TWRP: a complete guide

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Joel Fulleda
@joelfulleda

TWRP is the most popular custom recovery for Android. It is used to root your phone, flash custom ROMs, unlock your device and much more.

Android modding has been a thing for almost as much as Android has been a thing. Whether you are simply rooting your phone to unlock a hidden feature or installing a completely custom build of Android, there are many reasons why you might want to tweak your Android smartphone and get more out of it.



But behind most, if not all, of these Android modding efforts is key software: a custom recovery. And TWRP is the gold standard of custom restores.

Today we will give you an overview of what TWRP is and what it allows you to do.

What is TWRP

TWRP Recovery, also known by its full name, Team Win Recovery Project, is an open source custom recovery image for Android devices.

It aims to replace the existing recovery menu in your Android smartphone, allowing several features that are not normally supported by stock recovery images. Being a custom recovery, it is capable of everything the normal device recovery menu can do and more.

Instead of the non-touch interface provided by most restores, TWRP serves users a touchscreen-enabled interface. And it lets you install third-party mods and software at your convenience.

Among the things you can install using TWRP are custom kernels, add-ons, and themes, and you can even completely replace the operating system and install a custom Android ROM.

It also allows you to create full backups of device partitions, including the system partition, and restore them at any time. In other words, TWRP acts as a gateway to all your Android modding needs.



TWRP is free and available for a very large number of Android devices. It's not on the Play Store, you have to download it directly from the developer's website instead. Make sure you get the correct version by selecting the manufacturer and model when downloading.

Download: TWRP

Is it possible to install TWRP without root?

Yes. In fact, you will need to install TWRP before you root your phone. This is because after unlocking your phone's bootloader, the next course of action is often to install TWRP and use it to start tweaking your device, including rooting.

We should note that you cannot install TWRP without first unlocking your bootloader.

A locked bootloader will not allow you to sideload firmware and images that are not signed by the device manufacturer. This means that replacing your recovery image with a TWRP image compiled by a third party is out of the question, not to mention the ability to install custom ROMs or root your smartphone.

This is the main reason why smartphones from companies like Huawei, Oppo or HMD / Nokia have little or no custom development - it is not possible to unlock the bootloader on those phones as they do not provide a method to do this.

So even if custom resets, kernels or ROMs were made for these phones, it would make no sense as there is no way to install them without an unlockable bootloader.

TWRP functions

TWRP offers a handful of features. Not only can you root your phone or install custom kernels and ROMs, but you also get plenty of options to do whatever you want on your device with no limitations whatsoever. Here is a rundown on some of them.


Install

Installation is probably the main reason you would want to use TWRP in the first place.


The Install function allows you to flash packages on your Android smartphone. These packages come in the form of special ZIP files, containing a script (which tells the restore what to do with the contents of the file) and the actual contents of the package. And these packages can contain pretty much anything.

Whether you want to install an app, a set of apps, tweak the boot animation, tweak some system libraries, fix the boot image, root the phone, all of this can be done by sideloading files ZIP on TWRP. You can even install a completely different version of Android, be it official firmware or a custom ROM.

The Install Image option also allows you to install IMG files instead of ZIP files. If you want to install a GSI (generic system image) on your phone instead of a custom ROM, restore the stock boot image, or update TWRP from the restore itself, all this is done using image files instead of ZIP.

To clean

You also have the option to wipe your phone using TWRP. But this isn't the same type of wipe you do from your regular medium recovery menu. While regular wipe is an option and simply allows you to factory reset the phone, the wipe feature is noticeable when you look into the advanced wipe mode. From here, you can wipe any partition on your phone.

TWRP gives you the ability not only to wipe the data partition, which is where most of your personal information is stored in the phone, but you can also wipe the system partition (where the operating system is stored) as well as the cache and Dalvik / ART cache partitions.


Of these options, the ones you'll likely never find yourself clearing with some sort of frequency are Dalvik / ART data, cache, and cache. In some scenarios, you may also need to wipe the system partition before installing a custom ROM (although the vast majority of ROMs will do this for you during the installation process).


Backup

TWRP gives you the ability to create full backups of any partition on your device. These are also often called “NANDroid backups” and will become one of your best allies for all your modding needs.

You can make a backup of a specific partition on your device, such as the system partition or the boot partition, and it will be backed up full and ready for recovery at any time.

It can definitely come in handy if, for whatever reason, you're doing something on your phone and it starts bootlooping, or something else goes south. NANDroid backups can act as a checkpoint that you can return to at any time.

Restore

The restore function is just the counterpart of the backup function. If the previous one allowed you to backup system partitions, the restore function allows you to restore NANDroid backups and restore functionality, be it a newly created backup or one you had lying around on your computer .

Install

The Mount in TWRP feature allows you to manually mount or unmount partitions on your device. By mounting a partition, you allow TWRP to read its contents and write to us if necessary.

Partition mounting is of fundamental importance for TWRP to function, as reading and writing are absolute necessities for packet sideloading. However, for the most part, you shouldn't need to do this manually in most cases. Most ZIP packages will mount and unmount necessary partitions by themselves, without users doing it themselves.

Settings

This is the Settings menu for TWRP recovery. It has several options for enabling or disabling things like MD5 verification for NANDroid backups, tweaking some UI / UX elements, tweaking display brightness or shake, and more.

Some important ones might interest you, like using rm -rf instead of normal formatting. But otherwise, these are mostly user-facing settings that do not affect the core functionality of TWRP recovery, although they may also vary slightly depending on the device model and respective features.

Advanced

The Advanced menu provides various features for TWRP that are not otherwise listed in individual sections. Some of these features include support for using ADB Sideload as an alternative method of flashing instead of TWRP installation, a terminal, and a file manager.

There are also some advanced or developer features that you may or may not need and will likely vary depending, again, on the phone you are using and its specific set of features.

Restart

Finally, the Restart menu gives you the option to restart your phone. Instead of just giving you the option to reboot your OS, it also gives you the option to reboot into fastboot mode or go back to recovery mode (useful if you've just updated recovery).

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