How To Install A Custom ROM On Your Android

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custom android romWhether you’ve had your Android phone for a long time, or you’ve just bought a new one, there is no moment quite as sweet as when you finally get around to “rooting” that phone. It’s like a “coming of age” for Android users. Not only can you install a whole family of apps that you couldn’t run on an unrooted phone, but you can also install a whole new ROM to your phone.

What’s a ROM you ask? It stands for Read Only Memory, but what it means within the context of an Android phone is that it is essentially the style, theme and organization of the operating system. Thanks to the Android OS being open source, this is possible. There are a huge number of programmers out there working diligently on creating some of the most impressive custom Android ROMs – far better than the stock ROM that comes with your phone.

If you’re just starting out with an unrooted Android, you’ve got some work to do before you can install a new ROM. First, set up the SDK as described in my USB screenshot article. Next click the link above to learn how you can root your phone with SuperOneClick. Finally, you’re ready to take the next big step and replace your ROM.

Installing A Custom Android ROM

If you’re not sure whether you see the point of installing a custom ROM, consider it like you’ve just purchased a new Honda Civic. Now, a Honda Civic is a great car. Better gas mileage and reliability than most other cars in its class, but that doesn’t stop car enthusiasts from making that great car even better by “tuning” it. Well, ROM programmers are essentially Android “tuners”.

First things first – safety. When you root your phone and install a new ROM, it should go without saying that you run the risk of turning your phone into an expensive paperweight. The popular approach to installing new ROMs to an Android is by installing the ROM Manager off the Android Market. Once you do – and I can’t stress this enough – choose Flash ClickworkMod Recovery from the menu before you do anything else.

custom android rom

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This completely saved me when a couple of ROMs didn’t install correctly. ClockworkMod Recovery lets you make a backup of your current ROM before installing a new one. If you need to, you can reboot into recovery mode (holding down the power button and the “X” key at the same time) to recover your old ROM.

When you’re ready to search for and download a brand new custom ROM for your phone, click on “Download ROM” in the ROM Manager menu.

android rom manager

Now, there are lots of Android users with lots of opinions as to which ROM is best. Favorites seem to be Bugless Beast, Gingerbread and of course CyanogenMod. After a couple of failed attempts with Bugless Beast and Gingerbread, I went with the tried and true CyanogenMod.

When you go to install a ROM, you’ll see the pre-installation pop-up. Always select backup existing ROM. Nine times out of ten you should also wipe data and cache for the installation to work correctly.

android rom manager

Once the installation was done, my Droid rebooted and when it came back up, I had a fresh installation of CyanogenMod running on my rooted phone. I have to say that I really like the layout, but the default background is definitely a bit “bleh.” So that’s the first thing I changed.

android rom manager

One of the coolest things about these ROM’s is that you’ve got live wallpaper available. You can’t see it too well below, but my background now has very cool high-tech lights zooming around. Most of the apps shown below came standard with CM.

cyanogenmod

If static backgrounds are your thing, CM has a pretty decent selection to choose from with some really high-quality artwork. I was impressed – of course I eventually opted for one of the live wallpapers instead.

cyanogenmod

When you go into the menu and view the settings, you’ll see that there are a few unique options from the standard ROM. Obviously, CM settings and options, but you’ll also see ADWLauncher available (if you opted for it during download). This is a very cool tool that lets you download and install some amazing themes from the Android market.

cyanogenmod

Most of these themes aren’t free, but the quality is very good. Ultimately the theme is what creates the “feel” of the interface, which you’ll be dealing with day in and day out, so buying and downloading a theme probably isn’t a waste of money.

Of course, last but not least is the ease with which you can enable or disable your network connections like Wi-Fi, GPS or Bluetooth, straight from the status drop-down. Toggling these networks was always a pet peeve of mine with the standard ROM. With CM it’s just a couple of finger-swipes away.

custom android rom

Whether you choose to go with the popular CyanogenMod, or any one of the other ROMs, just make sure to make a recovery backup of your current ROM so that you’ll have a way out if anything goes wrong. Once that’s aside, you can feel fairly confident installing and test driving the different ROMs available for your device, and you can decide which one is perfect for you.

Did you install a new custom Android ROM? Which one did you choose and what do you like about it? Share your Android insight in the comments section below.

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