How To Find & Install a Custom ROM For Your Android Device

Android Logo   How To Find & Install a Custom ROM For Your Android DeviceOne of the great things about Android is that the operating system isn’t stuck on just one device – you can find it on all sorts of gadgets from multiple manufacturers. Another beautiful feature about Android is that it is extremely customizable, and (usually) so is the hardware. This means that if you’d rather run a custom ROM on your device, the chances of being able to do that is pretty good.

However, since not every device can be hacked into to make such changes – as the manufacturers can still choose to be restrictive if they feel it’s necessary – you’ll need to have a strategy to look for custom ROMs for your device. Also, if you do find a custom ROM you’d like to try out, you’ll need to know what you must do on your device in order to install the ROM.

What’s A Custom ROM & Why Use One?

A custom ROM is simply a version of Android which third-party developers create for your device. They are meant to replace what is known as the stock ROM, or the version of Android that the manufacturer provided on your device. There are many reasons why you may want to try a custom ROM on your device. In most cases, they take away all the bloatware that is usually impossible to remove, they can potentially increase performance and/or improve battery life, and they may bump you up to a newer version of Android that the manufacturer may not offer.

There are potential downsides to running custom ROMs, however, which include invalidated warranties, lack of hardware support for things such as your camera, and potential battery drain. However, if you stick to a custom ROM which comes from a more reputable source, then these downsides except for the invalidated warranties shouldn’t appear.

Where To Find One For Your Device

android cyanogenmod   How To Find & Install a Custom ROM For Your Android Device

There’s a handful of different places you can look at to see if there’s a custom ROM for your device, but I highly recommend that the first place you should check out is CyanogenMod. These guys are among the leaders of custom Android ROMs and therefore one of the most reputable. They offer support for a huge variety of phones, so a high percentage of you should be able to find a custom ROM from them.

Their ROMs usually improve performance and battery life, upgrade your device to a newer version of Android than what the manufacturer supports, and includes some other extras such as enthusiast-level performance settings. If your device is quite popular, then CyanogenMod is most likely to offer custom ROMs for it.

android roms xda   How To Find & Install a Custom ROM For Your Android Device

However, if your device is pretty unknown or CyanogenMod simply happens to not have a custom ROM for it, then your next best place to look is the XDA Developers Forum. This community is packed with Android hackers who work on every project under the sun. The site is also quite large simply because they have sub-forums for just about every Android device ever released, and many people post their own custom ROMs into these sub-forums.

Be cautious, however, as anyone can post their custom ROMs onto the forums, and as such, offer no guarantees of success or community support. It’s best to read through the threads entirely before making a decision.

For some rough, general guidelines, make sure that:

  • The developer has claimed it to be stable and not beta, alpha, etc.
  • The developer claims complete hardware support.
  • Multiple people have posted in the thread claiming success with the custom ROM.
  • The amount of concerns that arise in the thread are at a minimum; any concerns that do appear should not seem critical to the ROM’s functionality or safety.

Of course, try to use common sense while determining whether you should try a custom ROM that you find. This is important because any major hiccups in the flashing process (everything explained below) can cause your device to become bricked, leaving it as functional as a paperweight.

Installing Your Custom ROM

Once you’ve found a custom ROM that’s right for you, you’ll need to go through the process of installing it correctly. It’s important to research the instructions for your device as they can vary from device to device. The general process is the same across devices, so this should give you a good idea of what you’ll need to do.

Replacing The Recovery

android clockworkmod recovery   How To Find & Install a Custom ROM For Your Android Device

The process of flashing a custom ROM onto your device is usually a two-step process. The first step is to flash a different recovery called ClockworkMod Recovery onto your device. The recovery is somewhat like a BIOS found on a computer as it lets you perform administrative tasks on the device without having Android loaded in memory. You’ll need to change the recovery so that you can flash a different ROM much more easily.

The methods of doing so vary, so it’s important to read the provided instructions. Sometimes you’ll use something called fastboot to load the recovery onto your phone, while other times you’ll use a tool called Heimdall. However, in my opinion, installing the new recovery is the hardest part. Once you’re past this step you’ll have an easier time.

Flashing The ROM

The next step is to actually flash the custom ROM onto your device. Once the .zip file for the ROM is downloaded from the Internet and uploaded onto your phone’s storage via USB cable, you’ll need to turn off your phone and then turn it on to boot into the recovery. Booting into recovery takes a different button combination than just the Power button, and this varies among devices as well. To cover all devices, you’ll probably be fine if you simply hold all the physical buttons on your phone while pressing the Power button, such as Power + Volume Down (and Up just to be sure) + Home (if it’s a physical button).

Once the recovery has loaded, you’ll need to navigate its menus to wipe the phone and then flash the .zip file onto the device. For ClockworkMod Recovery, the correct options are wipe data/factory reset and install zip from sdcard. Once this has completed, reboot the device normally and it should load your custom ROM.

If you installed a CyanogenMod custom ROM, it’s also probably a good idea to flash the Google Apps package after flashing the ROM in order to be able to use the Play Store. These are kept separate for legal reasons.

Conclusion

Congratulations! If you did everything according to the provided instructions, you should be running your custom ROM without any problems. Of course, be sure to thoroughly read any attached instructions, and only use this article as a general guideline for what you can expect during the process. However, you should be fine as long as you’re cautious and you’re confident in what you’re doing.

Have you installed a custom ROM on an Android device? What is something people new to ROM flashing should be aware of? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Daniel Prieto, Voidxor

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38 Comments -

1 votes

Chris Marcoe

Interesting. I’ve never thought of changing the ROM on my phone. Mainly because I didn’t know you could do it. Time to start digging into my phone, I guess.

2 votes

Noah A

You will love custom roms!

1 votes

Eduardo P

My 2010 ZTE Blade (Optimus San Francisco in Portugal) is currently running Android 4.2.2 and I think ‘he’ is ok with that. The whole process of flashing a new ROM is actually quite simple and the nice developers out there usually leave a step-by-step how-to for us to follow. The one thing I would never overlook during the process is the power of backups. I always keep an app for data backup (currently, Super Backup, but I start to feel Titanium Backup is a better choice) and never, ever, start wiping data before completing a full system backup in the recovery. This way, if anything goes wrong or the ROM simply isn’t what I expected, I will always have the possibility of effortlessly going back to where I was before (I was forced to once or twice, too). Of course there is always some risk involved in installing unofficial ROMs. Some hardware might become unusable or some system features may have unexpected behavior. At this time, I’m unable to discover new devices using my phone’s Bluetooth and it has lost the ability to send two (or more) full-extension texts that include portuguese characters. It’s times like these one must ponder wether or not having the latest system version pays off the hassle of the flaws it may bring along – and Google may not have an answer for everything in similar cases.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Yes, definitely! Backups are always good!

0 votes

Nevzat A

XDA rulez! That forum, teams, members definitely worth to donate.

2 votes

Frank Plaatjies

You should add a link to rooting and bootloaders first, they need to know about that before they even consider a new rom.

0 votes

Cliff Hosler

I was thinking the same thing. The phone has to be rooted first, right.

1 votes

Frank Plaatjies

Yip! sometimes the bootloader needs to be unlocked, depending on the manufacturer and the crackers, you can root your device without unlocking it. again its vendor specific.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

This is why I placed importance in reading the instructions for your specific device, because they are all very different. Some ROMs root your phone during the process.

1 votes

Darren S

Great article. Have often thought about doing this, just havn’t gotten the courage up to try. Afraid of bricking my phone. LOL

0 votes

Simon Wilson

If you have a Galaxy S2, S3 or Note2 then wanam is the best custom rom builder!
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1705866

0 votes

Scott M

A great article.I too never thought of changing my rom.This opens up some interesting possibilities,.

0 votes

Pratish Rao

will do long research on rooting…in makeuseof itself..hope to find more…..

0 votes

Hisham Sliman

This is a new piece of information that i’ve never thought of. but what about problems with the device camera

0 votes

Danny Stieben

It’s all dependent on the ROM you find.

0 votes

Gary Mundy

Be afraid, I be afraid. How hard is this to reverse? Thanks

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Usually you can find stock ROMs from the manufacturer’s website which you can flash back on. If you’re worried about this, research it first.

0 votes

EdmarJohn SanDiego

doesnt changing the roms void my warranty?

0 votes

Frank Plaatjies

not always, samsung and some sony’s can be flashed without unlocking your bootloader or warranty voiding. most htc’s require unlocked bootloaders and most ISP’s, thats a part of their warranty.

0 votes

Ms Hanson

“most htc’s require unlocked bootloaders and most ISP’s, thats a part of their warranty.” Since my HTC EVO is long out of warranty, I wonder if new rules regarding rooting would interfere with this process? Like Darren S, I don’t want to brick my phone, just get rid of the bloatware and molasses.

0 votes

null

If your warranty has expired do what they say on the forum “read, read and read again” if you still have problems someone will assist you, just be patient and someone will respond. if your in usa, they passed a new law for devices out of warranty or contract. basically it’s yours to do what you want with it. lastly there are some people who post what you can or can’t delete: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1197265

0 votes

Ms Hanson

Did not know that! Thanks, Null.

0 votes

Przemyslaw Orawiec

0 votes

david woods

How to install

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Follow the instructions provided with the ROM you find. They are all different.

0 votes

yaeltudela

XDA FTW!

0 votes

Biobaku Collins

Danny, this is good, but I need to know how to root my android device, without fail. thanks

0 votes

helen paul

recently my husband has been visiting online dating sites and meeting women for a while now,i was however unable to prove it ,but i met this dude onlne —- >BRADHACCER@AOL . COM
he was able to hack my husbands gmail ,and yahoo mail account ,i had proof to face him and he pleaded,so far he has stopped thanks to this hacker,contact him,he might be able to help you solve your online problems

0 votes

null

there is a difference with hacking emails and modding phones, check out xda at: http://forum.xda-developers.com and search for your device.

0 votes

Romeiro

That was an automated post. Someone marketing themself as someone else…

0 votes

Jbird

Good read. I’m running Carbon ROM on my Nexus 7. You forgot about Kernels! :-\ That’s a lot for fun to play around with too. YouTube helped me understand the whole deal and wrap my head around it. Its not hard and bricking a phone or tablet is rare. Just make sure you have a back up recovery in place and don’t download odd ball stuff. Stick to known ROMs and kernels.

0 votes

Joe Savage

Hi I have a one x, I am using clockwork mod 5.8.4.0 custom recovery. On trying to install a custom Rom I always backup and wipe all data from phone. However on every Rom I install, even those known to be very stable my phone either always gets stuck in bootloop or the phone is stuck in airplane mode! I rooted my phone through a mac however I assure you it is fully rooted with lastest superuser etc. It’s annoying not to be able to remove HTC’s factory Rom! Any tips?

0 votes

Jason Nunia

I used “available ROMs” as a huge criteria in shopping for a new phone. Remember, the reviews you read about phones are based on stock ROMs which are limited heavily by your carrier – there’s a recent article on that here somewhere – and detract from the overall user experience. Phones can most often be overclocked easily too, so, while some people are paying very high prices for phones based on the stats like processor speed and system memory, you can often buy a cheaper phone, OC it, add on a ROM that is debloated, optimized for performance, and able to run faster, smoother kernals, and in my case, was even able to use a SD partition as it’s RAM – making a 800mhz single core processor and 512mb stock phone into a 1.1Ghz with 2GB RAM that ran as nice, side-by-side, as a friend’s phone they paid almost double for.

0 votes

Dev

Danny I want to install a custom rom in my HTC Desire X.
I have a CWM recovery installed.
I accidently flashed a wrong boot.img so my phone is stuck on HTC logo.

1.Can I still flash a custom rom.
2. if yes, how to flash the zip because to send the zip in sdcard my phone should start. but it is stuck on boot.

plz help danny

0 votes

Quoc

I can’t flash my new recovery on my mytouch phone.

0 votes

vivek

I have rooted my fone and installed custom jellybean rom on it but still when I run application that need superuser permissions, iy says that not able to find root access.please help my phone is
xperia neo V

0 votes

Bob Royston

WHAT DOES THE WORD “ROM” MEAN?????????????????????????????????????????

0 votes

dlfs

Read only memory.