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How to change Android OS

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Over time, you have become very familiar with the Android operating system and its customization methods, so much so that, after talking to your IT expert friend, you have come to a decision that is nothing short of “radical “: You want to completely change the operating system on your smartphone or tablet, so you can try out features not included in the version you currently use or just to give your now faithful device a new touch.

Seriously intending to proceed in this direction, you opened Google and looked for a guide that would teach you  how to change the Android operating system , ending up right on my blog: well, I’m happy to tell you that you’ve come to the right place, in a moment that could not be better! In fact, below I will illustrate the techniques to be used to completely replace the operating system you are using, acting in an “advanced” way on it or updating it to the latest version available.

So, without hesitating further, make yourself comfortable and proceed with reading this guide of mine: I’m sure that, once you have finished, you will have perfectly clear ideas on what to do. Please, always act with extreme caution and only in full awareness of what you are about to do: as you will discover during construction, some steps could seriously jeopardize the integrity of your device (and I do not take any responsibility about). Having clarified this, there is nothing left for me to do but wish you good reading and, why not, have fun.

Preliminary information

Before getting into the concrete of this guide and explaining the most valid techniques to change the operating system installed on your Android device, let me give you some more information on the subject.

If it is your intention to switch to the next version of Android using the procedure provided by the system itself, therefore, by installing the updates offered by the manufacturer of your device, you can act in complete safety: contrary to what happened in the past, OTA updates ( over-the -air , i.e. distributed over the Internet) can be conveniently installed within a couple of taps and does not pose any risk to data integrity.

As regards, however, the manual installation of a  custom ROM (or  custom ROM ), via a procedure in slang called  flashing , the reasoning is completely different: to perform this operation, you’ll need to unlock and  overwrite delicate parts of the system operational , such as  boot sector  or  system files folder .

It is precisely for this reason that the flashing operation involves extremely high risks! In fact, a single error in progress (one above all is the failure of the battery in the reflash phase) is enough to meet unwelcome consequences, such as damage to the memory partitions, which could send the device in a full state.  brick : when this happens, the device is no longer able to boot in any way due to the corruption of the dedicated memory areas, therefore it becomes completely unusable and, in most cases, irrecoverable (unless you send it to a assistance for the possible replacement or reprogramming of the memory chip).

Furthermore, flashing a new ROM means irremediably eliminating the entire contents of the memory , as well as  voiding the phone’s warranty  . So, if you decide to take this step, carefully evaluate the risks involved and make sure you are absolutely sure of what you are about to do: then don’t say I didn’t warn you!

How to change Android OS by replacing the ROM

Have you fully understood the risks associated with the flash procedure, but do you want to proceed anyway and change the version of the Android operating system by completely replacing the ROM on your device and installing a customized one? Then this is the section for you.

Generally, this procedure is divided into four basic steps: the creation of a  backup of the data  (which will be subsequently deleted from the device memory), the  unlocking of the bootloader  (i.e. the system that takes care of initializing the execution of Android), the installation of a  customized Recovery  (an “external” operating system that can start the installation of the new ROM) and, finally, the actual installation of the ROM itself.

Once again, I recommend that you pay extreme attention to all the steps that you are about to take and to strictly follow the instructions that I will give you below: a small error is enough to make the device. Always act with utmost caution!

Note: unfortunately, I cannot tell you about a “standard” procedure to complete this operation, since there are really many devices, many Recovery and numerous custom ROMs: the number of possible combinations is really huge and the pages of my site would not be enough to collect them all! The advice I would like to give you, therefore, is to still look for the specific guides for the model of smartphone or tablet in your possession and to follow the procedures specified therein.

Below, however, I intend to illustrate what are roughly the steps to take to install a custom ROM on Android, acting from a computer with a Windows operating system  .

Preliminary operations

Since, as I have already mentioned above, flashing a custom ROM involves the total loss of the data stored on the device, I recommend that you create a backup that contains photos, videos and any other type of personal file saved in the device memory. If you don’t know how to proceed, you can follow the directions I gave you in my guide on how to backup on Android.

Secondly, in order for the connection between the Android device and the computer to take place correctly, you will need to install the drivers – or the management software – of the smartphone or tablet, taking them from the manufacturer’s website : I have explained everything to you in the my guide on how to connect Android to PC. Alternatively, you can use the universal ADB drivers available on the ClockWorkMod website .

Furthermore, in order for you to be able to issue the necessary commands, you will need to install the ADB utility  , that is the communication system designed by Google aimed at the complete management of Android via the command line of the computer (in our case, the Command Prompt of Windows): you can download the minimal version from this website  or the entire Android Studio development suite from this one .

To conclude, you must be absolutely sure of the model (and its identification code) of your Android smartphone or tablet, so as to be able to download both the Recovery and the ROM most suitable for it and avoid any accidental damage: therefore, access  the Device Settings  , tap on the item  Info on device / phone  or Info on device / phone  and note the name  and  model  of the same (and, if available, the code name).

Finally, before even carrying out any operation, make sure that the battery of the device is working correctly and that you have a residual charge level close to 100% to avoid unexpected shutdowns.

Unlocking the bootloader

Now that you have all the tools necessary to succeed in the enterprise, you can finally get to work and  unlock the smartphone bootloader  : in practice, this procedure is used to obtain the necessary privileges to be able to load an operating system other than the one installed by the manufacturer (as you will discover below, this is the custom Recovery). Before moving on, keep in mind that unlocking the bootloader  invalidates the warranty of the device  and deletes all  apps and data  saved in memory.

Having reiterated this, let’s move on to practice: some manufacturers, such as Sony and Motorola , provide official tools and instructions for unlocking the bootloader (although the procedure still invalidates the warranty). For example, on Motorola smartphones  , you must first start the phone in fastboot  mode  (by first turning off the device completely, then pressing and holding the Volume down  key  for 3 seconds and then pressing the  power key  until the device enters in this mode) and connect it to the computer via USB cable.

Once this is done, start the  Windows Command Prompt  calling it from the Windows System / Windows Accessories  folder of the Start  menu and issue the command  fastboot oem get_unlock_data , followed by pressing the Enter key , to obtain the identification code of the device, of which you have to take note; completed this operation, you must go to the dedicated website , log in using the Motorola Care  account  (which, if desired, you can create on the spot using the appropriate link) and indicate the code noted above to obtain the  unlock code  of the bootloader.

Once you have this code, you can finally unlock the bootloader by returning to the Windows Command Prompt  and, still with the phone connected in Fastboot mode, by issuing the command  fastboot oem unlock code Received  and pressing the Enter  key  on the keyboard. Trust me, it sounds complex but, in reality, it’s not at all!

As already mentioned, the procedure for unlocking the bootloader varies from device to device: to find the most suitable one for the terminal in your possession, I suggest you search on Google for the phrase “unlock bootloader [make and model smartphne / tablet]”  and strictly follow the instructions indicated therein.

Custom Recovery Installation

Unlocking the bootloader, as I mentioned earlier, authorizes the device to start an operating system different from the Android version installed by the manufacturer: therefore, it is now possible to install the  customized Recovery , ie an operating system ” external ”to Android that allows you to perform delicate operations on the phone memory, such as installing a  custom ROM or activating root permissions.

At the moment, one of the simplest Recovery to use is TWRP : available for a large number of devices, it allows you to perform ROM flash  operations and other types of installable files (e.g. the SuperSU and SuperUser apps , essential for obtain root permissions),  backuptotal cleaning  and some system diagnostics and  recovery  operations thanks to an interface fully compatible with the touch of the phone.

To obtain it, connected to the relevant website , indicate the  manufacturer  and  model of the device  by clicking on the items proposed and download the version that best suits your device, in the form of an img file : pay close attention to this phase, as the installation of an incorrect Recovery could irreparably compromise the device! When the download is complete, follow the instructions best suited to your device to flash the Recovery you just downloaded (if you have not already done so, you can search Google for the phrase “install TWRP [brand and model of device]” ).

Generally speaking, what you need to do is to bring Android into fastboot mode , connect it to your computer and, after opening the  Windows Command Prompt  , give it the instruction  fastboot flash Recovery pathRecovery  followed by pressing the Enter  key  (replacing pathRecovery the location where you saved the previous file, eg C: twrp-xyzk-model.img ). Only when the process is done, turn off your phone completely by pressing and holding the Power button  .

ROM installation

Now comes the best phase: the installation of the custom ROM ! If you have not yet chosen the new version of Android to load on your device, now is the time to do it: among the best known custom ROMs in existence, LineageOS , Dirty Unicorns and  Paranoid Android certainly deserve mention , but there are really many others.

As always, make sure that the ROM you have chosen is fully compatible with the device you own and, above all, be sure to download the specific one for your model (and, if necessary, also for the CPU on board), in order to avoid running into the dreaded  soft brick : if you had never heard of it, it is a phone lock state that results in the complete inbootability of the operating system. Unlike the full brick, however, the soft brick is completely reversible: just repeat the installation procedure using a correct ROM.

In any case, after downloading the most suitable file for your case on your computer (distributed in .zip format), copy it to  the device’s memory card  and insert the latter into it; if you need help with that, you can check out my guide on how to move files to SD card. If you don’t have it, you can start the “old” version of Android (which is still installed on the system) and, after skipping the initial configuration, copy the ROM file to the internal memory of the device (here I explained how to do it).

At this point, you can finally disconnect the phone from the computer and proceed with the flash phase: start the device in  Recovery mode by pressing the Power  and  VolumeUp  buttons at the same time  and select the option to install a .zip file  from microSD. For example, if you used TWRP, you need to tap on the Install  and  Choose archive buttons  , select the type of memory on which you copied the .zip file and tap on it to select it. When you are sure, put the check mark next to the item Verify the signature of the Zip file , slide the  bottom bar to the right to start the process and wait patiently for everything to complete.

When you are done, go back and choose the options to  clear the  “simple” cache and the Dalvik / ART : on TWRP, you have to press the Clean  and  Advanced Cleaning buttons  , put the check mark next to the  Dalvik / ART Cache  and  Cache items  and drag the  bottom bar  to the right. Once the cleaning is complete, restart your device and enjoy the newly installed ROM!

Note : if you have chosen a ROM that does not include Google apps (Play Store, Gmail, Music and so on), you may need to install the Gapps by flashing the relative zip file; to get the package that best suits your case, I suggest you Google the phrase  gapps Android xx  (eg  Android 7.1 ), based on the basic version of Android used in the ROM of your choice.

How to change Android OS by updating

If you don’t want to upset your smartphone or tablet by installing a new ROM from scratch, you can instead try to change the Android operating system by  downloading and installing any updates released by the device manufacturer: in this way, you have the opportunity to obtain important corrections for system bugs and security flaws and, if provided by the manufacturer, to install the next version of Android safely.

Currently, the distribution of updates takes place mainly in OTA mode , that is, through the Internet: the file is made available for the owners of a given device, who have the possibility to download it through a specific function of the operating system.

Which? I’ll explain it to you right away: to start, start the  Android Settings  , touch the  System  and  Advanced items , access the System update  section  and touch the  Check for updates item  to search for, and possibly download, the available update. On Android versions prior to 8.0 , you must, instead, go to  Settings> About device> Software update . Once the download is complete, you simply have to press the Install  item that appears on the same screen (or, sometimes, also in the notification area). For additional information on the subject, I recommend that you take a look at my tutorial on how to update Android easily, in which I have given you all the explanations of the case.

But wait a minute, are you telling me that you did not find the explanations provided so far useful, since you want to permanently get rid of Android and install iOS (the operating system of Apple smartphones and tablets) on the device in your possession? Unfortunately I have to give you bad news: this step is not feasible in any way, as iOS is an operating system specifically designed to work with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, so it cannot be installed elsewhere.

What you can do, however, is to modify your current version of Android to make it, at least aesthetically, very similar to the Apple system: if you are interested in doing so, you can consult my guide on how to turn Android into iPhone, in which I have explained to you in detail the steps to take to obtain this result.