Disclaimer: Installing custom ROMs can be a dangerous process. Therefore, I cannot be held responsible for any damage this may cause to your Android phone/tablet.
Having had a nice break. I am back and ready to continue bringing you the latest in tech news.
I have previously talked about rooting your Android phone. In particular, we covered the International/LTE version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. The reason I did not cover other Android phones is that the procedure might vary for other android devices.
In this article, What I want to talk about is installing a custom ROM on your Android Phone.
First of all, what is a do we mean by the term ROM? Well, Android is a distribution of Linux with various customisations. The main portion of the operating system is stored on the ROM chip. Now ROM stands for read only memory. In theory, this means you cannot put any more data onto the phone. So if you took a photo, you should not be able to save it onto the phone. That said, the ROM in an android device is actually programmable read only memory, because you can add data to it or download apps to the phone.
In relation to Android phones and tablets, the ROM is the firmware on your phone. It’s the operating system that your phone uses.
With that in mind, why would even want to put a custom ROM on your phone? Well, there are a lot of different versions of Android that the manufacturers put on their phones. Samsung puts their TouchWiz variant of Android on their phones and the Magazine UX on their upcoming tablets. HTC put their HTC sense Variant on their phones. However, these interfaces might have a lot of features which you don’t care about or don’t want to use. As such, this might leave something to be desired. Alternatively, you might find that it slows your phone down(and that is something you might not want).
The second reason is one that I cannot stress enough: As a consumer, you have the right to customise the software on your phone to suit your needs. If you don’t like the default custom ROM that ships with a phone, then you have the right to wipe the phone clean and put on a different custom ROM. As part of this tutorial, I have chosen to exercise said right.
Now there are a lot of custom ROMs out there. So this can make it a very daunting task to choose the right one. Therefore, here are some of my favourites (in no particular order):
- CyanogenMod – The reason I like this ROM is because it is based off of stock Android. I am using it on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and it makes it a lot better. Since it’s stock Android, there are no manufacturer customisations, apps that you don’t care about or interfaces that slow the phone down.
- Paranoid Android
- AOKP – This is a variant of the Android Open Source Project(AOSP) which is made for more of the high-end devices.
If you want to know the exact feature set of each of the ROMs, then XDA Developer Nimrodity has put together a whole database of the major ROMs and their feature sets. That being said, my favourite out of all the ROMs available is CyanogenMod.
There is also something going around the Android community, where people are saying that you have to root to install a custom ROM. Well, the truth is that you actually don’t need to root a phone in order to install a custom ROM. All you need to do is unlock the bootloader. Thankfully, HTC makes it really easy to unlock the bootloader. However, I would advise rooting your phone before installing a custom ROM anyway.
So to install a custom ROM on your phone or tablet of choice, here is what you will need:
- A copy of the custom ROM in question – my favourite is CyanogenMod.
- A rooted Android phone or tablet/an android phone or tablet with the bootloader unlocked
- A micro SD card (preferably 16GB or bigger)
- ClockworkMod Recovery
- Google Apps
- ROM Manager (to manage your backups and download ROMs)
The reason you need Google Apps is because some ROMs do not come with Google Calendar, Google Play Music, Google+ and most important of all, the Google Play Store app. You can download YouTube, Google+ and GMail later, but if you don’t have the Google Play Store app, then you cannot download any apps. Speaking of Google Apps, you will also have to download Google Maps because all custom ROMs don’t come with Google Maps. If you rely on Google Maps as your in-car GPS, then Downloading Google Maps after installing a custom ROM is a must.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into this.
The first step will be to obtain your custom ROM of choice and download it. At this point, you might want to download ROM Manager. There is a free one and then there is the premium one which you can download for £3.99. I would recommend downloading the premium one because you can save your backups to your computer and get a full list of all the ROMs available.
Once you have ROM Manager downloaded, go ahead and launch it. From there, tap the menu button on your phone and ensure that you have the “use external storage”. From there, go back to the main screen of ROM manager using the back button on your android device.
Under ‘backup and restore’, choose ‘Backup current ROM. This will restart your phone and backup the current ROM that’s on your phone. From things such as widgets, to contacts on there. That said, most android devices allow you to backup your contacts right from within the People app or whatever app the manufacturer uses.
Once you have restarted your phone, you will need to launch ROM Manager and select Download ROM. This will allow you to download the ROM of your choice, without having to download it onto your computer, stick it onto your micro SD card just to put it on your Android device. When finding the ROM you want, I would recommend going with the stable build as that is the complete version. The cool thing about ROM Manager is that it automatically gives you the right ROM for your smartphone. Of course, when you do download the ROM, it won’t come with Google Apps. With that being said, they do give you the option do download Google Apps alongside your ROM of choice.
Once you have downloaded your ROM, you will be asked if you want to install it. On the same page, you will also be asked whether or not you want to “Backup Existing ROM”. You might want to set that toggle to “Yes”. You might have backed up the ROM on your phone already, but it won’t hurt to back it up again. There is also a switch that allows you to “Wipe Data and Cache”. Again, you will want to set that to “Yes”. Last but not least, beneath those switches, tap “Reboot and install”. From there, the phone will automatically reboot, and install your chosen ROM.
Congratulations, you have successfully installed a custom ROM on your phone!
Now this is all well and good, but what if you want to go back? What if you want your phone to be like the day you took it out of its box or go back to the manufacturer’s operating system?
Well, you can simply restore the backup that you made from ROM Manager. Alternatively, if you want to go back to a factory fresh device, you can go to the XDA Developers forums. This is where you will be able to find the “stock” ROM for your phone. When using the search facility, make sure you enter the exact model number of your phone.
However, when installing the stock ROM you will need to use a Windows computer. For example, with a samsung device, you will need to use Odin on Windows. For this, the XDA Developers forums also has instructions for most devices. If you follow this instructions to the letter, then you will be just fine.
With that, I hope that this tutorial helped you out. If you know anyone who wants to install a custom ROM on their phone, then be sure to pass this tutorial along to them.
Disclaimer: again, as with doing anything major with your Android device, remember to back up all of your data before doing anything. I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may be caused to your Android device from this process.