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Recovery Mode on Samsung Galaxy Smartphones

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The Android ecosystem is vast and complex. It offers hundreds of functionalities and options to its users. One such feature is the Android Recovery Mode. 

Recovery Mode is a separate partition that comes with the bootloader. This article aims to go deep into the Recovery Mode on Samsung Galaxy smartphones, its importance, and how to effectively use it.

If you are a Samsung Galaxy smartphone user, it is crucial to understand what Recovery Mode is and why it is important for your device. This guide will provide a comprehensive explanation of that. 

We will also teach you how to boot your Samsung Galaxy smartphone into Recovery Mode, how to exit it, recovery mode options, their definitions, how they work, and their use cases.

What is Recovery Mode

Recovery Mode is a separate bootable partition with the recovery console installed. It can be accessed by pressing a specific combination of keys on your device. Its main function is to allow the user to perform system-level tasks, even when the Android OS isn’t fully booted or is non-functional.

The need for a recovery mode arises when you want to perform actions like system updates, clear system cache, factory reset, or app optimizations that can’t be done within the Android OS environment.

In Samsung Galaxy smartphones, the recovery mode is a bit different from the stock Android recovery. 

Samsung has its own customized version of recovery mode, which functions differently and has a different set of features. 

For example: Samsung does not use seamless updates, a feature in stock Android that allows system updates to be installed in the background. Instead, Samsung installs updates through the recovery mode, which requires a device reboot.

Here are the differences in options available between the stock Android recovery mode and the Samsung Galaxy smartphone’s recovery mode. We used a Google Pixel 8 (which uses the latest Android stock firmware: Android 14) and a Samsung Galaxy S23 (Which uses the latest Samsung’s custom Android firmware: One UI 6) to compare the differences:

On Google Pixel 8’s recovery mode, we have these options:

  1. Reboot System Now
  2. Reboot to bootloader
  3. Enter fastboot
  4. Apply update from ADB
  5. Apple update from SD card
  6. Wipe data/factory reset
  7. Mount /system
  8. View recovery logs
  9. Run graphics test
  10. Run locale test
  11. Power off

On Samsung Galaxy S23’s recovery mode, we have these options:

  1. Reboot System Now
  2. Reboot to bootloader
  3. Apply update from ADB
  4. Apple update from SD card
  5. Wipe data/factory reset
  6. Wipe Cache Partition
  7. Mount /system
  8. View recovery logs
  9. Run graphics test
  10. Run locale test
  11. Power off
  12. Repair Apps

It’s clear that Samsung’s custom recovery mode doesn’t include an “Enter fastboot” option. However, it provides access to “Wipe cache partition” and “Repair Apps” options. 

This is because Samsung continues to utilize a cache partition, whereas Google’s stock Android has ceased to do so. 

Furthermore, Samsung’s “Repair Apps” feature performs the same function as “Wipe cache partition”. It also initiates app optimization, a method used in Android operating systems to index app data.

How to Boot Samsung Galaxy Smartphone Into Recovery Mode

Knowing how to boot your Samsung Galaxy smartphone into Recovery Mode is really helpful if you’re keen on performing advanced troubleshooting manually.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to boot your Samsung Galaxy smartphone into Recovery Mode:

  1. Power off your device: Hold down the volume down button (side key) and power button simultaneously. Then select “Power off” from the power menu that appears on your screen.
  2. Plug the device into a power source (for new devices that came after Samsung Galaxy S9): Plug the USB Type-C cable into your Galaxy smartphone and plug the other end of the cable into a charger or computer.
  3. Press and hold the correct key combination: Press and hold power button (side key) and volume up button simultaneously.
  4. When you see the Samsung logo, release all buttons.
  5. Wait for the Recovery Mode to load.

How to Navigate on Recovery Mode

In Recovery Mode, you can navigate through the options using the “Volume Up” and “Volume Down” buttons. To select an option, use the “Power/Side Key” button.

Now that you know how to boot your Samsung Galaxy smartphone into Recovery Mode, let’s see how you can exit from the recovery mode.

How to Exit From Recovery Mode

Exiting from the Recovery Mode on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone is a simple process. But knowing it is important because when you have completed a task, your phone won’t reboot into the system software. Instead, you have to do it manually.

Here are the steps to exit (and reboot) your smartphone from the Recovery Mode:

  1. Use the Volume Up key or Down key and select “Reboot device now”.
  2. Then press the Power key. Your Samsung Galaxy smartphone will restart in the normal mode.

If you wish to power off the device from Recovery Mode, you can select the “Power off” option instead.

Options in Recovery Mode

The recovery mode on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone has 11 options that allow you to perform various tasks and troubleshoot issues. Understanding each option is important to effectively utilizing the recovery mode.

Here are the options that you will find in the recovery mode menu:

  1. Reboot System Now
  2. Reboot to Bootloader
  3. Apply Update From ADB
  4. Apply Update From SD Card
  5. Wipe Data/Factory Reset
  6. Wipe Cache Partition
  7. Mount /System
  8. Run Graphics Test
  9. Run Locale Test
  10. Power Off
  11. Repair Apps

Each of these options has a specific purpose and performs a particular task. In the following sections, we will define each recovery option, explain what each option does, and discuss when each option is useful.

Note: Always ensure that you understand what an option does before executing it.

1. Reboot System Now

The “Reboot System Now” allows the device’s operating system to load again from the boot partition. 

This process is similar to turning off the device and then turning it back on. However, it is done through the recovery mode, which is a separate runtime environment in a partition from the main Android operating system on the device.

The “Reboot System Now” option is useful:

  • When your device is not responding or is stuck in a loop. 
  • If you have made changes in the recovery mode, such as applying updates or wiping data.

2. Reboot to Bootloader

The bootloader is a program that controls which applications must run in the startup process. Technically, it’s the first code that runs when a user turns on the device. It initializes the hardware and then loads the kernel and ramdisk, and gets the boot process going.

When a user selects and confirms the “Reboot to bootloader” option in recovery mode, the device will restart and directly enter the bootloader mode, allowing the user to load an image through Odin software. 

This is completely different from a normal reboot where the device starts up normally and loads the Android operating system.

The “Reboot to bootloader” option is useful:

  • If you’re a developer or advanced user and want to flash a new ROM, unlock the bootloader, or install a custom recovery. 
  • For troubleshooting purposes, such as when your device is stuck in a boot loop or when the Android operating system is not starting up.

3. Apply Update From ADB

“ADB” stands for Android Debug Bridge, a command-line tool that lets you communicate with a device. When you select this option, your device waits for you to send a new Android Operating System (OS) over USB using ADB.

ADB is part of the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) and is used primarily for debugging purposes by developers. 

However, it also allows users to directly manipulate their device’s system, which can be useful for applying updates or modifications that aren’t available through the standard over-the-air (OTA) update process.

When a user chooses the “Apply Update From ADB” option and confirms it, the device enters into ADB sideload mode. In this mode, the device is ready to receive a file package from a computer via an ADB command. This package could be an OS update, a custom ROM, or any other system-level modification.

The “Apply Update From ADB” option is useful:

  • When you need to manually update your device’s software, especially if automatic updates are not working or if you want to install a custom firmware that isn’t officially supported.

4. Apply Update From SD Card

The “Apply Update From SD Card” option refers to the process of manually installing an update or a patch from an SD card. 

When a user selects this option and confirms it, the device will scan the SD card for an update package. This package is usually a .zip file that contains the necessary files to update the device’s software. The device will then apply the update, replacing the old software with the new one. This process is also known as “flashing”.

It is important to note that the update package must be specific to the device model and version. Installing an incompatible update can lead to serious issues, including bricking the device, which means making the device unusable.

The “Apply Update From SD Card” option can be useful:

  • If you want to downgrade their software to a previous version due to issues with the current one, you can download the desired version’s update package, move it to their SD card, and use this option to install it. 
  • If you want to install custom ROMs, for added features and customization options.

5. Wipe Data/Factory Reset

The “Wipe Data/Factory Reset” option erases all user data and returns the device to its original factory settings. 

This includes deleting all applications, contacts, messages, and personal settings that have been added to the device since it was first activated.

This operation does not affect the system software, meaning the Android Operating System and pre-installed apps will remain intact. The device will boot up with the same OS version it had prior to the reset, but all user modifications will be lost.

The “Wipe Data/Factory Reset” option is useful:

  • If your device is experiencing severe software issues that cannot be resolved through basic troubleshooting. 
  • For persistent performance issues – it can help to eliminate any apps or settings that are causing the device to slow down.
  • When selling or giving away a device, as it ensures that no personal data is left on the device.

6. Wipe Cache Partition

The “Wipe Cache Partition” option in the recovery mode of Samsung Galaxy smartphones allows users to delete temporary system data. It is important to note that this action does not remove any personal data or settings from the device.

If you don’t know, the cache partition is a section of the device’s memory where the system stores temporary data it needs to access frequently.

The process of wiping the cache partition only takes 5 – 10 seconds, depending on the amount of data in the cache. Once the process is complete, the device will return to the recovery mode menu.

TheWipe Cache Partition” option is useful:

  • If your device is running slowly or experiencing glitches. 
  • After installing a system update, as the update may leave behind outdated or unnecessary data. 
  • If your device doesn’t boot up.

7. Mount /System

Mount /System allows the user to mount the /System partition of the device’s internal storage. This option is important in Android development and troubleshooting, where it is often necessary to access and modify system files.

In the Android file hierarchy, /System is a directory that contains all the operating system files, system applications, and libraries. It is a read-only partition under normal circumstances to prevent accidental modifications that could destabilize the system or compromise security.

When a user selects and confirms the “Mount /System” option in recovery mode, the /System partition becomes accessible for modifications. 

This is equivalent to running the mount -o rw,remount /system command in a rooted terminal emulator. It changes the /System partition from read-only to read-write, enabling the user to modify system files.

The “Mount /System” option is useful:

  • When developers or advanced users need to modify system files for customizations, debugging, or development purposes. 
  • To manually remove system apps or bloatware, apply system-level patches, or restore system files from a backup.

8. Run Graphics Test

The “Run Graphics Test” option allows users to test the graphical rendering capabilities of their smartphone. This option is primarily used for testing and troubleshooting purposes.

When the user selects and confirms the “Run Graphics Test” option, the smartphone will execute a series of graphical tests. These tests involve rendering different shapes, colors, and patterns on the screen. The purpose of these tests is to verify the proper functioning of the device’s graphical processing unit (GPU) and the display.

The GPU is a specialized electronic circuit responsible for rendering the images, animations, and videos that you see on your phone’s screen. Any issues with the GPU can result in graphical glitches, such as distorted images, strange colors, or even a completely blank screen, and that is why the Graphics test is so important to determine the culprit.

The “Run Graphics Test” option is useful:

  • If you notice any graphical glitches on your phone’s screen during normal usage. 

9. Run Locale Test

The “Run Locale Test” option is a diagnostic tool that checks the localization settings of the device. Localization refers to the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. It includes language, date and time format, currency, and other regional settings.

When a user selects and confirms the “Run Locale Test” option, the device will perform a series of checks to ensure that the localization settings are functioning correctly. It verifies whether the language and other locale settings are set correctly and if they’re adapting the user interface and system messages to the chosen locale as they should.

The “Run Locale Test” option is useful:

  • When you’re experiencing issues related to the display language, date and time format, or other regional settings on your device.

    For example, if your device is showing system messages in the wrong language, or the date and time format doesn’t match your region, running the Locale Test helps identify resolve the issue.

10. Power Off

As the name suggests, “Power Off” allows users to completely shut down their smartphone from the recovery mode.

When a user selects and confirms the “Power Off” option, the device’s operating system initiates a sequence of events to safely shut down all processes and services.

The “Power Off” option is useful:

  • Where the device is not responding or has become unresponsive during the use of recovery mode.

11. Repair Apps

The “Repair Apps” option in the recovery mode enables users to fix issues with their applications. This option specifically addresses problems that may arise after a system update or when an app is not functioning as expected.

When a user selects and confirms the “Repair Apps” option, the system initiates a process to clear the data partition cache and refreshes app indexing.

In addition to clearing the cache, the “Repair Apps” option also forces Android to re-optimize apps. This is a process where Android compiles parts of an app’s code to make it run more efficiently.

The “Repair Apps” is useful:

  • In situations where you’ve had a system update and are experiencing app issues. 
  • When an app is consuming more resources than usual or draining your smartphone’s battery faster than normal.

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Andrew

Content writer and Web developer at Backtodefault.com and he is the big brain behind the technical aspects of this tech blog.

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