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I'm planning to flash a custom ROM on my device, but too lazy to take backups.. My favorite backup tool being Titanium Backup, I want root access on my device before I unlock the bootloader. But unforunately to flash the SuperSU file I need to have a custom recovery on my device as my stock recovery doesn't allow me to flash SuperSU zip. And to flash a custom recovery I need to unlock my bootloader. Can I however boot into Team Win recovery without unlocking my bootloader through this command?

fastboot boot twrp.img

This will allow me to root my device and take backups easily before I unlock my device bootloader. So is it safe for me to do so?

  • Just a side note, if you manage to root your phone without unlocking it, then you probably won't need to unlock it to install a custom recovery/ROM either. – jiggunjer Dec 2 '15 at 9:35
  • You're right. I could use Flashify to flash TWRP but I won't do it as flashing through fastboot has its own essence and fun. – Tanmay Vij Dec 2 '15 at 10:07
  • You can't fastboot boot with a custom image and a locked bootloader, at least for my Nexus 6P, 7.1.1. – Jerry Chin Apr 9 '17 at 4:19
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tl;dr

No, you can't use fastboot boot to boot into a custom recovery if the bootloader is locked (as Jerry Chin noted in a comment).


Longer Answer

Android Security Internals says in Chapter 13: System Updates and Root Access (in section Recovery, subsection Custom Recoveries):

A custom recovery is a recovery OS build created by a third party (not the device manufacturer). Because it is created by a third party, a custom recovery is not signed with the manufacturer’s keys, and therefore a device’s bootloader needs to be unlocked in order to boot or flash it.

And in Chapter 10: Device Security (in section Controlling OS Boot-Up and Installation, subsection Bootloader):

In order to ensure device integrity, consumer devices are shipped with locked bootloaders, which either disallow flashing and booting system images completely or allow it only for images that have been signed by the device manufacturer.

Thus, if you try to use fastboot boot twrp.img, the bootloader will find out that twrp.img is not signed by the manufacturer's key, and would refuse to boot into it.


And just in case we are not sure whether fastboot allows bypassing the restrictions that a locked bootloader introduce, we also have in Chapter 13: System Updates and Root Access (in section Bootloader, subsection Fastboot Mode):

Commands that modify device partitions, such as the various flash variations, and commands that boot custom kernels, such as the boot command, are not allowed when the bootloader is locked.

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