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Flashing is the process of copying the entire OS to a device’s internal storage.

It’s generally carried out over a USB connection using tools like adb and fastboot although it can be done “over the air” (OTA)

The internal storage is split into a number of partitions each (or many) of which contains one of the following:

  • bootloader
  • kernel
  • firmware
  • system filesytem
  • data filesystem
  • recovery filesystem
  • other filesystems
  • backups of any of the above

There are both development tools such as the recovery system, fastboot and adb as well as on-device user-level applications such as the system updater which are capable of writing to these partitions.

For more details about flashing for developers please see the Hardware Adaptation Development Kit.