Pwn Your Phone

Once your phone is rooted, you need to make sure you have a recovery system that supports custom, unsigned ROMs. The system recovery is a part of the Android device that acts a little like the system BIOS of a computer system. Most times, when you root a phone, a custom recovery program is flashed too. That isn't always the case, however, so it's important to make sure you have a recovery program flashed onto your system that supports custom ROMs. The most popular recovery program by far is ClockworkMod, available at http://www.clockworkmod.com. It can be very challenging to flash ClockworkMod onto your rooted phone by hand, so I highly recommend the program Rom Manager from the Google Play store. The free version of Rom Manager includes the ability to flash a custom recovery program, so unless you run into problems using Rom Manager, it's hard to find a reason to use any other method. If you want a one-stop method for installing complete ROMs, the paid version of Rom Manager can make that process painless too. If you don't want to shell out the dough, however, using ClockworkMod to install ROMs is dead simple.

Before You Begin

You've read the warnings, but you've seen CyanogenMod in action, and you really think a custom ROM is for you. Before I talk about flashing, let's quickly look at the pros and cons.

Custom ROM—the Pros:

  • Most custom ROMs are compiled for specific devices and often are optimized for better battery life or faster performance.

  • Custom ROMs eliminate all the pre-installed applications your carrier forces you to keep on your device.

  • If you want to tweak the look of your phone, most ROMs support elaborate customizations.

  • If a rooted phone gets you geek cred, a custom ROM makes you a guru.

Custom ROM—the Cons:

  • Installing a custom ROM almost always is tricky.

  • If you're not comfortable with troubleshooting, installing software on your computer or pulling out some hair, custom firmware may not be for you.

  • Although it's rare nowadays, it's still possible to brick your phone.

  • You almost assuredly will lose your carrier's support if something goes wrong; carriers won't help and will have no pity.

Cross Your Is and Dot Your Ts

If you still want to install custom firmware, go to the Web site to get the ROM. Again, I really like CyanogenMod (http://www.cyanogenmod.com). Once you locate the specific ROM file for your exact device (remember, even the Samsung Galaxy S2 has several different models, all needing different ROMs), put the zip file on the root of your SD card. Then, make sure it's the correct ROM. Yes, I realize I keep saying that, but fixing a phone that won't boot due to flashing an incompatible ROM can be very frustrating. Anyway, once you have the zipped ROM on your SD card, boot the device into recovery mode. Most phones have a certain method for booting into recovery mode, usually consisting of holding down certain buttons while booting. But, because you already have Rom Manager installed, simply choose "reboot into recovery" from the menu (Figure 2), and your phone or tablet should reboot directly into ClockworkMod.

Figure 2. Rom Manager is a great tool, and one of the few apps I buy without hesitation.

Once ClockworkMod is loaded, navigate the menus using some combinations of buttons on your phone. Often volume up/down will traverse the menus, and the home button will select. Depending on your device and the version of ClockworkMod, you may have other buttons or the touchscreen with which to navigate. Before you flash your new ROM, you need to make a backup! Thankfully, ClockworkMod has the backup feature built in, and in the event of a failure, as long as you can reboot into recovery mode, you should be able to restore your phone to the backup.

Now that you have a backup (you do have a backup, right?), navigate the ClockworkMod menu to find the "install zip from sdcard" option, and locate the ROM file you saved onto your SD card. You'll get the option of whether to wipe the data directory, and often with brand-new ROMs, it's a good idea to get a fresh start.

After your Android device is flashed, it will reboot and, hopefully, load the custom ROM you flashed from your SD card. If something goes wrong, you'll need to go back to the forums and try to find someone who had a similar problem or even post a question yourself. (I urge you to search long and hard before posting though. I've never had a problem that was unique to my setup, and it seems someone always has made a similar mistake and posted about it.)

Success!

If everything went well, you now should have a pretty great Android system without all the bundled apps your carrier originally installed. You've also made it so that if you go to your carrier for support, the customer service rep will laugh at you and possibly accuse you of doing horribly nefarious things by installing a custom ROM. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages for many folks, so if you have a few spare hours and a willingness to put your beloved Android device at risk, rooting and installing custom firmware can be a great way to breathe new life into a tired phone.

In closing, although most devices available require the bootloader to be unlocked (that is, rooted) in order to gain access to the underlying system, there are a few limited exceptions. If you want an Android tablet with root access out of the box, and a vendor who thinks custom ROMs are a great idea, check out the review of ZaReason's ZaTab in the September 2012 issue of Linux Journal. ZaReason doesn't try to lock you out of your own device, and that deserves praise (http://www.zareason.com).

______________________

Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

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Pick up an affordable cell phone for you

Anonymous's picture

Android cell phones are hot items right now, and everyone from business executives to toddlers want one. Because no one objects to saving a bit of money, there are surprisingly good cell phone available for under $200.

Thanks for your posts,i just

Mark John's picture

Thanks for your posts,i just find the site and i have ta say that is very interesting,great structure and content guys.
accident management
road accident claim

What does the EPA's

Tony lincle's picture

What does the EPA's heavy-duty diagnostics (HD OBD) ruling actually cover? How did this ruling come about? What impact will it have on fleet operations? The following answers and questions can help truck fleet managers as they prepare to phase in new medium-duty trucks this year. http://www.dieselscan.com/scania-multi-2011-parts-and-service-informatio...

Use ROM Mangler?! Really??

epidenimus's picture

I appreciate your efforts to educate folks about what rooting is and how it may be done. I have rooted, recoveried, and ROM'd several devices and always look for an article to explain the basics to my friends before hooking them up.

However, I take issue with a few parts of what you are putting forth with this article.

1. Recovery is an alternative boot option that allows the user/admin to modify unmounted partitions of the device and Android while they are not in use. It is much more analogous to a live USB/disc, or even "safe mode" than it is to BIOS.

2. ROM Manager is one of the quickest ways to brick your phone in many cases. In spite of its undeserved ranking in Play and its claim of universal compatibility ("for any Android device"), it is a very poor and unsupported piece of s*** software. It has poor device detection and will often install incompatible recoveries and ROMs on your device. It may work well for some devices, but it is an automated bricking tool on more than a few devices. The developer is highly ignorant of the extensive feedback from users, hackers, and developers and refuses to either provide a compatibility list or restrict purchases on incompatible devices. Most of us are recommending that folks avoid this crapfest altogether. I am quite surprised that you both recommend it and integrate it into your guide. If you are going to do that, please support the portion of your reader base that will have their devices hosed while using it so that contributors at Android Central, Android Forums and XDA don't have to deal with a rash of panicked first posters.

3. No mention of goo.im, TWRP, or Open Recovery Script?? This is a much more open environment that works with the developers and the community to provide indexed ROM, recovery and Gapps repositories and software to use them. It has much better hardware detection and automated tools. It is completely free to install and use.

ROM Mangler?! Really??

epidenimus's picture

I appreciate your efforts to educate folks about what rooting is and how it may be done. I have rooted, recoveried, and ROM'd several devices and always look for an article to explain the basics to my friends before hooking them up.

However, I take issue with a few parts of what you are putting forth with this article.

1. Recovery is an alternative boot option that allows the user/admin to modify unmounted partitions of the device and Android while they are not in use. It is much more analogous to a live USB/disc, or even "safe mode" than it is to BIOS.

2. ROM Manager is one of the quickest ways to brick your phone in many cases. In spite of its undeserved ranking in Play and its claim of universal compatibility ("for any Android device"), it is a very poor and unsupported piece of s*** software. It has poor device detection and will often install incompatible recoveries and ROMs on your device. It may work well for some devices, but it is an automated bricking tool on more than a few devices. The developer is highly ignorant of the extensive feedback from users, hackers, and developers and refuses to either provide a compatibility list or restrict purchases on incompatible devices. Most of us are recommending that folks avoid this crapfest altogether. I am quite surprised that you both recommend it and integrate it into your guide. If you are going to do that, please support the portion of your reader base that will have their devices hosed while using it so that contributors at Android Central, Android Forums and XDA don't have to deal with a rash of panicked first posters.

3. No mention of goo.im, TWRP, or Open Recovery Script?? This is a much more open environment that works with the developers and the community to provide indexed ROM, recovery and Gapps repositories and software to use them. It has much better hardware detection and automated tools. It is completely free to install and use.

I can relate to you... and

Dzak's picture

I can relate to you... and thats when i started fall in love with android mobiles. My first android mobile was a cheap one and when i began rooting and flashing Roms there was nothing more that i would want.
So after 2 years and 3 mobiles i can say now why i am still in love. It's just simple i can do whatever i want in my mobile and as i like it. Android gives you the power to be an admin on your own cell phone.
If you are just a simple user and you want a simple mobile dont go there, just buy iphone or windows mobile!
By the way good one article, it give some answers to people that are starters in android...

I want to get a new phone as

Mark james's picture

I want to get a new phone as well. thanks for teaching rooting to us :)
thanks

Sony

Anonymous's picture

If you have an Xperia and Sony will even support you with unlocking the bootloader and flashing custom ROMs through tools and articles on their developer blog

Rooting and unlocking the

Anonymous's picture

Rooting and unlocking the bootloader are not the same thing. Because most carriers encrypt the bootloader you have to root before you can unlock it. On Nexus devices and some other select devices you can unlock the bootloader without rooting which allows you to flash custom roms without rooting. You can even load clockworkmod or any other recovery into memory from your pc without actually having to flash the recovery to the device.

The rooting process itself is

Anonymous's picture

The rooting process itself is incapable of causing bricking, right?

Rooting a phone should not

AC's picture

Rooting a phone should not cause issues with your droid booting up and functioning normally...

With that being said; giving programs root access randomly without paying attention may cause issues. Only give root access to apps that need them, and you are sure that you know what the app does. Running normal programs as root can cause huge issues; memory leeks, CPU usage issues, storage issues, random reboots, ect... If you didn't need root access for a program before rooting it, it should not need it after rooting the droid.

Rooting a phone is different for every device, normally it does not affect normal function, but you must be careful and read all the instructions, and understand what you are doing.

Rooting a device should not

AC's picture

Rooting a device should not cause bricking of the of firmware loading...
With that being said giving root access to programs randomly may make your droid unstable to a point where it will crash, or reboot, this is rare but can happen. If an app starts popping up with superuser, that should not be running as root, don't let it, best to uninstall the app.

If your SG2 is SHG-i777 from

Anonymous's picture

If your SG2 is SHG-i777 from AT&T, ROM Manager is not recommended at least according to those at XDA-Developers (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1824419).

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