Thursday, November 25, 2010

How I unbricked my Samsung Galaxy S I9000 and installed a new firmware with Odin

The Samsung Galaxy S I9000 is one of the best smartphones and a real iPhone killer. Unfortunately the firmware update is done through a Samsung program called Kies wich is really bad.

How Kies bricked my Galaxy S during firmware update

I would like to report how I recovered from a really bad flash (actually a brick) caused during firmware update using Samsung Kies on the Galaxy S I9000. First of all, I was not prepared that official Samsung firmware flashing could cause me such problems and could brick a smartphone at the end of 2010! But this is what happened to me! Really bad what Samsung gives to its customers. BTW, I would describe myself as a computer pro, programmer and hardware developer, so I am not a complete newbie regarding firmware updates ;)

I had bought my Galaxy S I9000 in Germany and its official firmware stated:
pda: i9000xxjm1, phone: i9000xxjm1, csc: i9000xajm1, pccode: gt-i9000hkddbt

I had installed multiple progs on the phone but had NOT modded it in any way. When Andoid 2.2 (Froyo) came out I decided to wait for the upgrade to become available through Kies (rinning it under Win XP) because I wanted to flash it the official way. I thought that this would be more secure (it is not as you will see later). I had not experienced any serious problems with Kies until then, although I had not worked a lot with it. So when the XXJPO Update arrived through Kies, before beginning with flashing I restarted my phone (normal mode, not recovery mode) and plugged in the phone. Kies recognized the phone and I started flashing the firmware. The download screen with the digging android appeared on the I9000. If I remember correctly at this point Kies or the phone itself disconnected for short and maybe some drivers tried to reload but I am not sure about this.

When I looked at the phone at some point, the digging Android was NOT there anymore - instead the whole screen was green (or yellow). Kies did not report any error but the firmware update progress bar did not move on. After some time I realized that the phone had crashed. So I disconnected the phone and restarted it. Now the only thing that appeared on the screen was a phone icon connected to a PC icon with an exclamation mark icon inbetween - I call this the screen of death ;-) The phone could not be recognized anymore by my PC. Kies offered me some kind of firmware recovery option (which will disappear if you try to uninstall and reinstall Kies) but Win XP and Kies just did not see the phone anymore so I could not recover anything.

Trying to get the Samsung Galaxy S into recovery mode by pressing Volume Down + Home + Power (or any other key combos) did not work, no matter how many times I tried. Most of the forums reported that the phone is bricked when you can't get into download mode and the only way to get it back to life is to give it back to Samsung for repair. At this point I want to emphasize that the recovery mode key combination must have worked on that phone previously, because my brother has the same phone (bought them at the same time) and his download mode combination works!

How to unbrick the Galaxy S I9000 - Download mode

So it turned out that the phone has been bricked - thank you Samsung! I decided to call Samsung but then I suddenly found an amazing thread http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=819551 and a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cbUo8K4z2o stating that with a modified micro USB plug and a resistor one can bring the phone back to life. I was a bit sceptical first BUT IT IS TRUE, IT REALLY WORKS! So a colleague of mine prepared the USB jig and it really brought the phone right into download mode when I inserted the battery. The phone had been unbricked! Now Windows recognized the phone again but Kies was still not able to connect (I had not expected anything else).

How I installed a new firmware on the Galaxy S I9000 using Odin

Now I finally decided to try Odin (the unofficial but much better alternative to Kies) and flash the latest official Samsung firmware I9000XFJP7 (many thanks to Richthofen) that I downloaded from http://www.samfirmware.com. So once again I used the USB jig to get into download mode and flashed the I9000XFJP7 firmware with the Germany only CSC CSC_I9000DBTJP3 as described here:
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=844459
After the first repartitioning-only step with Odin where Richthofen says "Plug out your phone, remove the battery, put it back in and put phone to download mode again." the phone seemed completely dead. It was another shock for me. Nothing happened, even the phone + PC + exclamation mark icons did not appear anymore - the screen remained black and pressing power, home, vol down did not do anything. But then I put in the "magic" USB jig again and the phone started in download mode again. So I continued flashing the firmware as described in Richthofen's thread. Finally the phone restarted and the new Android 2.2 Froyo booted.

The Galaxy S - Back to life :)

The biggest surprise for me was that all my 3rd party programs were still there. Only some of Samsungs built-in progs seemed to have been updated and had lost their data. Also some widgets on the front-screen were missing but these can be reinserted on the I9000 desktop.

On the one hand I hope that Samsung will get a lot of negative feedback from its customers in order to finally rewrite and improve its bad software. On the other hand I hope that this report will help other people to solve the firmware upgrade problems and show them how to unbrick their Samsung smartphones (the Samsung hardware is really nice). I also encourage people to support the firmware contributors at XDA Developers (xda-developers.com).

Anguel