Nuked BlackBerry

Good Afternoon Class! I’ve been a bit slack in my BlackBerry 101 lectures as of late – I blame the Smartphone Round Robin, all the Contests we’ve been running on the site and the busy Holiday Season. My apologies! This will be the last 101 lecture of the year… but we’ll be back in 2008 bigger and better than ever.

Today’s lecture isn’t really a “newbie” topic, but it’s one that I wanted to cover because in the past three weeks I’ve gone through it half a dozen times and that is Reloading the Operating System on a BlackBerry that’s totally “Nuked”. I’m not sure if nuked is the technically appropriate word for it (I also use one that starts with an F and ends in an ED and has a CK in the middle), but it is how I refer to a BlackBerry that is stuck in a permanent reboot cycle and is completely, completely unusable. With a Nuked Berry, essentially the device turns on (red LED comes on for a few seconds), then you see the white screen with the hourglass of death, and then the display shuts off, the device shuts off, a few seconds go by and then it starts up and does the same thing again and again and again (it’ll do it for hours if you let it).

Over the past year I have arrived at this Nuked Berry scenario a few different ways: from installing a BlackBerry theme that wasn’t appropriate for my device/OS version; from installing beta software that was majorily glitchy; and one time during an OS upgrade the installation failed (I think I had too many apps installed and the device ran out of memory when trying to reload the backed-up apps). And while a “battery pull” works for solving most of little glitches that may occur when using your BlackBerry from day to day, that’s not the case with a Nuked BlackBerry.

The GOOD NEWS is that this problem likely won't affect you unless you're out and about looking for trouble and you can always fix a Nuked Berry (at least from my experience!). You just need to know a couple of little tricks and have 45 minutes of free time…

The Nuked Berry Problem

The fundamental problem with the Nuked Berry scenario is that because the device is stuck in a permanent reboot sequence or loop, when you attach it your computer via USB cable it simply connects and disconnects over and over and over again (you’ll just keep hearing that USB detected/unplugged noise) as the BlackBerry turns on/off. This makes using the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software to reload your OS impossible as the device is only detected for a couple of seconds before the device shuts off (and is now undetected).

Nuked Berry
My Nuked Berry...just a second before the display shuts off
and the device reboots itself, again and again and again

With pulling your BlackBerry’s battery doing nothing to solve the problem and it being impossible to establish a link to your desktop, at this point if you called your carrier for support there’s a chance they’ll tell you your BlackBerry is broken and that it’s time for a new one. To me that’s not a bad thing (what’s better than getting a new BlackBerry?!), but it’s not the CrackBerry way! Let's fix it!


Before reloading the operating system on a Nuked BlackBerry, you need to make sure you have taken care of some basics:

  • you are using a Windows Computer
  • have BlackBerry Desktop Manager installed
  • have the BlackBerry Operating System you want to install/reload onto your Nuked BlackBerry installed

You can download the latest version of BlackBerry Desktop Manager from the website, and you can find the latest Operating System available for your device from our BlackBerry OS superpage.

Keep in mind that during this process you don’t necessarily have to reload the same version of the OS that’s currently running on your Nuked BlackBerry. With the example I’m going through today, I’m actually going to revert to a slightly older operating system. There was an OSv4.3.1 Beta for the Curve I got my hands on way back when. Well, it turns out it had a slight glitch that made it want to occasionally reboot the phone when I answered incoming calls (which I was living with ok), but after Nuking my Berry while testing some software a friend of mine was working on, I decided to take the opportunity to revert back to the very stable OSv4.2.2. To accomplish this, on my computer I first open Control Panel > Add/Remove Software and uninstalled the current Operating System for the 8300 Curve. From there I went to AT&T’s website and downloaded and installed OSv4.2.2.

And now for the disclaimer, aka Bad News. With the process I’m going through here, any 3rd party applications you have installed on your BlackBerry will be lost. This install gives you a clean slate, which is a heck of a lot better than a Nuked Berry. So once you’re up to speed, you will have to install all your favorite apps once again.

The following process doesn't just work for Nuked BlackBerrys. You can also use it to clean the slate/reload/update the OS on a BlackBerry that's in fine working order.

How to Reload the OS on a Nuked BlackBerry

Step #1: Make sure your BlackBerry IS NOT connected to your computer. Locate and Open the App Loader application. You won't have a shortcut to this program on your start menu. You need to locate it manually. Open your file browser, go to your C Drive (operating system drive) and navigate your way through the folders to Program Files > Common Files >Research In Motion > AppLoader.  Once you are in the AppLoader directory, double click on the Loader application shortcut. Once Loader opens, you can click Next  and then proceed to Step #2. As you may have noticed, we skip Desktop Manager altogether.

AppLoader Directory
Step 1: Browse your way into the AppLoader Directory, and Open the Loader Application

Loader Homescreen
The Loader Homescreen. You can Click Next to Continue

Loader Screen - Com 1
After you click next, Loader Waits for you to Connect the Device.
Proceed to Step #2

Step #2: We need to connect the BlackBerry to the Computer via USB cable. But here's where the tricky part comes in with the Nuked BlackBerry. Do you see in the image above where it says COM1? What we want to do is plug in the BlackBerry, and when COM1 switches to say USB-PIN:UNKNOWN we immediately click Next. This catches the BlackBerry and takes it out of the constant reboot cycle and allows you to then reload the Operating System.

Tip: The USB-PIN:UNKNOWN option will display for a few seconds when the BlackBerry is first connected/flashing its LED in red. With a Nuked BlackBerry,  That occurs when the device is in the initial start-up part of it's reboot sequence. The easiest way to get that to happen (vs. waiting for that step in the reboot sequence where you have a tenth of a second to hit Next before you lose your chance) is to simply pull the battery from the BlackBerry. With the battery pulled, connect the BlackBerry to the USB connector and as SOON as you see USB-PIN:UNKNOWN hit Next. You have to be quick still, but using this method you are in control of the timing. From there you can put the battery back in and battery cover back on (Make Sure you install the battery or else when the OS update is completing and the device disconnects from the computer to reboot, it will lose the power provided by the USB connection and you will get an error and have to do it all over again!).

** If you don't get it right the first time, try again (unplug from USB, pull battery, connect and hit Next while USB-PIN:Unknown is showing). You have to be fast and the timing is key, so it may take you three or four tries.  

Connect Your BlackBerry via USB. Click NEXT as Soon as USB:UNKNOWN Appears


Battery Out
Tip: With Battery Out, Connect BlackBerry to USB.
This will give you more control in nailing the timing of
connecting Next while USB:UNKOWN displays

Step #3: With your BlackBerry now out of the permanent reboot sequence, you are essentially in the clear and well on your way to having your BlackBerry up and running again. Choose the options you want to install on your BlackBerry (BrickBreaker, BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Maps, etc.), click next, then approve the installation by clicking "Finish." Sit back and relax while the BlackBerry does its thing. It'll take some time and go through a number of screens but eventually you will reach my favorite "The loading operation was successful" screen. Your BlackBerry will reboot itself at this point and it will take a LONG time to reboot (10 - 15 minutes or so). You can unplug it from the USB (it's not connected while rebooting) and just continue to sit back and wait. Get scared, but not too will eventually boot up.

OS Installation Options
Select the OS options you want to install

Approve OS install
Approve the Operating System Installalation Options

Sit Back and Relax
Sit back and relax and let the installer do its thing

Installation Complete!
Installation Complete! Just sit back and let your BlackBerry Reboot

Step #4: That's it! You are done. Brand New BlackBerry. With your BlackBerry no longer Nuked, you can run through the Set Up Wizard (set the date/time/fonts, etc.) and from there you WILL NOW BE ABLE TO connect to the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software. Hopefully you occasionally back up your data and can now use Desktop Manager's restore function to load up your backed up data. If not, hopefully you have your contacts all synced to Outlook so you can reload your Address book from there. Once that's done, it's time to install all your favorite apps again! I'd recommend starting with the Launcher (visit on your BlackBerry's browser to download it!). Happy BlackBerrying!

Desktop Manager Reload
At least in this case I KNEW I was putting some risky software onto my BlackBerry
so before installing did a backup of my data. Once I un-nuked my BlackBerry
I was able to relatively quickly get back to where I was before.


That's all folks! This is one of those lessons that I hope you don't need to use, but if you ever do find yourself with a Nuked BlackBerry I hope this lesson gets you back up and running quickly. There are some alterantives to this method as well, including some third-party apps like BBSAK (see another tutorial here). And if you're still stuck, the CrackBerry Forums are only a click away!

Article Tags: blackberry hardware loop, blackberry reboot loop, hard reset, blackberry, pearl, curve, 8100, 8110, 8120, 8130, 8700, 8703, 8300, 8310, 8320, 8330, 8800, 8820, 8830, reload operating system