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Bricking refers to a consumer electronic device that has been damaged beyond repair, making it utterly unusable, often because of damaged firmware. The use of the term stems from the brick-like shape of many consumer gadgets, and the fact that once they are rendered inoperative, they are virtually useless except as a paperweight or a doorstop.
Strictly speaking, a device is bricked when it completely loses its functionality. However, the term is being used with more flexibility these days, and in some cases, bricked electronics are still recoverable with some hardware replacement or additional software.
Bricking can occur for any number of reasons. A thwarted attempt to update a device is one of these. Firmware updating for some gadgets is a process that must be successfully completed without interruption. As such, a power outage, user intervention or any other form of interruption that makes the update process stop, albeit inadvertently, may cause the existing firmware to be overwritten, rendering it useless.
Bricked equipment is also the unwelcome consequence of malicious or incorrect software, such as when firmware intended for a different hardware version of the device is installed.
In some cases, a consumer electronics company may intentionally create corrupt software that can brick a device as a way of penalizing users who unlock their gadgets to avoid the limitations the company imposed through its official firmware. For instance, Apple was reported to have been deliberately bricking jailbroken iPhones via software updates - a claim that the company has since denied.
In the hands of experts, a bricked piece of equipment still has the potential to become “unbricked,” with the use of complex software and hardware solutions. However, there is no guarantee that a procedure that works in recovering one bricked device will work with another.