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A lot of people can agree that the Android operating system is pretty awesome. Not only is it great to use, but it’s also free as in open source, so that it can be modified by anyone. This is why custom ROMs, like CyanogenMod, can exist. But how the heck can you install those ROMs onto your device? This requires a couple of steps, so read carefully!
What Is a ROM?
Before we begin, what is a ROM anyways? It’s simply the system that your device runs on. If you haven’t done anything to it yet, then you’re running your device’s stock ROM. CyanogenMod, for example, is known as a custom ROM, as it’s Android with lots of neat tweaks that can only be applied with the entire code sitting in front of you. Changing ROMs requires “flashing” them, which can be seen as writing the ROM to your device’s memory.
Check For Support
ROMs need to be made for each specific Android device model, as they all contain different hardware, and must be customized for them. CyanogenMod offers support for plenty of popular devices, but some are still left out because there are so many different Android devices in the market and not all are equally popular or physically capable. So if you’re interested, it’s best to check out their list of devices to see if your device is supported or not.
Since each device has a different set of specific instructions, I’ll be generalizing the process from this point onward. If your device is supported by CyanogenMod, you’ll find more specific instructions on what to do on their wiki.
Root Your Device
The first step is to somehow root your device. When you root a device, you are using some sort of workaround to gain administrative powers on your device. Consumer devices only allow the user to have regular user permissions that are unable to touch system files. However, with root/administrative permissions, you can quite literally do whatever you want on your device, even brick it.
There are multiple ways of doing this, such as exploiting a security hole to give root access (or downgrading to then use the security exploit), flashing a new kernel or recovery onto your phone, or using an application called SuperOneClick. Please note that these are not all the different ways for you to root your device, but rather some examples of what is commonly done to root a device. You will probably need to follow a specific path to root your specific device.
Replace The Recovery
Unless the first step automatically includes this, you’ll need to replace your recovery next. The recovery is a little program that you can boot into before the operating system loads so that you can execute recovery-type actions. If this reminds you of Windows’ recovery actions, you’re thinking in the right direction. This step also depends on your device, but usually you’ll end up having ClockworkRecovery installed.
Download All Necessary Files
The next step is to download the necessary files that you’ll need. This will be the appropriate ROM for your device, the gapps package, and other possible packages such as updated radio drivers. This package includes the Google goodies we all love. It’s separate because of some restrictions on the Google apps themselves, but installing them separately is no issue.
Flash All Packages
Finally, you’ll need to boot into your recovery (how do to that depends on the device), and use it to erase your device and then flash .zip files to it. This is the part where you’re actually doing the installation, so it’s very important to follow all instructions. Make sure that you also install everything in the correct order, as not following the suggested order may brick your device. Once all packages have been installed, reboot the device, wait a couple of minutes, and you should now be in CyanogenMod.
I feel that it’s very worthwhile to install CyanogenMod because of the great tweaks that come with it. Additionally, some phones, like the original G1, get much longer support than from the carriers themselves. For example, T-Mobile updated the G1 until Android 1.6, then stopped. With CyanogenMod, I got to go all the way to Android 2.2 before support was finally dropped (and with good reason). If you need any more help with the process, YouTube may be your best resource as you get to see what you need to do.
Have you flashed CyanogenMod on your device? How do you like it? Do you have other ROMs that are noteworthy? Let us know in the comments!