This issue can be pretty scary, making you think that you’ve unwittingly modified your device, and managed to both brick your phone and void your warranty. But don’t worry; this is a rare but straightforward bug that can be addressed in two ways. You’ll start off with the easiest and rule that out first. If you’re seeing the message ‘cannot update software: Your device has been modified,’ just follow these simple instructions to get your phone working again.
Re-mount your SD card
This trick may be only one step removed from the old ‘turn it off and on again’, but according to Android forums it seems to work quite well, resolving the above issue in most cases.
- Take the back off your phone
- Carefully unmounts your SD card (this often requires you to push it inwards a millimeter so that the spring holding it in place will detach and push it out of its slot)
- Turn your phone off and on again (or select ‘Restart’ from the power menu)
- Go into your device’s ‘Settings’ and check for updates
- Once any necessary OS updates have been installed and enabled, you can mount your SD card again
- To verify that this has worked, go back into the main ‘Settings’ menu; select ‘About Device’, then ‘Status’, then ‘Device status.’ If it no longer says ‘modified’ or ‘custom’ then your problem is resolved.
If remounting your SD card doesn’t resolve the issue:
- Follow the same list of instructions above, except instead of turning your phone off and on again or simply restarting it, go to the power menu and choose ‘Restart in Recovery Mode’ or switch to recovery mode automatically by holding down the Power and Volume buttons.
- Once your device starts in recover mode, select ‘Wipe Cache Partition.’
- Restart your device after successful cache partition wipe
- Go through the usual steps for an OTA (over the air) Android update
- Mount your SD card again.
If you are still facing the issue:
Sometimes this issue is caused by a bug in your Antivirus or security software (like Knox), which has been falsely triggered by normal OTA Android updates. Your device goes into panic mode and prevents any further changes being made to your software. To work around this bug, you’ll need to switch your phone to recovery mode, or safe mode.
In order to –just temporarily- disable your manually installed security systems and apps, and avoid having to actually uninstall them, you can restart your phone in Recovery Mode. While in safe mode, just the apps hardwired into your phone by the manufacturers will function, preventing manually installed apps from interfering with the core functioning of your device. To switch your phone to recovery mode:
- Power down your phone
- Once it is fully turned off leave it for 10 seconds
- Now simultaneously hold down the power and the volume-down buttons until the device restarts. A safe mode or recovery mode message should appear on screen immediately.
- Your phone is now successfully switched to recovery mode.
How do you scan for over the air (OTA) updates?
Once you’ve enabled recovery mode for your mobile device, you can navigate to the update center and scan for necessary OS updates.
- Navigate to ‘Settings’
- Navigate to ‘About’
- Navigate to ‘Software Update’
- Click the action button ‘Update’ to begin downloading and installing the latest update
- Wait for updates to finish installing
You should now be able to restart your phone in normal mode (you’ll find that command through the Power menu). The issue of finding the ‘cannot update software’ message should now be resolved.
How to avoid this issue in future
Android phones and the Android suite of operating systems are probably the most reliable and easy to use. Even when bugs like this issue occur, it’s important to remember that the Android OS allows you so much more freedom to look inside your settings and see where you’ve gone wrong. You have much greater control over rooting your phone or uninstalling problematic software, and can wipe your cache and repartition your phone’s main storage whenever you need. When similar issues surface on an apple iOS or Microsoft device, it tends to be much more difficult for general users to understand what aspect of their system has been compromised and triggered the software update problem.
If you want to avoid this problem in future, you can take a few simple steps to get there. Only download apps and software updates from trusted sources. Some apps available in the Android store are really cheaply produced and may appear ‘dodgy’ or suspicious – but appearances shouldn’t be your guiding rule when discerning trustworthy, stable apps from those which are going to cause hiccups in your device, or worse, deliberately infect it with malware.
The easiest way to check if a piece of software you’re about to download is trustworthy is to scan the latest product reviews. If there are enough reviews, limit the ones you read to those written by customers using the most recent version of the app and installing it on the same device as you. Any app with significant stability issues or known malware should have a few reviews that make this clear.
Occasionally your phone may react to a new app as though it has malware or is trying to customize your phone if that app is one of the many apps these days that prompt you to download other, unnecessary apps during installation. This can trigger a malware response in some computer Oss and this probably applies to handheld mobile devices as well.
Often this particular Android software bug has nothing to do with any software you’ve personally installed on your device and is simply a confusion that occurs within Android’s OTA updating protocol. Following the steps given here will fix your phone effectively but cannot guarantee that the same wires won’t get crossed again, so to speak. If you face this issue again in the future, just remember not to panic, and go through the troubleshooting steps provided above.