Installing a rooted version of Android is easier than I thought it’d be

When a commenter suggested I “root” Android on my MyTouch 3G phone, I was hesitant to go ahead with it, because it sounded as if it might be complicated and result in a bricked phone. Then I saw this story in Google News: Five Great Reasons to Root Your Android Phone

More importantly, I came across the YouTube video How to root a T-Mobile myTouch 3G or G1 in 6 minutes and flash Cyanogen rom with Donut crumbs and the article Android Hacking For The Masses. Seeing how easy the process was made me more comfortable going ahead with it.

Before you begin

  1. Even though this process is often called “rooting,” you aren’t actually gaining root access to an existing Android installation. You are replacing an unrooted old Android installation with a rooted new Android installation.
  2. This means everything on your phone will be erased, so make proper backups. For me, that meant taking notes on my email settings, compiling a list of applications I had installed, and (just to be extra safe, though it didn’t end up being necessary) jotting down all the T-Mobile account information in the phone.
  3. I considered this process easy, but ease is relative. What may be easy for someone else I may consider difficult. What may be easy for me may be difficult for you. Read the aforementioned links and, most importantly, watch the YouTube video in full (do not fast-forward, no matter how boring parts of it are) to see if that’s the kind of process that will seem easy for you.
  4. Everything you read about this process will have heavy disclaimers of the “It may brick your phone. Don’t hold us responsible for what happens” variety. I think you should take those disclaimers to heart (if you don’t follow the directions well, you may very well render your phone useless). At the same time, it is a simple procedure. If you are careful with the steps, the likelihood of bricking your phone is pretty low.

Step 1: Back up important stuff

  • If you have contacts, make sure they’re synced to your GMail account or backed up somewhere else. Same deal with your calendar.
  • If you have pictures, back them up to your hard drive or to your Picasa web album. These should not be erased during the process, since they live on your Micro SD card and not the phone itself. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to back them up just to be safe.
  • If you aren’t familiar with configuring email accounts, go into each email account and copy to a piece of paper or an electronic text document all the information you’d need to replicate the set-ups there.
  • Make a comprehensive list of all the Android Market applications you have installed so you can reinstall them after the rooting process.

Step 2: Download the appropriate files
You need two files. One allows you to backup existing Android roms and image new ones on to your phone. The other is the rom itself (the rooted Android to replace the unrooted Android that came with your phone).

  1. The rom I used was the Cyanogen mod version 4.0.1 (stable). You can find it here as a .zip file. Download that (through your computer and not your phone) to your Micro SD card.
  2. Then download (through your computer and not your phone) the Recovery Flasher application from one of these locations:
    http://g1files.webs.com/Zinx/flashrec-20090815.apk
    http://zenthought.org/system/files/asset/2/flashrec-20090815.apk

    Put that on your phone’s Micro SD card as well.

  3. Then in your application settings on the phone, allow non-Market applications to be installed. (Settings > Applications > Unknown sources > Check the box.)

  4. Use a file browser application (I like OI File Manager) to navigate to the Recovery Flasher .apk file on your Micro SD card and install it.
  5. After it’s installed, run it. First, click Back up recovery image and then click Flash Cyanogen Recovery 1.4
  6. Turn off your phone.

Step 3: Flash the rom

  1. Hold down the Home button while you press the Power button to turn the phone back on. This will boot your phone into recovery mode, and you’ll see several menu options.

  2. Select nandroid v2.2 backup
  3. Once that’s completed, select wipe data/factory reset. This will erase everything on your phone!
  4. Click on apply sdcard:update.zip and select the .zip file you downloaded earlier.
  5. Finally, select reboot system now (it may take slightly longer than a normal reboot.)

That’s it! You’re done! You now have a rooted Android installed.
If you used the version I used, you should now have multi-touch on your web browser (that pinching and parting to zoom in and out on web pages), five parts to your desktop instead of three, the ability to install and use a wifi tethering application, and a lot of other little improvements taken from the next build of Android.

Disclaimers
I can’t offer support for this. I just know what worked for me. This is supposed to work on the G1 as well (also known as the HTC Dream), but I did it only on the MyTouch 3G (also known as the HTC Magic).

One of the links I listed before said it makes Android faster and that there is a better keyboard. I never found Android to be slow to begin with, but the new rooted version doesn’t seem to be any faster. I also have not been able to enable the “better” keyboard (had no problems with the original keyboard—still, always up for trying something new if it’s easy).

If you are a Linux user (or a Windows/Mac user with a GParted live CD), you can optionally create an Ext3 or Ext4 partition on your Micro SD card. Then reboot your phone and it should automatically move your installed applications to the SD card and install new applications there as well. This will allow you to install a lot more applications by saving the space used on the phone itself.

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6 Comments

  1. @Gordon
    Yes, you can delete the file “com.amazon.mp3.apk” in “/system/app” folder with a app named “Root explorer”.

  2. Well, that opens a new horizon. I’ve never tried deleting anything on my phone.
    However, let say if I brick my phone, is the recovery mode still accessible? And is there any original .zip ROM to get my phone back?

  3. I’m not really the rooting expert. I just know these steps worked for me.

    My limited understanding is that the nandroid backup part of the process backs up your original unrooted ROM and that recovery mode should always work as long as you aren’t also trying to update your “spl” or “radio.”

    I don’t even know what those terms mean, but this little glossary may help you out.

  4. HTC DREAM – Rogers

    Ok, a friend told me I’d enjoy my phone a lot more if it was rooted, and given that I mostly trust this friend (and am always curious to hack something new) I went ahead and downloaded this lovely little program. Thanks btw, awesome idea.

    Put the latest stable Cyanogen on the SD, backed up all the stuff I had on it, put the apk from g1files on it and installed it.

    I backup recovery image and then flash cyanogen 1.4, turn off the phone and reboot into recovery mode. One of two things happens, the first being the most common, the second happening sometimes.

    1) Freezes on the Rogers screen. It will sit there until I remove the battery.

    2) The exclamation point with the triangle and a graphic of the phone, no options. This will also sit there until I remove the battery.

    What’s going on?

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