How to install a custom ROM on your Android 2.1 device

I’ve had my HTC Hero for almost two years, and for the past year or so I’ve been stuck using version 2.1 (Eclair) whilst newer phones have been awarded with masterpieces like Froyo, Gingerbread and Honeycomb. This means that I’ve missed out on great additions to the software such as, and most important to me  Apps2SD released in version 2.2 (Froyo).

I’ve always been a bit worried about messing with the software on my phone because of warranty and (mostly) because I was sure I’d mess it up beyond repair. As boredom always trumps worrying, I decided to finally do it anyway. If you are anything like me, stuck on an early version of Android due to your device choice and/or choice of carrier, or if you just want to know how to root and install a custom ROM on your device, then this guide will be perfect for you.

Keep in mind, that doing rooting your phone might void your warranty, so do it on your own risk!

Step 0 – Why should you install a custom ROM?

  • You can get more frequent updates without having to wait for your network operator (carrier) to update the native ROM before allowing you to update it.
  • You can upgrade to a newer version of Android that your carrier might never release for your particular phone. (Which is the case for Android 2.1 for HTC Hero on Orange in the UK.)
  • If you are stuck on Android 2.1, upgrading to a custom ROM will give you App2SD, which will allow you to store and run  your applications on your SD card rather than have to juggle apps on a limited amount of storage space.
  • Better performance due to stripping away useless native and carrier software.
  • Better optimisation and battery performance (when upgrading from an old version of Android)

Step 1 – Backing up your stuff (10 – 60 minutes)

Rooting your phone

Backing up your phone involves rooting it and installing an app that allows you to store an image of your phone, which can then be used to restore your phone back to its status in the image at any time. You have to root your phone as an unrooted phone will not give enough access to the app to take a complete snapshot.

Rooting your phone will give you access to all of  your phone’s functions, but doing it might differ depending on your phone and your Android version. This guide will show you how to do it on the HTC Hero, but if you use any other device you should be able to add  ”your phone +your Android version + root” into Google and find a specific guide for your phone as it might be different. After doing so, come back to this guide.

After rooting your phone we will use ROM Manager by ClockworkMod to back up your phone.

Gaining root access

  1. Download AndRoot. Link >> AndRoot
  2. Plug your phone to your PC via USB and mount the SD card so you can transfer files to it (or download it directly onto your phone).
  3. Copy the Universal Androot .apk file to the root of the sd card (NOT in any folders, just on the sd card itself).
  4. Unplug the phone.
  5. Go to the Market on your phone and download Linda File Manager (it’s free, search for Linda).
  6. Open Linda (Click on “My Phone” then “sdcard”) and find the Universal Androot .apk file and select it. Follow the prompts to install it.
    –> For this step to work, make sure you’ve checked to allow apps from “unknown sources”. If you haven’t you will be prompted to do so.
  7. Open Androot and click Go Root after making sure you’ve selected the correct superuser.
  8. All done!

Note: AndRoot might fail once or twice before successfully rooting your phone. Try a few times before giving up!  To double check whether or not you’ve gained root access to your phone, download and run Root Checker.

Installing ROM Manager

  1. Access the Android Market.
  2. Search for “ROM Manager”.
  3. Install ClockworkMod ROM Manager.
  4. Use the ROM Manager to install Nandroid Backup.

Backing up your phone

Now that you’ve finished installing ROM Manager it’s time to create an image and back up your phone.

  1. Open ROM Manager and select Flash ClockworkMod Recovery
  2. Confirm your phone model and then wait for it to download. Make sure the screen doesn’t auto-turn off during this step either by disabling it in settings, or by pressing the screen every now and then.
  3. Once you’ve flashed your phone, it is finally time to back up your phone.  This is done by clicking Backup Current ROM.
  4. After the backup is complete (after 5-10 minutes), your phone should boot back up normally.

Note: If your phone freezes after rebooting the backup might have failed. Try re-flashing the ROM and press Backup Current ROM again – I had to do it twice before it would back up.

Once the backup has completed, feel free to restore to it to make sure it works. The backup is located on your SD card in the clockworkmod/backup/name folder.

Check out this post for a more extensive guide on backing up your phone by

Step 2 – Picking and Installing your ROM

There are loads of available custom ROMs, and which one you need depends on  your phone and what featurs you want. To find custom ROMs for your phone, try Googling ‘model type custom rom.”

For this guide we’ll be installing SalsaSense (Screenshots)Salsasense

If you want to save some time, you could pay for the Clockwork ROM Manager, which will unlock some features that will allow you to find and install custom ROMs through the application. Otherwise follow these steps:

  1. Download the ROM you want
  2. Save it onto your SD card (do not unzip).
  3. Navigate to the zip file using Rom Manager by using ‘Install ROM from SD card’
  4. If you didn’t already create a backup of your existing ROM, this is the time to do so, otherwise just select “Wipe Data and Cache” as well as “Wipe Dalvik Cache”
  5. –> Note: This only wipes the contents on your internal memory, and not your SD card.
  6. Wait for the wipe and install to complete, and then you’re done.
    –> Note: Make sure you have at least 30% battery life before doing this – and don’t leave your phone plugged into your PC. 

This process should complete in anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes so be patient!

If you have any problems during the install, such as the ’The Red Triangle of Death’, just restart your phone and re-flash ClockworkMod Recovery. It should allow you to install the ROM.

If all else fails, paying for the premium version of ROM Manager (we’re not endorsed to say this) will allow you to search for ROMs that work for your specific phone type, and install it through the application – this will save you a lot of time and potential headaches, and it’s what I ended  up doing after writing this post. 

Want To Go Back to where you started? Restore It.

If you want to restore to the backup you (should have) made in the previous steps,  just load up ROM Manager (re-install it if you wiped it) and select the backup under “Manage and Restore Backups.” After the restoration, your phone should be back to where you started as if you never messed with it.

If you have problems doing this, start your phone by holding the home key which will open ClockworkMod Recovery. From here you can go into Advanced and restore your saved backup.

As mentioned in the intro to this post, this is written by someone who had close no to clue about rooting Android phones before trying it a few days ago. As such, please feel free to correct any mistakes or come with your own tips in the comments below!

Further reading

What is Rooting your phone, and what are the benefits?

 Lifehacker – How to choose the right Android ROM for you

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