A Salty Solution for a Dead Nexus 5X

If you’re an Android fan, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Nexus 5X. The last entry in Google’s line of low-cost Nexus development phones should have closed the program on a high note, or at the very least maintained the same standards of quality and reliability as its predecessor. But unfortunately, a well known design flaw in the Nexus 5X means that the hardware is essentially a time-bomb. There are far too many reports of these phones entering into an endless bootloop right around the one year mark to say it’s just a coincidence.

The general consensus seems to be that faulty BGA chip soldering on the CPU works lose after about a year or so of thermal stress. Whatever the reason, [hillbillysam] recently found himself the proud owner of a dead Nexus 5X. Resigned to the fact that he would need to get a new phone, he at least wanted to get some of his data off the device before it went to that big landfill in the sky.

As it turns out these bootlooped phones can temporarily be revived by cooling them down, say by putting them in the freezer for a few hours. There’s plenty of debate as to why this works, but even our own [Lewin Day] can testify that it does seem to get the phone booting again; though only until it comes back up to operating temperature. With this in mind, [hillbillysam] reasoned that if he kept the phone as cold as possible while it was running, it may stay operational long enough for him to pull his files off of it over USB.

He couldn’t exactly freeze the phone in a block of ice, but remembering his high school chemistry, he came up with something pretty close. By adding salt to water, you can significantly lower temperature at which it freezes. Putting the phone into a watertight bag and submerging it in this supercooled solution is an easy and non-destructive way of keeping it very cold while still being accessible over USB.

His Nexus 5X was able to keep kicking the whole time it was luxuriating in its below-freezing saltwater bath, giving him plenty of time to copy everything he needed. It doesn’t sound like the kind of spa day we’d like to have personally, but to each their own.

If your Nexus 5X has met a similar fate, you may want to take a look at our previous coverage about the issue. While your mileage may vary, we’ve reported on a couple of success stories so it’s worth a shot.

[via /r/nexus5x]

98 thoughts on “A Salty Solution for a Dead Nexus 5X

    1. Where the hell are you even supposed to get dry ice? I’ve seen it used as packing material for meats and stuff, but never seen anywhere it was actually sold.

      The idea is to be able to do this real quick with stuff you have at home. If I’m going to a chemical supplier to get dry ice, I might as well hit them up for some liquid nitrogen and do this thing right.

      1. I’ve wondered the same thing. I’ve been told that you can just get it at basically any grocery store, but that might be an American thing because I’ve never seen it at any store here in Germany…

          1. Smart & Final supermarkets stock Dry Ice, other commercial grocery suppliers will – Call around, caterers need to transport gallons of ice cream to the wedding reception and keep it frozen.

            Not to mention the spooky fog effects… fill a barrel with dry ice – add hot water, get CO2 fog that stays on the floor. Check at Welding Supply and Cylinder Gas distributors and beverage distributors.

          2. I don’t know about anywhere else, but I’ve purchased it at several grocery stores in California. They keep it in a locked cooler in the front of many stores. I’ve picked some up at Winco, Walmart, and a large Safeway. The last time I just got a tiny chunk to play with at our kid’s Harry Potter themed party. Bubbling punch bowls are always fun.

      2. Every major chain grocery store in the US that I’ve ever been to has sold dry ice. (I haven’t been everywhere of course, but I would say that MD, PA, NJ, NY, VA, IL, WI, and CA is a pretty good sample.) I have also seen it sold at many beer and wine stores.

        It is usually kept in a large insulated bin with a lid, I would estimate string 1-2 cubic yards. Some stores have it in the back of the frozen section, while most I have seen have it at the front of the store best checkout and/or customer service so that they can keep an eye on it (because apparently teens were challenging each other to stick their heads inside).

      3. I’ve also been told you can find it anywhere, grocery stores, gas stations, etc… and then found it no where (in Minnesota, but to be fair most of the year outside is cold enough) after extensive searching I found that I could order from some ice suppliers, usually with a very large minimum order, or I could get it from independant gas stations… (not the chains, but the little guys who probably don’t have legal departments warning them of liability issues of having a cooler full of dry ice sitting in their convenience store.)

        I’ve used it a few times in my orca cooler for long car trips… keeps stuff frozen for a several days, and keeps it cold for a several more…

        1. Plus the added bonus of carbonated fruit.

          I don’t know the chemistry of how it happened, but we had a bag of grapes that fizzed when we ate them after storing in a mostly airtight cooler with dry ice.

  1. My wife’s Nexus 5X had this problem. We bought it from Google (for Fi) and they replaced it, out-of-warranty, no questions asked. We recovered the data over FTP while the phone was in the fridge.

    1. My girlfriend had two Nexus 5Xs that bootlooped. The first time Google replaced the phone under warranty for free with a refurb, and had no problem with the freezer exercise to wipe the phone. After the refurb bricked a few months later I contacted Google support again, this time they treated me like an idiot for trying to put the phone in a freezer, said they would deny the claim because I did that, and then said they couldn’t do anything because I already had an ‘open claim’ anyways. There was no open claim, simply a protection plan I had purchased for the phone. The insurance people had no problem taking my money and sending me a new phone tho. YMMV

    1. Well, they’ve lasted about 25 years in service in some cases where the owner of an Intel Pentium (F00F-bug version and later MMX version) still doesn’t want to replace their machine and instead keeps a box of capacitors, diodes and transistors for each time their PSU blows up from dry-capacitor ageing.

      BGA may have been older than that as well (I’m sure I’ve seen a 486DX capable board with a BGA network IC).

      On the other hand, uBGA AKA Flip-Chip:
      They’ve been around at least for 20 years…
      I know this mainly because of the hand held terminals (HHTs for short) I’ve seen with windows CE 2.0 flashed to ROM and that have components with a few nice shiny exposed silicon uBGA-carrier-BGA packages.
      Oh, the PCB is (C)1998 and the only problems are when an incompetent customer’s end-user tampers with the OS for some unknown reason.

      TL;DR:
      BGA devices if made well live over 25 years,
      Flip-chip (uBGA on BGA-carrier) if made well live over 20 years
      BGA is a well proven process with a superb track record.

        1. So true,
          Even the top quality stuff lags behind the old standards for good quality.
          .
          .
          My off topic comment follows:
          Couldn’t see this through some trolls noise… but the mess seems to have cleared it self up.

      1. Bullshit and FUD.
        It’s the shitty process they are using. It doesn’t matter if you have your super-duper solder if it isn’t soldered correctly at the right temperature and then not handled correctly in following processing. It can be a design problem too – one have to take into account the effects of thermal cycling etc.

        1. Yes and thermal cycling issues are exasperated by lead free solder. It doesn’t flow as well as leaded solder, it makes brittler connections than leaded solder.

          An to the previous poster about citation needed. If you don’t already know about the issues that lead free solder cause, put down your soldering iron, you just lost some geek cred.

          If you’re too lazy

          http://www.militaryaerospace.com/articles/print/volume-16/issue-10/news/trends/lead-free-solder-a-train-wreck-in-the-making.html

          http://www.sigcon.com/Pubs/news/10_01.htm

          https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-disadvantages-of-lead-free-solder-vs-lead-solder

          Lead free solder was mandated by Europe to help reduce lead in the trash stream. However due to it’s brittle connections and tin whiskers it causes even more electronics to end up in the trash stream. If we lived in a society where people actually repaired stuff then lead free solder would be ok, as people could just repair the bad joints. But no one does that, so it just means more stuff, broken by a dodgy solder connection ends up in the trash.

      1. LG has extended the warranty period for this issue only. It was to like 30 months from the date of manufacture and 28 months from the date of purchase or something around there. Tell them it is bootlooping. I just got mine back. I had tried the freezer bit but my battery eventually died and cold doesn’t exactly help in that regard. Eventually had to just give up and send it to LG.

        1. Can you give me evidence of this? It would be very helpful considering the fact that mine only lasted a year and 5 months. It was sad to see it go. I’m pretty sure that they ran out of replacement nexus 5xs though.

          1. My n5x started bootlooping in November. I had it a little over 2 years. Google replaced it with a refurb. The refurb started bootlooping a couple weeks later. They refunded my purchase price and told me to buy a different phone because they were out of replacement units. (Project Fi)

          2. Just did this, LG replaced the board in my boot looping phone for free. Qualification was via phone serial and mine was past the original warranty limit, which they’ve extended. Had to work with their support rep to get the promised FedEx shipping label, it didn’t come through on my original submission but they were courteous and helpful. Was over the holidays and took about two weeks MA to TX and back. Writing this on the repaired phone, Sadly I couldn’t keep the original running long enough after a simple pop in the fridge to recover my app data before sending it off (wish I had seen this). Now I have a proper automatic backup for any critical app data in place in case of a repeat.

          3. From my chat transcript with someone on LG’s website:

            ——-
            I am trying to get my Nexus 5X repaired. I spoke to someone on the phone that referred me to lgmobilerepair.com but I cannot submit my repair request because I purchased the phone >1 year ago. The person on the phone said it would still be covered.

            April 2:30:39 PM
            Good news! We have extended your warranty to 27 months from the date of purchase and 30 months from the date of manuafacture for bootloop and power issues only.
            ——

            The person on the chat took my info and setup the repair since I was having issues with doing it on lgmobilerepair.com. The chat was 2 months ago. They replaced the motherboard on it. If you bought it direct through Google, they’d handle the replacement, etc. but mine was bought from B&H so I had to work it thru LG.

      2. I just got mine repaired under warranty too. The downside is it will take 3 weeks or you can pay $30 to get it done in a week. Don’t leave the sim tray in. Mine came back without it, so I’m still waiting for them to send me the replacement tray.

    1. My Nexus got the boot loop on October 25th after roughly a year-and-a-half I sent it back to LG for the free warranty repair just paid shipping and it’s been working perfectly for 2 months I’m using it right now to write this I upgraded to Oreo and just rolled out the latest patch to 8.0.1? No problems totally agree with the freezing solution to loud me 5 minutes to boot up and pull date over the USB then it would freeze then I put it back in the freezer and leave it there for an hour take it out. More data I got everything that way send it back for repair after doing the hard reset and been good ever since.

  2. My LG G4 also had the bootloop issue. I tossed it in the fridge and connected via AirDroid to get everything off. It worked long enough to get everything I needed before sending it off to LG for a new motherboard.

  3. I wish I know this sooner. Would love to recover pictures of my grandpa before he pass. Didn’t backup anything because I wasn’t expecting the phone to die after 7 months. It is impossible when you return the phone for warranty repair you wavie the right to get anything back. I had x-ray at my work which can examine the BGA, but didn’t want to open mine and void the warranty. Maybe repost this in the Google forum,? I used about a year ago trying to get help about this problem, but all I got is blind leading the blind answers.
    Google and LG is too big to admit fault. Because it will cost them money to recall all the Nexus 5x and bad image on them. Think Samsung Note and at the same time they were coming out with Pixel 2, only difference is Nexus 5x doesn’t exploded on airplane, so the news coverage is low.

  4. I had the bootloop issue.
    Google replaced the phone out of warranty, but I needed data from it before I sent it back. The freezer trick worked to get it out of bootloop,but it would crash before I could get my Data.
    I ended up opening the case and baking the board. Worked out for me.
    But this May have been easier.

  5. Just stick the phone in an A/C vent. Much easier, less dangerous. I did that back in the day with a friend’s hard drive that was overheating. Got several gigs off of it over the course of an hour or two.

    1. If you have any. Not every country has A/C in every home, you know? It would probably be the better solution though, at the very least there’s no risk of water damage on the phone in the A/C vent XD

    2. Smart move, never thought of post failure… I have a dedicated A/C unit for the next desktop build and have dedicated ducting to in the past and had a desk positioned to place the desktops directly in front of or below the A/C unit in the window. Latest I saw was an internal A/C unit that I think condenses moisture better, though need to read into more if there is even any difference.

  6. I’m curious what kind of data do you need from your phone? I can’t think of any data that is NOT stored on the internet. All of my photos, contacts, email, calendar, docs are synced automatically to Google. I could get a new phone tomorrow and just login to Google and all of my data is there again. Am I missing something?

    Thanks

    1. If you opt-in to all that, sure. Almost every app now uploads settings to “the cloud” (not all of them, but arguably all the ones that are important).

      But if you aren’t using that, you’re out of luck. If you can believe it, I know at least two people with Android phones that don’t have GMail accounts. They just use them for calls/text/photos, and of course without a GMail account you don’t get anything backed up.

    2. Because some phones have huge internal memory sizes compared to the 10-17gb Google provides most people for free. Take my phone for instance, it has a combined total of 192gb of storage with 108gb used. How exactly do you propose I store that excess data via the Internet? Sure I could set up a local file server and install an app that will handle the backup, but that’s nowhere near as reliable as the Google method. And yes you can pay Google for more storage space, but that get expensive very quickly.

  7. In my case I had to heat my Nexus 5x up. I put it in my plate warmer and it eventually stopped boot looping and booted. I kept it in there long enough to get my data off and then I factory reset the phone. After the factory reset it worked under room temperature for several days and then went back into the boot loop. I had to put it back into the plate warmer to reset it again. After that I traded it in for a Pixel 2. Screen was in perfect shape and I could reset it, so it qualified for a trade in according to Google. I only got $115.00 from Google for it, but I didn’t trust it anymore and couldn’t possibly sell it to someone else.

  8. I have a friend that had a 5X running in a boot loop. I took the phone apart, removed the fingerprint scanner and rear camera and the phone booted. He was able to recover what he needed and sent it back to LG for repair.

    It might not work for everyone, but it never hurts to try. Also LG replaced the logic board even though the case had been opened. I did reattach the camera/FP scanner before sending it back to LG.

  9. We have two Nexus 5x’s…. Both of which have suffered bootloop. I called LG ‘s warranty dept and they said they would fix them for free. Mind you the phones are well over the 1 year warranty period… But since there was a class action suit, which is currently in binding arbitration they will fix the Nexus 5x’s for free. You just have to call them and send it in.

  10. I recovered my Nexus 5X data by using a clamp to apply pressure to the offending chip, which worked long enough to recover my data and factory reset the phone. The only bad part is I forgot to recover my AWS MFA before I reset the phone and was locked out of my AWS account.

  11. There’s a more elegant solution and it’s something that doesn’t just revive the phone for you to be able to save your data from the “clinically dead” device, but it fixes it ,partially, but you end up with a very usable/alive phone.

    The problem that makes the 5X go into a bootloop (BLOD – bootloop of death) is the faulty Big cluster of the CPU (the 2 high performance cores). If you modify the kernel and make only the small cores be used/ turn off the big cores, boom ! The phone works again. Essentially, you have to turn the CPU into a quad-core.
    BUT not everyone knows what I’m talking about so instead of creating a custom kernel that has the big cores turned off, it’s easier to just flash a “boot.img”(which is basically the kernel) that’s already been made by someone on XDA. It’s pretty easy to flash it and revive your 5X. It’s bot gonna work at the same speed it used to before, but the difference is bot that drastic either. In my tests, I only saw fairly noticeable differences in only isolate cases where usually the phone would require the entire power of the CPU and would kick in the Big cores to help with the “heavy lifting”, but with them turned off, the small cores can do a very decent job on their own. So, in the end, the loss of the big cores translates into a performance loss of roughly 10-20%, depending on the situation. Apps open at pretty much the same speed, smoothness is almost similar (with the exception of some apps that require more processing power, gaming is not that different etc. Installing APPS takes a little longer (10-15% longer) cause that’s when raw power is usually demanded for a faster installation but without the big cluster, the difference is, again, not that drastic.

    In fact, I’m actually leaving this message from my N5X which decided to go into a BLOD almost 2 months ago. Because I’m into android development, it was an easy job for me, but for others, it may be a big deal.

    Anyway, here’s a thread where you can the instructions to fix your dead 5X indefinitely:
    https://forum.xda-developers.com/nexus-5x/general/nexus-5x-bootloop-death-blod-andorid-t3683926
    Just read the entire thing carefully and I assure you you’ll fix your poor quality Nexus 5X, that if you really want to postpone the acquisition of a new device.

    Any issues related to how exactly to flash the boot.img, the tools required, etc, in case the instructions are not specific enough, you can easily find on Google or from actual video tutorials on Youtube.

    Cheers n

    1. This needs to get more attention. I can verify this works because I’m on a Nexus 5x right now as my daily phone after this solution as well. Another thing to note though is that you can’t get OTA updates or security updates because your basically on a modded 5x so security could be an issue and you won’t be on the newest Android version. Luckily though, the post you mentioned has a modified Oreo bootloader so your not too far behind on updates.

  12. Currently commenting on a previously dead Nexus 5x having used this phone for more than now after the fix. I can say the solution listed in this video isn’t guaranteed to work for everyone and it’s only temporary. The fix I found that’s worked so far deals with unlocking the bootloader and flashing a custom bootloader onto the device that will straight up disable 2 of the problematic cores on the phone. This gives a bit of a performance loss compared to the stock configuration, but it beats having a dead brick of a phone. Even in it’s slightly lower powered state, I love my Nexus phone. If you have an unlocked bootloader or can boot the phone long enough to get to developer settings, check XDA Forums for the bootloader. Unfortunately, since I’m essentially on a modded phone, I can’t receive OTA updates, but it’s a good placeholder until I can afford a pixel XL 2

    1. It doesn’t fix the problem but I (and others) have recovered data from failing hard drives by freezing them. It will sometimes allows for the drive to temporarily work well enough to retrieve desired data. Or am I missing sarcasm?

  13. I’ve had the same issue. Just place the phone into a freezer with USB cable attached and boot it there. Once you’ve connected to a computer and selected file transfer mode, close the door and start the file transfer. Worked like a charm without any ice cubes. Better yet, install an automatic backup solution while your phone is still running.

  14. I had 5x in ice blue for well over two years. I bought PiXL and used them side by side until I passed the 5x on to my girlfriend with a heavy heart. My theory on the fail modality is that 5x flexes and bends the circuit inside. I never had a problem with 5x and it is on 8.1. I never put it in my back pocket though.

  15. I’ve never frozen a drive and kept in a salt water bath in a bag connected to the SATA/IDE USB adapter and copied data. I like this idea and am going to try with the next drive I am looking at in front of me in a zip lock bag that I don’t have an equivalent controller board for.

  16. One and a half year ago my Samsung S4 suddenly started to bootloop. It would work for a few minutes, then it rebooted. For each boot cycle it stayed alive for shorter and shorter time so I figured it had something to do with the temperature. I needed to rescue my data on it so I got the idea to put it in the fridge for a while. It indeed lived for a little longer albeit not long enough, so I put it in the freezer for an hour or so. That was enough to get my data out of it. Later on I got my friend’s S4 with a broken screen. The motherboard from his phone ended up in my phone with a OK screen and out of these two broken phones came a new and nice phone for my daughter. It still works perfectly.

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