Install Custom ROMs on Android devices (universal guide)

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The Android OS is the most popular mobile operating system used on most of the smartphones and tablets out there. Of course the battle between Android and iOS, or should we say Google and Apple, if far from over, though both platforms are coming with great features and advantages for us, the gadgets addicted.

The best about Android is the possibility of customizing and optimizing the firmware and through this, the possibility of powering up the performances of our devices. Today, I will teach you how to tweak your Android handset by updating with a custom ROM software. This is a general tutorial that can be applied on any Android based smartphone / tablet, so read the following lines if you are new to Android or if you want to learn everything about custom ROMs and how to install the custom updates.

When talking about custom ROMs, in your mind there should be only one thing: you are dealing with an unofficial port of the Android system, so the same is not an OTA (Over the Air) or official update released by Google for your Android device. That’s why the custom ROMs can be applied only manually and only by following dedicated step by step guides.

Regarding the up mentioned aspects, root access will be required if you want to update your smartphone / tablet with a custom firmware. Root means that you will gain access to the internal system of your handset by removing the factory and default restrictions. By rooting you will unchain the OS thus you will be able to remove in build apps and programs, add new features, install complex tools that requires root access in order to run properly, upgrade the battery life, improve the speeds and so on. Most important, a custom ROM can be flashed only on rooted Android devices.

The root operation is also unofficial so the warranty of your smartphone / tablet will get void. You can’t avoid this aspect (because of the up-mentioned details) so you will have to get through this without messing things up – you can end up in bricking your handsets. So, do follow dedicated step by step guides when trying to gain root access. Afterwards, if you don’t like the Custom ROM firmware that is running on your phone, if you want to apply an OTA on your device (on rooted handsets the official Android updates can’t be received or installed – you can apply the OTA only manually), or if you want to restore the lost warranty, you can do the same by downgrading your handset to stock Android OS, or by revoking the root access (again use suitable tutorials).

Now, leaving these aspects aside (I will detail the pre requisites a little bit later) let’s see what a custom ROM really is. Well, an unofficial version of the Android software is a free aftermarket distribution of the Android platform that comes with stock and extra features, apps, tools and capabilities. Usually a custom ROM is coming with its own looks and features so that’s why you can improve the performances of your device – do note with custom firmwares you will not receive the default Android looks and capabilities. The custom ROMs are being developed by third party devs and the platforms are based on the official / stock Android systems.

If you want to update your device with such firmware you should know that the most popular ROMs that are used by the Android users are: ParanoidAndroid, SlimBean, AOKP, CyanogenMod, MIUI and Omega. Don’t worry you can choose any other update as long as you are ensuring that the system is stable and without bugs or things that aren’t working properly.

The custom updates might come with custom kernels which means that you can afterwards learn how to overclock your Android device for improving the speeds, or underclock for upgrading the battery life (we have suitable guides here on Android.gs). Besides, on custom ROMs you can make easier backups, you can change the looks, add apps from outside the Google Play coverage and lot more.

But if you want to successfully update your Android device with an unofficial firmware, you will first have to prepare your gadget, or else you will probably end up in bricking your handset. Below I have listed the most common preparation tasks that are required when dealing with custom ROMs like ParanoidAndroid, SlimBean, AOKP, CyanogenMod, MIUI and Omega.

  • Root your smartphone / tablet.
  • Install a custom recovery image on your device – you can use any recovery tool you want though it is recommended to flash CWM or TWRP recovery. The custom recovery will be used on the flashing operation as the stock recovery that comes pre-installed on Android can’t be used on unofficial procedures.
  • Backup the data which is saved on the internal storage memory of your handset; save everything you might need including text messages, call logs, internet settings, market apps, EFS folder and so on. Also, consider in making a Nandroid backup for saving the current software.
  • For these operations (update with custom ROMs) a computer is being required along with your smartphone / tablet and with the USB cable.
  • On both devices and computer you should first deactivate the security protection; the antivirus programs are usually interfering with the update operation.
  • Your device must be charged especially if the battery status indicates less than 60% power left; the handset might get bricked if it gets turned off while you are trying to install the custom firmware.
  • On your phone the USB debugging option must be enabled: “Settings -> More -> Development Options -> USB debugging”.

Now, be careful as each custom ROM comes with a version that is suitable only with one device; you can’t install the same variant of firmware on all the Android devices as the same is not compatible. So, download only compatible ROMs; don’t risk in bricking your handsets. Good, next we will be checking on how to apply the updates on your devices; do note though that this is an general tutorial.

How to Install Custom ROMs on Android devices (universal guide)

  1. First of all, on your computer you need to download the proper update file.
  2. Optional: download the Google apps package if it is not included on the firmware file.
  3. Save the files on desktop; don’t unzip them.
  4. Then, connect your handset with the computer.
  5. Establish the connecting by using the USB cord.
  6. Copy-paste or drag and drop the downloaded files from desktop to your phone’s (tablet’s) SD card.
  7. Disconnect the devices by unplugging the USB cable.
  8. Turn off your smartphone / tablet and wait a few seconds.
  9. Then reboot your gadget into recovery mode.
  10. Next, navigate through the recovery mode menu and select “wipe data factory reset”, “wipe cache partition” and “wipe dalvick cache”.
  11. The system will now be wiped out, so that’s why the backup has been recommended before.
  12. Up next, return to recovery main menu: select “+++go back+++”.
  13. And choose “install zip from SD card” and “choose zip from SD card”.
  14. Pick the update file and flash the same.
  15. Optional: repeat this operation for applying the Google Apps package.
  16. When the installation process ends, from recovery select “+++go back+++” and “reboot system now”.
  17. You are done.

Troubleshooting:

In some cases after flashing the custom ROM, when rebooting the first time, your handset might get stuck in a boot loop (if the first boot takes longer than usual, don’t panic, there is nothing wrong with your device); if that happens, follow:

  • Reboot in recovery once more.
  • From there select “wipe data factory reset” and “wipe cache partition”.
  • Return and reboot.
  • Optional: if needed now you can restore the previous software (only if you had made a Nandroid backup as indicated). So, use the recovery menu and select “backup and restore”.
  • For resolving any other issues or problems use our dedicated step by step guide.

So, that was it, now you know almost everything about custom ROMs for Android and how to install such a firmware on your smartphone or tablet. Remember to choose only the stable platforms that come with important features and capabilities. In this way you can speed up your handsets and improve the performances for receiving better results and an upgraded web browsing experience. If you want to talk with us or if you have something to share with our team, don’t hesitate and use the comments area from below. We will assist you as soon as possible; also don’t forget to check our latest new and Android related tips, tricks and step by step guides.