How to fix Android apps downgraded or missing on reboot

Imagine seeing your app drawer filled with your precious collection of Android apps and then you’re prompted to reboot after doing some modding; only for you to see an empty home screen / app drawer upon boot. You might also have upgraded an app only for it to auto-revert to an older version on reboot. These ‘Harry Houdini’ apps are our focus in this tutorial.

Why do my apps disappear / get downgraded after I reboot my Android phone?

Lets consider two scenarios here:

  1. All apps go missing on reboot
  2. Only one app goes missing or gets downgraded on reboot

All apps go missing / disappear on reboot

Common causes on this issue are:

  • Launcher issues
  • Corrupted app(s)
  • Corrupted or Unmounted SD card
  • Slow or lagging Android phone
  • Corrupted system or data partitions

Where did my apps go?

Nowhere mostly! If you check Settings > Apps > All, you’ll most likely see the missing apps listed. This tells you they’re still installed, its just their shortcuts on your home screen / app drawer that went missing or weren’t loaded. If on the other hand they aren’t listed under Settings > Apps > All then you’re looking at a firmware / storage issue.

How do I fix the problem of all Android applications disappearing after reboot?

One or more of the following should help

  • If you installed a third party launcher then uninstall it and revert to the stock launcher
  • Scan the SD card for errors and fix if found (see this guide and this guide)
  • Avoid installing too many apps to speedup booting
  • Go to Settings > Storage > Unmount the SD card > Mount the SD card
  • Re-partition the SD card if it was wrongly partitioned
  • Do a factory reset
  • Flash the Stock ROM

Just one application disappearing / getting downgraded on reboot

One of my earliest experiences was with Whatsapp so I’ll use it as an example. You could find any of the following cases:

  • Disappearing on reboot
  • Downgraded to an older version (despite updating) on reboot
  • Gives a package conflict error when you try installing

Why is my app behaving this way?

This is due to remnants of the app still present either at the /userdata or /system level (depending on where the app was first installed to). Remnants could be as a result of partial uninstall, modification or corruption. This could cause the app to suddenly disappear (can’t launch but you might see traces of it) or still work but be difficult to uninstall .

When you try installing a new apk, you might get a package conflict error because of the remnants still in place. If you are able to upgrade the apk then it might be reverted to the previous version (remnants) on reboot.

How to fix an Android app disappearing or reverting to an older version on reboot

The underlying principle is that you need to get rid of the remnants. If its at the userdata level then a factory reset should help. If its at the system level then you’ll need to reflash system.img from the stock rom.

Alternatively, you could root then delete the apk and its corresponding folders using a root browser like ES explorer. The could be in /system/app, /system/priv-app, /system/vendor etc).