Rooting Android and installing a custom ROM – Part 2 – The process of Rooting

Back to part 1 of this three part guide:


In Part 1 of this guide we explored what benefits and pitfalls there could be in Rooting your device and installing a custom ROM. In this part, I will cover the process as I experienced it when I Rooted my Galaxy Note II.


The process:


One of the reasons manufacturers tweak Android is to make it work best with their own hardware – whether that is the display driver for the screen, the audio driver for the inbuilt speaker or the software to make the S-Pen work on Samsung’s Note devices. Because of this, the process for Rooting and installing a custom ROM varies from device to device and the best thing to do is research which ROM you might like to install and whether there is a version of that for your specific model.


In setting up Cyanogenmod on my Galaxy Note II for instance, I basically followed the instructions from the Cyanogenmod wiki at: I’ve tried to break the steps up into fairly plain English below, but it is a fairly technical undertaking so the more you understand about the process, the more it will help if and when it comes to troubleshooting problems.

The rough process is:

1) Install software on your computer which lets it communicate with your device, on a lower level than you can when you simply connect it as a drive you can copy your music to.

2) Download a recovery image, which when copied to your device using the software above, lets you do things like replace the operating system on your device (kind of like setting your computer to boot off a recovery CD)

3) Download the file for the specific ROM you are installing (Cyanogenmod in my case).

4) In Windows I also had to replace the driver the computer used to recognise my phone with one with more features (akin to replacing the default windows sound driver with the one made by your sound card manufacturer which lets you access the more advanced features of your hardware). This step wasn’t needed for Mac or Linux users.

5) Connect the phone to the computer, start it into download mode (home, volume down and power on mine) and flash the recovery image to it (a little like updating the BIOS software on your computer).


So far we’ve been working entirely from the PC, but at this point it helps to be able to see what the phone is doing so you know it’s communicating as it should. From this point we’ve got the device in a state similar to working in the BIOS on a PC so you won’t have the same level of accessibility as when the phone is running normally. It also tends to use a very small font so a friend with good eyesight, a handheld magnifier or a video magnifier would be very useful from here on in.


6) Reboot the device into recovery mode (slightly different to download mode) where you can setup your custom ROM.

7) Copy the ROM install file onto your device.

8) Run the install file for Cyanogenmod (no prompts during this phase, it’s basically just unpacking files – we’ll get to setting up your preferences and things shortly).

9) Once that’s finished installing (and visually it’s a fairly subtle change, basically the menu is available again) you can then reboot the device normally, Cyanogenmod will start up and present you with a series of screens not entirely unlike what you get with any new device when you unbox it – allowing you to setup your WiFi network, Google login, etc. Because the previous parts took me so long, I didn’t play with the accessibility at this point as much as I had intended, but it should work as advertised for your chosen ROM. From here, you can setup the phone, explore the options and download and setup apps as you would normally and Talkback or Magnification gestures etc should work normally.
Problems encountered:

On one level, it’s just a matter of following the instructions, but as I found out, there are a lot of opportunities for things to not go to plan. I’ve listed the specific problems I encountered below – don’t take these as things you should definitely worry about, but they are a good indicator of the kinds of things you might run into. There are many people who have gone through this process, even installing the same ROM on the same phone, who breezed through the process and likely others who encountered completely different issues along the way. Here’s what I ran into:

– Replacing the Windows driver for my phone: The instructions said to replace either the Samsung, or “Gadget serial” etc driver – unfortunately for me the “Gadget serial” driver on my computer was the one running my keyboard! So I ended up with no keyboard for awhile until I changed it to a different port and installed a new keyboard driver!


– Flashing the recovery image to my phone kept coming up with a very generic error message. Several places on the internet suggested this was either from using a USB hub rather than connecting directly, or from using the wrong USB driver (the one I overwrote the keyboard driver with earlier) – I spend about three hours on this and in the end gave up and it was only that I was writing a message to the Cyanogenmod forums asking for help that I tried one more time just so I could copy the error message wording exactly and for some reason and without having changed anything, it suddenly worked…


– Copying the Cyanogenmod install file to my phone which I should have been able to do using ADB but it just refused to recognise anything on my phone was mounted so in the end I copied the file manually to my SD card and was able to run it from there when I put it back in the phone. The tricky thing is that if all goes to plan, you might need eyes to help for about ten minutes, and if all doesn’t go to plan, it could take much longer – the whole process for me ended up taking five hours, even looking back in hindsight, most of which couldn’t have been anticipated or avoided.


Next up, in Part 3, I’ll share my experience with actually using my device now I have a custom ROM installed:


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