Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Has Locked Flash Counter That Cannot Be Reset


When you flash a custom ROM to your Samsung smartphone, a flash counter is triggered that lets Samsung know you’ve tampered with it, and how many ROMs have been installed; it helps the company determine whether or not it should honor your warranty if you have issues with your device.

Fortunately for us, we’ve always been able to reset those counters to hide out tweaking secret — but that’s not the case with the new Galaxy Note 3.

SamMobile reports that once you’ve installed a custom ROM on a Galaxy Note 3, it’s impossible to reset its flash counter. So unless you stick with TouchWiz and Samsung’s official firmware, you’re going to end up voiding your warranty, and there’s no way back anymore.

On previous Samsung devices, tweakers could use a special app called TriangleAway, developed by “Chanfire,” which removed the big yellow triangle from the boot screen and reset the flash counter. Once this process was complete, Samsung had no way of knowing your device had ever run a different ROM.

But TriangleAway doesn’t work on the Galaxy Note 3 due to the way in which its read-only memory chip works.

“According to well-known developer Chainfire, the Galaxy Note 3 comes with eFUSE technology for the KNOX security suite,” SamMobile explains. “When flashing unofficial software on the device, the status of the system and KNOX is switched to CUSTOM while increasing a binary flash counter.”

“Basically, once you flash custom kernels or root the Note 3, the KNOX code gets rewritten, and this constitutes hardware damage,” SamMobile adds — and this cannot be undone. Not now, and maybe not ever.

According to Chainfire, it would be difficult to write a new hack to reset the write protection on the Galaxy Note 3’s flash storage — and even if it was written, there’s no guarantee it would work.

Samsung service centers have been instructed not to honor warranties on devices that have been tampered with, so as soon as you attempt to install custom software on a Galaxy Note 3, your chances of every getting it repaired or replaced for free by Samsung — even if you don’t have a software issue — are eliminated.

The Galaxy Note 3 has already received some bad press for its region lock, which prevents the device from being used with international SIM cards if users do not activate it with the right one. Combine that with the new flash counter and you end up with a device that’s not at all appealing to tinkerers.

And of course, this technology will surely make its way to future Samsung devices, so don’t expect the Galaxy Note 3 to be an exception.