So I understand the first thing I need to do with my phone, after rooting, is to back everything up. But I was confused about 3 of the apparently popular tools used for this.

For example, is Nandroid an application I run on a computer connected to the Android device, or on the device itself?

I understand ClockworkMod is a "custom recovery". What does that mean? Why do I need it? What does it mean to "flash" it?

Asides from browsing and installing new ROMs, how does ROM manager interact with the other two? Does it include them both, so I just need to download it from the market and be done with it?

I will appreciate any answer that can sort out the differences, with emphasis on what I, as an end-user, actually need to do, and whether there is any risk on those actions.

3 Answers 3


A "Recovery" is a special space in the internal memory of your phone, set aside by the manufacturer to perform diagnostics and OS upgrades. In Windows terms, it's a rough equivalent of Boot Menu (usually accessed by pressing F8 during boot-up.) It's invisible to the phone under normal operation, and is accessed in a special way (usually by turning the phone on while holding one or more buttons).

The problem is that the recoveries that comes with stock devices do not allow for installation of custom ROMs, only firmware images "signed" by the manufacturer. In order to install custom ROMs (e.g. CyanogenMod for example) you will need to replace the stock Recovery image with a custom one, made by community developers. On Android there are several custom recoveries, Clockworkmod (CWM) and Amon-Ra being the most known ones. These custom Recoveries allow you to do a lot more things with your phone. The biggest advantage is being able to flash unsigned custom ROMs. Other benefits include various tools and utilities for further managing the phones.

One such utility is called "NANDroid". It's a backup and restore tool that allows you to take a full image of all the phone's internal NAND memory (hence the name) and store it on your SD Card. Should something go wrong with the phone's software, you can use the previously saved backup to restore the phone to a working state.

The maker of ClockworkMod Recovery also created an Android app called "ROM Manager". This app allows you to easily upgrade the CWM recovery to a new version when one becomes available for your device. It also allows you to manage NANDroid backups stored on the SD Card, as well as perform a slew of other useful advanced tasks. These include fixing app/data permissions, re-partitioning of the SD Card right on the phone, downloading different custom ROMs and flashing them directly from the app. A paid "Premium" version of the app has more advanced features, such as OTA update notifications for custom ROMs that support it, etc.

  • Thank you, this is precisely what I was looking for. Just one question - ultimately, to make backups, is the ROM Manager enough? Does it include both the ClockworkMod and Nandroid tools?
    – Oak
    May 6, 2011 at 15:06
  • 4
    @Oak: CWM can be installed from within ROM Manager, and CWM itself is what performs the NAND backup, so yes. The first menu item in the ROM Manager interface is simply "Flash ClockworkMod Recovery", after which you're set to use the other functions (such as creating and restoring from NAND backups). May 6, 2011 at 15:08
  • +1 for all the info. Very util and clarifying for the newbies. After I select "Flash ClockworkMod Recovery" I'm supposed to select my device model. I'm using a Samsung Galaxy i551, what should I do if it doesn't appear in the list?
    – Diego
    Sep 12, 2011 at 17:19
  • I don't believe there is a CWM recovery for i551.
    – Chahk
    Sep 12, 2011 at 18:52

A nandroid is the name for a complete backup or image of your device. It can be performed in clock work mod (cmw) .

Clockwork mod is a custom recovery because it is a second of tools that can used without booting an os. Think of it has an additional BIOS. When rooting and jailbreaking, u will want to install the clockwork mod. It is the workhorse that has utilities for backups /restores /wipes and installing unsigned zip updates.

Rom manager is an app accessible in the os that allows quick access and integration with clockwork mod. Rom manager can update and install clock work mod versions as well as automatically booting into clock work mod for quicker access to those functions. Cwm and Rom manager were started by the same person. Rom manager let's u download Roms and then boots into cwm to backup and install them.

U will need a custom recovery... (I know of two) cwm or armon ra. They permit u to perform the backup. Rom manager isn't necessarily needed but its useful and is well integrated into cwm.

  • 1
    think of ClockworkMod Recovery as a recovery partition commonly seen in most laptops/netbooks made in the past 5 years, a recovery partition is a basic OS that have a basic set of tools to diagnose, recover, fix, and reinstall the primary OS in case the primary OS is damaged.
    – Lie Ryan
    May 6, 2011 at 13:29

That's got it all covered pretty good, but a couple of things should be pointed out

  1. One feature of ROM Manager--"Backup Current ROM"--is useful in that it integrates all of your apps (including paid ones), all of your data (such as contacts, text messages, saved photos, browser bookmarks), and your system state (your desktop arrangement, your preferences, your app defaults) and rolls them up with your ROM into a complete system image--your "Current ROM". That's great if something goes screwy with a new ROM, but it's not the way to restore apps and preferences after upgrading your firmware--unless you want to go back to your old firmware too. Titanium Backup will backup or restore your entire app set in a single batch process; or, you can wait for Android Market to restore your apps; as for non-market apps, you can use Android Mate to individually save each app to SD as an installable apk

  2. The first thing a long-time Android user does when faced with an FC is open up ROM Manager and run Fix Permissions. I cannot overstate how valuable that function is.

  • A note to 1. is that Titanium Backup at least in its Pro-version can recover single items out of NANDroid backups.
    – Izzy
    Aug 25, 2012 at 20:14
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    What is an "FC"? Oct 12, 2015 at 22:40
  • @mattwilkie: I think it stands for "Force Close", but I'm not sure. If you want to be sure, ask a new question, quote the sentence you're wondering about, and ask what "FC" stands for. Oct 13, 2015 at 3:07

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