Bricking, also known as “bricking a device”, is a term used in computing that refers to when a device is rendered completely unusable, either through a software malfunction or hardware failure. A bricked device often appears to be utterly dead, unable to boot, or to display any indication of power except a steady amber, red, or green LED. It can also refer to an object that has been damaged beyond repair.

The functional bricking of a device can have a variety of causes. A system crash due to a software failure–for example, due to a corrupted OS or factory reset–can lead to a device becoming bricked. Additionally, improperly installing incompatible firmware, a bootloader, or other software can often lead to bricking. Under optimal conditions, a device will revert to its original state after such an event, but under more extreme circumstances the device may become irreversible bricked.

The most common cause of bricking is a failed hardware component–for example, damage to the motherboard due to a power surge can cause a device to become completely inoperable. In such cases, it is often impossible to recover the device without expensive repairs or replacements.

Fortunately, it is possible to avoid bricking a device using proper care and maintenance. Before attempting any major system updates, performing a proper backup is recommended. Additionally, downloading only trusted software and drivers–or even better, only using officially approved versions of such-is essential to avoid bricking a device.

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