Updating to Android 11 - an uneventful journey

How it all started

I have a phone. Surprising, I know. I also like my phone, so much so that I installed TWRP, LineageOS and Magisk. This means I can do whatever I want to my phone, take a full backup and do all sorts of snazzy shenanigans.

It has a little drawback, though. If I were content with what was supplied (LineageOS with its recovery and no root), I’d be golden as it stands now. Just flash the zip file, flash any other packages I want/need and I’m golden. The main issue here is that LineageOS does NOT play well with either Magisk OR TWRP.

So, in case you’re one of the lucky ones who just “get” OTA updates, this is the workflow I have to go through every time I want to update my Android 10 system:

  1. Remove Magisk, restoring stock boot image
  2. Install the OTA
  3. Run a package that retains TWRP
  4. Reinstall Magisk, selecting “Install to inactive Slot (After OTA)”
  5. NOW, and only now can I reboot into my updated Android system

(More information here: TheCustomDroid manual, honestly I bricked my phone twice before finding this manual. I still have it as my first bookmark)

How it went down

Last week, I got a ping about a new update. I was ready for this. Did it plenty of times (4) before, so no worries! I got this down!

Then I looked at the update and saw that it’s not OTA. It’s a version update!

My blood froze. I took a shot of rum, smoked a cigarette in a single pull and threw up in my mouth a little. I’ve never done this at this point. I always managed to brick my phone before I had to run this sort of update! And I’ve got root, TWRP, and all the good shit! If I fuck this up, I’ll lose everything!

Sidestep: How LineageOS chat helped me

I checked online. No one had the specific setup I got, so no dice just following someone else’s steps (I may be wrong, I only spent a few hours on this). In my mind, I was now trailblazing. But I’m not a scientist, so I can’t just “fuck around and find out.” There were people who have more knowledge about Android than me. I went to the place which made this OS, straight to the source to drink from the fountain of knowledge.

The LineageOS IRC chat on Freenode.

I was looking for someone who could point me to some information and maybe someone has the same setup as me and bypassed all the traps, they upgraded Lineage with TWRP and root and now they can help me!

“You’ve gone off the tracks, you improvised. We do not provide any help in these cases. You’re on your own”

Welp, seems I’m on my own. Time to bite the bullet, flash the zip and in case I brick my phone, just install from scratch and count my losses. Thanks, random member of the IRC channel!

(seriously, though, I appreciate you giving me the go-ahead to play with the setup and take risks. Thank you)

TWeRP to the rescue!

Wait, I got TWRP. With a Nandroid backup option, no less! So I did the first good thing that I recommend you do:

  • Always back up your data before you fuck around with your phone.

I did so, put the backup on my PC, and downloaded the LineageOS recovery, LineageOS flashable zip and then followed the manual provided by LineageOS, rebooting into recovery, setting up ADB sideloading and sideloading the .zip file for my particular device. It seemed to install okay, now the question was simple.

Will it boot or will I have to restore from a huge backup?

It booted. It goddamn booted! I knew that TWRP was gone, Magisk most likely, too, but I did it. I went outside the playground that LineageOS has set up for its users and my data was still available! All the fake phone numbers I’ve been collecting for years now, all the spicy memes I had collected, it was all there. And the cat-finding game from Android 7 and 8 is back! Yay!

What I lost

I lost root. I lost TWRP. But I suspect I’m more at ease for it, since I wasn’t using my root privs that much anyway and if I ever need to run a Nandroid backup, I can find some solution (my first big think is that I could just boot from the on-PC .img of TWRP, but there may be something baked into the stock LineageOS recovery).

It is going to be interesting going forward, so far Android 11 seems like a very nice system. Can’t speak for anyone else, because you may have Google apps. I don’t. Don’t need them, don’t use them.

In closing

In closing, I thought I would share certain notes on this tiny, tiny journey. It really didn’t take long to update it, so it’s just this afternoon of work.

  • Back up your stuff before you fuck around. Never know when your rabbit will chew through your cable just when you’re patching the recovery image to get a new splash screen.
  • Try to find someone who has the same setup as you. There may be someone out there, there may not. They may have a satisfying answer to your question, they may not. I don’t, since you probably wanted to keep TWRP and root in place.
  • Get a phone that can be bootloader-unlocked. You can get much more mileage out of a phone like that, get rid of Gapps and stuff that you won’t be able to do with a regular stock Android install.

Join me next time, when I install Gentoo on a slow cooker.