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Do you remember the first smartphone you ever owned? Was it the coolest thing you’d ever experienced from a single piece of electronic hardware? Were you shocked just how quickly that amazing marvel became outdated?

I would love to say that an Android phone was my first love, but it wasn’t. If you’ve followed me here at MUO since my earliest days, then you know that I first started writing lots of articles about the original Windows Mobile OS Make 4 Cool Spy Gadgets With Your Windows Mobile Phone Make 4 Cool Spy Gadgets With Your Windows Mobile Phone Read More , running on my Cingular 8124.  To this day, I can’t even consider using a Windows Mobile because of that horrid early experience (the phone constantly froze and required a reboot…surprised?)

So, the Christmas when they came out with the original Motorola Droid, I dropped that old Windows Mobile phone like a bad habit, and made the switch to the Android OS. I’ve never looked back. If you were one of the original Android users, then you know how fun it was to root them with tools like SuperOneClick How To Root Your Android Phone With SuperOneClick How To Root Your Android Phone With SuperOneClick Read More , or how fun it was to use cool, new apps like the Star Trek Tricorder Turn Your Android Phone Into A Real Star Trek Tricorder Turn Your Android Phone Into A Real Star Trek Tricorder Read More . I loved that phone so much that I never got rid of it, even after I couldn’t write about running apps on it anymore because the user interface was just so horribly outdated.

Over time, that phone has had apps installed and uninstalled, it’s been remote controlled PocketDo: Remote Control Android From Your Computer’s Browser PocketDo: Remote Control Android From Your Computer’s Browser Read More and it’s remotely controlled stuff, it’s been used as an IP webcam IP Webcam: Use Your Android Phone As A Web Cam IP Webcam: Use Your Android Phone As A Web Cam Read More  and a whole lot more. Eventually, it started to run so horribly slow that it was nearly useless, with new apps or webpages taking 4 to 10 seconds to load. Painful enough so that you’d want to send the thing sailing out through the window.

This article is about my effort to transform that old, dog-tired Motorola Droid into a useful phone that can still be used to check email, post on Facebook and research online.

Giving Your Old Android New Life

Just like old computers that have been used and abused over the years, Android phones start to have performance issues over time. There are a lot of reasons for it – too many installs and uninstalls, low memory, and lots of other reasons. And like an old computer, restoring it to new and starting over can revive it and make it run just like it did on the day you bought it.

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Here’s an example of what my screens started to do on my Motorola Droid toward the end of when the device was really useful at all.

Android-Faster1-1

There were simply blank screens whenever apps would load or whenever I’d launch web pages. It was horribly annoying. To wipe the device meant finding the latest ROM that could be loaded onto a first generation Motorola Droid with only 226MB of memory. Not a lot to play with, but enough to remain a useful device with the right ROM.

Installing Cyanogenmod

The last time this particular device was updated was at the end of 2011, so to find the latest ROM available, I went straight to the most popular ROM available – Cyanogenmod.  What’s nice about This is that the good folks at Cyanogenmod.org offer a convenient tool to find the right version for the exact device you have.

Android-New2bIn my case, the latest version of CyanogenMod available for the first generation Motorola Droid is the “sholes” version based on the “gingerbread branch of Android/CyanogenMod”. That’s the one that’s going to breathe new life into this particular dying Droid of mine.

If you have some other older device, you can use the same search tool to find the version that’ll work for you. You’ll also need to make sure your device is rooted How To Root Your Android Phone With SuperOneClick How To Root Your Android Phone With SuperOneClick Read More , and that you have a ROM manager installed 4 Simple and Easy Tools to Flash Android ROMs Compared 4 Simple and Easy Tools to Flash Android ROMs Compared Ever wanted to flash a new ROM on your Android device but didn't have the patience to deal with the whole flashing process? I remember spending hours trying to download, transfer, reboot, flash, reboot, wait,... Read More . Once you do, you’re ready to make your Android like new again.

Download the ROM zip file to your device, and then click on “Install ROM from SD Card”. ROM Manager prompts you to either back up your existing ROM or wipe all your data. If you think you may want to go back to how you’re set up before the upgrade, go ahead and back up your ROM. Otherwise, wipe away!
Android-Faster2-1
The install is surprisingly fast, and your device will reboot when it’s finished.  One thing to note is that the version of Cyanogenmod you upgrade to may not include Google Apps due to licensing restrictions, so you may also need to download the Google Apps package separately and flash it in the same way you just flashed the new ROM.

An Old Android Made New

I have to say, once I was finished wiping the Droid and installing the latest version of Cyangenmod available for it, it was screaming fast. No more page or app load delays, and while I couldn’t install or run Google+ on my device before, under this new version I was finally able to launch both Google+ and Hangouts, which I’m pretty excited about.

Android-New5b
One last bit that you can do to clean things up and speed up your device even further is to clear up some of that device memory by moving your installed apps over to the SD card, if you have one.

This is really only necessary if you’ve synced your Google account and it has re-loaded all of your previously installed apps from Google Play.  Otherwise, you can just make sure to install apps on your SD card if possible.
Android-Faster3-1
Now that you have a brand-new ROM installed and you’ve cleared up a nice portion of your device memory, that old Android should be screaming along at speeds you never thought would be possible again.

What do you think about taking that old Android out of your sock drawer and giving it a new live with a fresh ROM update? There’s a version available for nearly any old Android, so what are you waiting for? Share you own efforts to speed up that old Android in the comments section below!

Image Credits: Defibrillator pads Via Shutterstock

  1. Chris Hunter
    October 18, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Ryan,

    This is a great article and very timely as well.

    Is there a way to find a custom ROM that will work for an LG Optimus S? It's an older Android phone and I looked on Cyangenmod, but didn't see one for that particular phone.

    Any other ideas or tips that you could share?

    Thanks!

    Chris

  2. Andrew
    October 17, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Hangouts sucks. Just sayin.

  3. Hisham S
    October 16, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Aren't you going to loose all your data by doing this??
    How to keep everything while doing this??

    • android underground
      October 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      Of course you're already backed up any data you really want to keep, 'cos you never know when your gadget gets lost or stolen or goes up in smoke.

  4. Peter
    October 16, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I just did exactly the same for my friend's galaxy s1 I9000
    it was running slow and he was thinking about throwing it away and buying a new one
    i suggested installing a custom rom...took it for 1 day from him and returned it the next day working like a charm...he was impressed

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