How to install a new ROM on your Android smartphone

You might have read or heard people talking about custom ROMs they have installed on their Android devices. Here’s how to do it quickly and safely…

One of the main reasons people like to root their devices is to install a new or different version of the operating system. The open source nature of the OS means that it’s possible for anyone to view the code that makes up Android and then modify it as they see fit, in a similar way to which the Linux-based desktop operating systems work.

Custom ROMs can offer new features over the standard ones, allowing you to tailor your device to your needs. They also allow developers to port other manufacturers’ interfaces to other device makes – for instance, HTC’s Sense UI onto Samsung phones – or to remove a heavily customised ROM altogether. Another reason is to hurry along the update process: you are no longer tied to waiting on the phone manufacturers and the mobile operators to push out the latest version of Android. Installing a new ROM is a relatively simple and quick process thanks to the ROM Manager app which can be downloaded for free from the Android Market.

First of all you need to root your phone and there are a few methods for doing so. Some of the most popular are: SuperOneClick, Universal Androot and Z4Root. Check the compatibility with your particular device before attempting to gain root access. Here’s how we’ll do it:

For this example we’ll use Z4 Root. Download it from here, as it isn’t available on the Market. You will need to register first. Now, copy the .apk file you’ve downloaded to your SD card and then install using an app such as ‘Easy Installer’ or by clicking on the apk in your favourite file manager.

Open Z4Root and in the centre you will see a button saying ‘Root’. Click on the button and wait for a short while, for the process to complete; the progress is shown in the bottom bar. After it has finished, the phone will reboot. You now have root access!

Once you’ve rooted your phone, ROM Manager makes backing up, installing a custom recovery and downloading the new one a breeze – and will even enable you to restore your original ROM if you prefer! This tutorial will take you through the process step by step and help you on the way to a fresh new experience with your phone…

Rooting your phone and installing ROMs on your device may void your manufacturer warranty. You undertake the procedure outlined in this tutorial at your own risk. Android Magazine and Imagine Publishing Ltd. cannot be held responsible for loss of data or damage to your device.

Words by: Kieron Howard

  1. Installing ROM Manager

    First off, you will need to install the ROM Manager app. The good news its that it’s a free one (although there is a premium version that offers more features). Open up the Android Market from your apps list and search for ‘ROM Manager’, then click the icon and install.

  2. Install Clockwork recovery

    When you rooted your Android device (see page 68), it’s quite likely that at the same time you installed a piece of ‘custom recovery’ software. ROM Manager will check that you have this installed and that you have the latest version that’s available.

  3. Back up your ROM, part 1

    Open up ROM Manager, click on the Backup Current ROM button, give the backup a name (perhaps something like ‘Standard ROM Backup’) and then click OK. You might be asked to allow ROM Manager superuser access and you’ll need to grant this.

  4. Back up your ROM, part 2

    The phone will now automatically reboot into recovery mode. The backup process can take a little while, so make sure you aren’t expecting any important calls! The recovery backs up your current ROM to the microSD card, so it’s important not to format this.

  5. Choose your ROM

    Back in ROM Manager, click ‘Download ROM’. This will bring up a list of available ROMs for your device. In this example we will install CyanogenMod 7, one of the most popular custom versions of Android due to its stability and wide device support.

  6. Download the ROM

    Choose the CyanogenMod version you wish to download – the latest version at time of writing is 7.1.0-RC. It’s strongly advisable to stay away from the ‘Nightly’ builds, as these are largely experimental. Google apps don’t come as standard, so click to download them.

  7. Installing the ROM, part 1

    Once the ROM and Google Apps have finished downloading, reopen ROM Manager and you will see the ROM pre-installation screen. Tick the ‘Wipe Dalvik’ and ‘Wipe Data and Cache’ boxes. Click OK and the phone will now reboot into recovery again.

  8. Installing the ROM, part2

    The new ROM will now install. This might take a little while. Once complete, the phone will reboot again. The first boot of any new ROM can take a while, sometimes up to 15 minutes, so be patient and don’t panic if the device appears to have frozen.

  9. Set up Google account

    Once the phone has booted up, you will then be prompted to enter your Google account details. Doing this will automatically download and set up all your contacts, settings and apps back onto the phone. You now have a brand new ROM to explore!

  10. Calibrate battery (optional)

    Plug in your Android device while it’s on and let it charge fully. Disconnect and turn off, then reconnect the power cable and wait until the LED goes green. Disconnect and turn back on, turn off again and reconnect the charger until the LED goes green again.


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