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Update Sony Xperia S to Cyanogen Mod 9 Ice Cream Sandwich

A lot of things can be said about the Sony Xperia S, ranging from the fact that it is the first device that only bears a Sony logo in a very long time, to the face that it represents the hopes for the future of one of the oldest mobile phone manufacturers out there. The NXT generation of Android smartphones from Sony has as its flagship the Xperia S, and by all means it is a very nice device. The hardware inside it could have been newer, but it handles its duties with flying colors, not to mention that it is the first Android device to pack a 12 MP camera.

Unfortunately, the Xperia S is still hampered by the lack of an official ICS update, but thanks to the team behind the Free Xperia project, it can finally make use of Android 4.0 ICS, but in the form of the Cyanogen Mod 9 custom ROM. As there is still some time left till the official update arrives, enthusiastic users can simply update to Android 4.0 ICS via the Cyanogen Mod 9 ROM, which has received its share of positive reviews, even in its current state. Speaking of state, the CM 9 is still in its development stages, so not all things are fully functional, but it is good enough to be used on a daily basis. I am sure that the dedicated team behind the project will fix the bugs as soon as possible.

A word of caution before we move further: This update should only be applied if you own an Xperia S as it is not compatible with any other Xperia line devices. And we would also like you to read and understand our disclaimer notice: This software is not our creation so we must warn you that you cannot hold us responsible for any damage that might occur to your device by following the procedures in this guide. However, we will try to help you sort out any glitches or problems that might arise by following the steps in this guide to the extent our knowledge limits us. Proceeding any further into this guide means that you have read and accepted the notice above.

There are still a couple of requirements that your Xperia S must meet before it is ready for the update, so make sure you read and follow the lines below:

  • The first one is that your Sony Xperia S must be charged to at least 70% of its battery capacity in order to prevent any accidental shut downs during the updating procedure.
  • Make sure that your Xperia S is already running a rooted firmware, and that it has the ClockworkMod Recovery properly installed.
  • You also need to have the Android SDK properly installed on your computer.
  • You must also disable or uninstall any antivirus or other security related software on your computer. These tools tend to interfere with the updating software so it is better to turn them off during the procedure.
  • You will also need to enable the USB Debugging setting that you can find by going to Settings -> Applications -> Development -> USB debugging. And while you are at this you should also make sure that you have the original USB cable that came with your Xperia S.
  • And last but not least your Xperia S must have its bootloader unlocked. This can be done from this official Sony website.

Another critical aspect that you must consider is that all your personal data stored on the Xperia S will be erased once the update is applied, so it is better to back it up. Do not use the official Sony software as it does not support the CM 9 ROM. We have made up a shot list of apps and procedures that will help you backup your personal data and restore it once the update is successfully applied:

  • Text messages – We will back them up with the following application : SMS Backup & Restore
  • Phone Contacts –  You can simply synchronize them to your Gmail account or export them to the micro SD card as a .vcf file
  • Call Log – We will use the following application to backup your call log : Call Log Backup and Restore
  • Pictures, Music, Videos, and other files – Simply copy them to your microSD card.
  • Internet & MMS Settings – Write down all the settings from this path “Applications > Settings > Wireless and Network > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names”

Once you finish the parts above you can move on to the last part of our tutorial, that will try and show you in easy to follow steps how to apply the Cyanogen Mod 9 update to your Xperia S. Mind you, the procedure is not that simple so if you are still a rookie in terms of Android updating you should ask the help of someone who understands the problem better. With this in mind please follow the next steps in order:

  • We will start by downloading the CM 9 ROM from here. Made sure you select the one that says Nozomi in it as this is the codename of the Xperia S.
  • Next you will have to download the Google Apps Package since it is not included by default into any Cyanogen Mod ROM.
  • After downloading the files above, you will have to place them on the root of your Xperia’s memory card. Make sure you do not place them in any sub folders as you will have a harder time selecting them later on.
  • Now you will have to open the CM 9 ROM Zip file downloaded earlier and extract the file named boot.img from it. Make sure you extract the file to an easy to access location, such as your desktop.
  • In order to install the CM 9 ROM you will have to update your kernel, and this kernel image is the boot.img file. You will need to download this fastboot.zip file and extract it to your C:\ drive.
  • Now in the newly created C:\Fastboot folder you will have to copy the boot.img file from the extracted CM 9 Zip, and you should end up with five files, just like in the screen shot below:
Fastboot Folder

Fastboot Folder

  • Next you will have to shut down your Xperia S and connect it to the computer while pressing and holding the Volume Up Key. This will make your Xperia S connect in fastboot mode.
  • The next thing you will have to do is to open the Command Prompt application, which can simply be done by pressing the Windows and the R key on your keyboard and then typing in cmd and pressing enter. You should recognize the program by its black antique window.
  • Now comes the hard part, as you will have to update your Xperia S with the new kernel. This can be done by typing the following in the Command Prompt window:” cd c:\Fastboot” followed by this command “fastboot flash boot boot.img”. If the last command does not work please try the following one in its place:” fastboot -i 0x0fce flash boot boot.img”.
Kernal Flashing

Kernal Flashing

  • Once you get a Finished/OKAY message you should be all done with the kernel update and you can safely move to the next one by disconnecting your Xperia S from the PC.
  • Now you will have to restart your Xperia S into Clockwork Mod Recovery and the easiest way to do so it to press and hold the Volume Up Key and then press the Power Key after the device has been turned off.
  • Once you are in the ClockworkMod Recovery we recommended that you perform a nandroid backup. You can make such a backup by going to: Backup and Restore –> Backup.
  • Next up is some routine cleaning that is needed by the new ROM. You will have to select the Wipe data/factory reset & Wipe Cache partition options from the recovery and wait for them to finish before moving on.
  • In this step you are going to install the new Cyanogen Mod 9 ROM by going to the following path: Install zip from sd card -> Choose zip from sd card and selecting the Cyanogen Mod 9 Zip you have placed on your microSD card.
  • After the update is complete you will have to do the same as above with the Google Apps Zip (gapps-ics-20120317-signed.zip) that you have also placed on your microSD memory card.
  • Now, after the Google Apps have been installed you will have to press the Back Key and return to the main screen of the Clockwork Mod Recovery and from there select the Reboot now option to restart your device.
  • The last step is all about patience, as you will have to wait a couple of minutes for your Xperia S to boot normally as the CM 9 Rom still has some tinkering to do.

And now you have finally reached the end of the steps. Although this is a lengthy guide, you should be happy as you have successfully installed Cyanogen Mod 9 on your Xperia S. If something went wrong and you got stuck at some point please let us know in the comments section below so we can help you.

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