How to Remove Bloatware From Your Non-Rooted Phone

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For some reason carriers like to load up “their” phones with apps that they think you want. These apps take up space on an already limited storage partition, they occupy screen real-estate in your app drawer, and in most cases you can’t remove them. We affectionately refer to these apps as “bloatware” because just like after eating a big holiday meal, they leave our phones feeling lethargic and overweight.

Because OEMs and carriers install bloatware as system apps, you’ve got to have root permissions to remove them. Most of the time that means unlocking, rooting, and installing a custom ROM that doesn’t have any bloatware installed. That’s somewhat technical and runs the risk of voiding your warranty or bricking your device.

Lucky, there may be another way to remove the bloatware from your phone or tablet — and you may not have to root your phone to do it!

This method was discovered on the Samsung Galaxy Y and involves flashing an update file from Recovery. Recovery has root access already, so you’re not technically getting around the “root” requirement, you’re just using a tool that already has root permissions.

Nuts and Bolts

This method basically lets you customize your very own bloatkill.zip which you flash via Recovery. Instead of adding new files, you’re removing a list of pre-existing files.

Before you get your hopes up, this has been tested to work on the Galaxy Y but may not work on other devices. Why? Some devices require updates to be digitally signed to prevent this sort of thing. Since you don’t have the key to sign the update file with, Recovery on your device may refuse to work with it.

Want to give it a try?

You’ll need an unzipping tool like WinRar or 7Zip to open the .zip file. Next, you’ll need a text editor — Notepad will do but Notepad++ or something similar will work better.

Next, download bloatkill.zip, which is a template for you to use. You’ll want to modify it to remove whatever files you want removed from your device.

Open bloatkill.zip with WinRar and browse into META-INF\com\google\android\.

Extract updater-script to your desktop and open it with your text editor. It should look something like this:

ui_print(“Useless stuff cleaning start”);
ui_print(” “);
ui_print(“Partitions mount”);
#Properly unmounting to avoid issues
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “umount”, “/system”);
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “umount”, “/cache”);
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “umount”, “/data”);
#Then mounting
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “mount”, “/system”);
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “mount”, “/cache”);
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “mount”, “/data”);
ui_print(” “);
ui_print(“Useless system app removal”);

delete(“/system/app/ClockWidget.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/ClockWidget.odex”);
delete(“/system/app/DualClock.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/DualClock.odex”);
delete(“/system/app/Email.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/Email.odex”);
delete(“/system/app/EmailWidget.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/EmailWidget.odex”);
delete(“/system/app/Quickoffice.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/SamsungApps.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/SamsungWidget_ProgramMonitor.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/SamsungWidget_ProgramMonitor.odex”);
delete(“/system/app/SamsungWidget_StockClock.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/SamsungWidget_StockClock.odex”);
delete(“/system/app/SamsungWidget_WeatherClock.apk”);
delete(“/system/app/SamsungWidget_WeatherClock.odex”);

ui_print(” “);
ui_print(“Unmounting partitions”);
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “umount”, “/system”);
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “umount”, “/cache”);
run_program(“/sbin/busybox”, “umount”, “/data”);

ui_print(” “);
ui_print(“Finish”);

See all those “delete” lines in the middle? Those are the .apk and .odex files for the apps that you may want to remove. No, you can’t simply use the template to rid yourself of all bloatware known to man. You’ll need to look into your own files and see which ones you have, and decide if you want to remove them or not. To remove an app simply add a delete line pointing to the file that you want to yank. Make sure you get the spelling and casing exactly correct.

Once you’ve edited your file, drag-and-drop it back into the .zip (you still have that open in WinRar, right?), and overwrite the existing file. Copy your custom bloatkill.zip file to the root of your “sd card”. Reboot your device into recovery mode (usually by holding volume up and volume down, and pressing the power button).

From here, your experience may vary. Find the menu item that allows you to “apply zip from sd card”, select “bloatkill.zip” and confirm that you want to apply it (this is your last chance to back out). If you want to assume the risk select “Yes”, wait for the process to complete (which shouldn’t take long), then reboot.

If all went well you’re now bloatware free! If you missed some, don’t worry, you can always go through the same process again to remove even more files. Just be careful, there is no “undelete”.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.