- past of brick
When used in reference to electronics, "brick" describes a device that cannot function in any capacity (such as a machine with damaged firmware). This usage derives from the machine now being considered "as useful, and as entertaining, as a brick." The term can also be used as a verb. For example, "I bricked my MP3 player when I tried to upgrade it."
In the strictest sense of the term, bricking must imply that the device is completely unrecoverable without some hardware replacement. If the device can be repaired through software or firmware changes, it's not a brick.
Historically, the oldest reference known is from fall 1990 at Ramstein AFB, where the term was used by the 1856 Comm Squadron there to describe what happened when you over-drove the flyback mechanism on a CRT, which on a particular model of IBM monitor could be done through firmware. The resultant destruction of the internal electronics resulted in the release of magic smoke and the square monitor being called a "brick" or a "doorstop" or a "boat anchor", depending on which NCO was describing the incident.
Brick may also refer to a power brick which is used to describe some external mains AC to low voltage DC power converters commonly supplied with many consumer electronics devices. It is called a brick, because generally even with a unit with an appealing design, a OEM power 'brick' (transformer) is generally supplied, and has a much less pleasing design - it generally is a black 'brick'. When these devices plug directly into a wall outlet (without an additional cord,) they are also commonly referred to as a wall wart.
The term "brick" can also be used to refer to a particularly large mobile phone, referring to the older style of telephone which was the size of a house brick.
Brick preventionSome devices include two copies of firmware so that if one is damaged the device will not be bricked. Other devices have "bootloader" firmwares that can be enabled, often mechanically, to reload the main firmware into the device again.
UnbrickingSome devices which are "bricked" because the contents of their nonvolatile memory is incorrect can be "unbricked" using separate hardware (debug board) that accesses this memory directly http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Neo1973_Debug_Board_v2/Unbricking. This is similar to the procedure for loading firmware into a new device when the memory is still empty. This kind of "bricking" and "unbricking" occasionally happens during firmware testing and development.
Some devices, such as the Lego Mindstorms NXT, contain a second firmware that contains instructions for receiving a new firmware and upgrading, and is stored in ROM. The secondary firmware can be started up by pressing a button that is put out of the way, much like the Tamagotchi's 'reset button'. Most devices, such as the Nintendo DS, are not usually upgraded by the end user, and are shipped with no 'recovery firmware'.
iPhoneOn 24 September 2007 Apple issued a warning that future firmware updates to the iPhone could brick the device. On 27 September 2007, owners of unlocked iPhones who took advantage of the version 1.1.1 update through iTunes reported that the update rendered the device virtually inoperable. There have also been reports that the update even affected some iPhones that were not unlocked. iPhones that have been disabled in this way are not technically bricked, as changes can still be made to the device.
PlayStation PortableThe PlayStation Portable, a handheld game console by Sony, can become bricked and unable to restart completely. The main cause of this problem is the modification of the PSP. Crackers have created a virus called Trojan.PSPBrick, which deletes the necessary files needed to restart the system.
Another way in which a PSP may be bricked is during a firmware upgrade when its lithium-ion battery is not charged enough, its AC adaptor is unplugged, or the device is accidentally powered off. It is paramount that the PSP has a constant battery life while being updated as the firmware is writing directly to the internal flash memory of the PSP. As it is overwriting previous firmware, the current firmware is incomplete and therefore cannot boot up. Some users have also experienced bricks when they removed their battery while running homebrews.
Playstation Portables can be 'unbricked' by using a special battery and certain files that can easily be found by the name of 'Pandora's Battery' and 'Despertar del Cementerio' released by Team C+D. The user can also recover 'semi-bricks' where the firmware won't boot but the user can access a recovery console included in most custom firmwares.
Nintendo DSLike the PSP, the Nintendo DS can be bricked by a trojan or botched firmware update. However, the danger is reduced for a number of reasons:
- No firmware updates have yet been issued by Nintendo (however they have mentioned the possibility of using the Wii to send an official firmware update to a DS.) Although multiple firmware versions exist, there is no need for official procedure to install a new version; the updates are generally very minor. A major reason to install new firmware is for homebrew purposes.
- There is currently no known method for malicious software to infect a Nintendo DS without the user's knowledge. The only way a trojan could be run is for the user to be tricked into running it.
- The Nintendo DS contains a protection system which prevents important parts of the firmware from being overwritten unless a hardware switch is activated, such as the SL1 port covered by the red and white sticker under the battery cover. Removing this sticker and shorting this port considers your warranty null and void. Early DSes protected the first 25% of the firmware; while this was unfortunately not enough to prevent official firmware from being destroyed, all homebrew firmware (including FlashMe) places a simple recovery routine in this area. Newer DSes protect all but the last few sectors where the user settings are stored.
Other systemsBoth the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 had reports of being bricked during official firmware updates. The solution of this usually involves sending the unit back to the manufacturer, which may or may not retain saved data. Both the PS3 and XBOX 360 can have their data recovered if the hard drive is kept.
All of the Motorola LTE and LTE 2 phones have the Boot firmware too. It can be accessed by turning off phone, pressing buttons # * and turning on button simultaneously. It will show the actual firmware version, bootloader version and enables flash interface through USB for phone firmware update. Also, some routers like the WRT54G series from Linksys have the ability to upgrade firmware or install customized versions of firmware. With this there is also a possibility of the device to become bricked. It is usually recommended not to upgrade the firmware over a wireless connection because it has greater chance of losing the signal in mid-upgrade and lead to bricking.