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Updated by Riley J. Dennis on November 18th, 2016.

Android is known for being the customizable operating system, and for good reason. Since Android comes in many different flavors from many different manufacturers Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Hardware makers like to take Android and morph it into something that is entirely their own, but is this a good or a bad thing? Take a look and compare these different Android skins. Read More , if you’re not a huge fan of the version of Android that shipped with your device, you can probably change it.

However, this is easier on some devices than others, because the manufacturers can still choose to be restrictive if they feel it’s necessary. This means that every device has a specific method for getting root access and then installing a custom ROM, and it can be kind of confusing. Let’s step you through it.

What’s a Custom ROM and Why Use One?

A custom ROM is simply a version of Android that 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 What You Need to Know About Removing Android Bloatware What You Need to Know About Removing Android Bloatware Lots of phones come with annoying pre-installed software, but you can remove it. Here's how. Read More 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 Why Hasn't My Android Phone Updated Yet? Why Hasn't My Android Phone Updated Yet? The Android update process is long and complicated; let's examine it to find out exactly why your Android phone takes so long to update. Read More .

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 that comes from a more reputable source and you know what you’re doing, then these downsides should be minimized at least.

Where to Find One for Your Device

The best place to find any custom ROMs is the XDA Developers forums. Spend some time looking around here under the specific section for your device, and you’ll mostly likely stumble across dozens of unique custom ROMs. Some devices, like the Nexus and Galaxy phones, are highly supported thanks to a lot of popularity and developer interest, but more obscure phones might be more difficult to find ROMs for.

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While this may seem overwhelming at first, you’ll quickly find that it’s a vibrant community built around tweaking Android phones. Remember, though, that anyone can post ROMs here, so it’s important to make sure you trust the developer before installing anything.

This usually isn’t difficult to do. For some general guidelines, make sure that:

  • The developer has claimed it to be stable and not beta, alpha, etc.
  • That any “known bugs” aren’t too severe
  • Multiple people have posted in the thread claiming success with the custom ROM
  • The amount of concerns that arise in the thread are small (Bluetooth sometimes disconnects, etc.)

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.

To be sure you’re getting a good experience, though, you can just stick to big-name ROM developers like CyanogenMod, Paranoid Android, SlimROMs, crDroid, or Resurrection Remix (as just a few examples).

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 and from ROM to ROM. 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

The first step is to flash a different recovery What's a Custom Recovery? Exploring CWM, TWRP, and Friends What's a Custom Recovery? Exploring CWM, TWRP, and Friends If you've ever considered tinkering with your Android device, you've probably read that you need to flash a custom recovery onto it before you can do anything serious. But, that begs some questions. Read More called ClockworkMod (CWM) or TeamWin Recovery Project (TWRP) onto your device. Under the XDA forum for most devices you’ll find a thread about installing a custom recovery for that device — and some ROMs will recommend TWRP over CWM and vice versa. The recovery is somewhat like a BIOS The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults Your computer’s BIOS (basic input/output system) is the low-level software that starts when you boot your computer. It performs a POST (power-on self test), initializes your computer’s hardware, and passes control over to the boot... Read More found on a computer — 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 because the stock recovery doesn’t allow for that.

The methods of doing so vary — and will often require you to root your device What Is Rooting? What Are Custom ROMs? Learn Android Lingo What Is Rooting? What Are Custom ROMs? Learn Android Lingo Ever had a question about your Android device, but the answer had a bunch of words in it that you didn't understand? Let us break down the confusing Android lingo for you. Read More — so it’s important to read the provided instructions. Sometimes you’ll use something called fastboot to load the recovery onto your phone, though other times you can use an app like Flashify or TWRP Manager. 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. For most devices, this means holding Power + Volume Down at the same time, but a quick Google search for your device should let you know what your button combination is.

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. Most Recoveries nowadays are touch-based, but some might use the volume keys to navigate and the power button to select. For ClockworkMod Recovery, the correct options are wipe data/factory reset and install zip from sdcard.

You’ll then need to flash a GApps package, short for Google Apps. This is because ROMs don’t have Google apps like the Play Store or Gmail built in, and to get them, you have to flash a separate package. Most ROM threads will link to a prefered GApps package, but Open GApps is generally a safe choice — just ensure you download the correct version.

Once the ROM and GApps have both been glashed, reboot the device normally and it should load your custom ROM.

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 instructions available in the XDA thread, 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!

  1. Rohit Gope
    September 12, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I need custom rom of SPICE MI-516, CWM recovery is made by me but need Custom roms... Please help

  2. Joe Lavhe Uzzie Sirwali
    June 5, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Hello i have just bought a sony xperia E4g n i guess it is a pretty new model ,,, soo am wondering if i can get custom roms for it .... i have already unlocked the bootloader rooted it and install CWM soo plzzz help in terms of custom roms plzzzzz

  3. marion ace
    May 16, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    driver for custom rom

  4. Natalie
    May 2, 2015 at 5:54 am

    I'm using a tablet, a trio. AXS 4G, operating on a Platform..… Android version. 4.2.2. All the comments at about phones is it the same for tablets??

  5. ramesh
    February 25, 2015 at 5:40 am

    I have searched for Roms for xolo a1000..... But have not managed to find any....please help...also can the ROM for other similar phone work on my phone . . ????if no can I change it with android kitchen ????,

  6. anitha
    December 20, 2014 at 9:35 am

    very bad app this is mot working well damn it

  7. william lyon
    December 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I have rooted my last 4 phones a LG optimus L5, Samsung galaxy ace and 2 HTC one m7's and let me just say that the only issue I had while rooting any of my devices was unlocking my HTC ones bootloader but once I was in it was all to easy ... To a certain degree .... Now because I had 2 of the exact fone and the just so happed to be 2 main highly rated custom recoverys I decided to try twrp on 1 and cwm on the other.... Now just for the record I personally prefer cwm and always have but for some reason I had a few issues flashing it on to my fone where as twrp flashed without a problem so I hope I helped PEACE

  8. Bob Royston
    September 6, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    WHAT DOES THE WORD "ROM" MEAN?????????????????????????????????????????

    • dlfs
      September 7, 2013 at 2:58 am

      Read only memory.

  9. vivek
    July 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    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

  10. Quoc
    June 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm

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

  11. Dev
    June 11, 2013 at 6:31 am

    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

  12. Jason Nunia
    May 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    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.

  13. Joe Savage
    April 15, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    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?

  14. Jbird
    April 15, 2013 at 5:04 am

    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.

  15. helen paul
    April 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

    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

    • null
      April 12, 2013 at 6:22 am

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

      • Romeiro
        August 29, 2013 at 5:40 am

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

  16. Biobaku Collins
    April 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm

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

  17. yaeltudela
    March 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    XDA FTW!

  18. david woods
    March 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    How to install

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 10:04 pm

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

  19. Przemyslaw Orawiec
    March 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm
  20. EdmarJohn SanDiego
    March 29, 2013 at 7:03 am

    doesnt changing the roms void my warranty?

    • Frank Plaatjies
      April 2, 2013 at 8:46 am

      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.

      • Ms Hanson
        April 12, 2013 at 5:06 am

        "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.

        • null
          April 12, 2013 at 6:28 am

          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

        • Ms Hanson
          April 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm

          Did not know that! Thanks, Null.

  21. Gary Mundy
    March 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm

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

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      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.

  22. Hisham Sliman
    March 27, 2013 at 11:37 pm

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

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      It's all dependent on the ROM you find.

  23. Pratish Rao
    March 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm

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

  24. Scott M
    March 27, 2013 at 10:46 am

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

  25. Simon Wilson
    March 27, 2013 at 9:44 am

    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

  26. Darren S
    March 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

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

  27. Frank Plaatjies
    March 27, 2013 at 7:07 am

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

    • Cliff Hosler
      March 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm

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

      • Frank Plaatjies
        March 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        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.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      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.

  28. Nevzat A
    March 27, 2013 at 6:59 am

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

  29. Eduardo P
    March 27, 2013 at 3:53 am

    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.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Yes, definitely! Backups are always good!

  30. Chris Marcoe
    March 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    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.

    • Noah A
      March 26, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      You will love custom roms!

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