your device into TWRP once. That should be all you need :)

After this, it was trivial to install LineageOS to the machine using TWRP. And boy, was it faster than Lenovo’s Android!

That’s all for now. Hope it helps someone :)

References

mm
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