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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Root 'n ROM a Samsung Vibrant

I got a new Samsung Note 2 for myself. That means family trickle down for old devices. My son got my original Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant. On the same day he got the phone my niece asked why her Samsung Galaxy Vibrant could not see her online banking application in the Play Store while her old phone could.

I explained how Samsung was a group of weasels and did not upgrade the original S past 2.2 Froyo but you could root and install a new ROM to fix that. She asked the risks and I explained them. I had been thinking of rooting and installing a ROM on the S when I had it but did not want to go through the hassle. Now that she was asking and my wife, who also has an S, was complaining about various issues that have been fixed post 2.2 and I had a basically virgin phone on my hands I figured what the heck.

What the heck indeed. It took me 7 hours of searching the web and trying all sorts of things to finally get it rooted with a ROM on it. That got my son up to Chimera / Jellybean. It took another couple of hours because I had not take good enough notes to get my niece's device updated then another couple of hours to do my wife's phone. Actually this should all take under 1/2 an hour if you have all the right tools. I hope I can lay out what I did to help others. I don't have a phone that I want to redo to try all these steps again thus I plan to layout why you need each piece to help you trouble shoot an installation.

First up, am I happy with the results? Generally yes, the phone is so much more functional and configurable. All software now runs on it. There is one BIG issue, the speakerphone is useless. Just static and noise. Very disappointed in that. I hope they fix this soon. It was not an issue in older versions but now is. In the end it really feels like a totally new phone and I wish I had done it while I still was the primary user. I don't plan to root and update the Note 2 as I use the stylus and other features plus the Android version is really new. That phone rocks without needed to do this.

From this point on I take no responsibility to what happens to your phone. While I was able to Root 'n ROM three devices without issue you may brick your phone making it totally unusable.


Software you MUST have to pull this off

Superuser from the play store

If you don't have this some of the other software will fail with less than useful error messages.

ROM Manager from the play store

This allows you to install a custom ROM after your phone is rooted. It requires SuperUser to be installed.

SuperOneClick rooting software 

Officially here

That seems to be down more than up so try here

This allows you to root the phone

Root Browser Lite

From the play store

You will need extra space on the phone for the ROM manager to run. You use this to delete that crappy bloatware on your phone to make space to install the new ROM.

3E Recovery Installer

From the XDA developers forums

With out this you will see installer failure error messages when you boot into the special phone menu. You will only need this if you are on the 3E ROM on your phone.

Root Check Basic

From the Play Store

Not technically required but it will tell you if your phone is actually rooted saving you from attempting to move on installing a ROM which will fail if the phone is not rooted.

Rooting your phone

Without rooting you can't install a new ROM. This is the part that took me the longest to research and get working fully but really should not take very long at all especially with all the proper software loaded.

On your phone
  1. Install SuperUser from the play store. Lots of other pieces depend on this being installed.
  2. Install Root Browser Lite. You will need to delete system files to make room.
  3. Install Root Check Basic. Sanity checker used in a minute.
On your PC
  1. Download 3E recovery
  2. Download SuperOneClick
Configure your phone for USB Debugging. Usually under Settings -> Applications -> Developer Options -> USB Debugging. This must be enabled for the next items to work.

Unzip and run SuperOneClick and choose to root the phone. It will run ADB commands to get things rolling and root the phone.

Unzip and run 3E recovery install.bat from a command line window if you have a Samsung Phone with 2.2 installed. The next steps will fail with crappy error messages if you don't do this.
  1. Power off your phone.
  2. Power your phone back on. It should be rooted. You must do this reboot for the root to "take".
Run the Root Check Basic app on your phone. Verify it is rooted by pressing the Verify Root button. If not redo the steps above. Your phone might be rooted here but if you did not install SuperUser this step will fail but not really tell you why. You must be fully rooted for the next area to work.


Installing Chimera Jelly Bean ROM

Back up everything on your phone. Do this over USB or install and run AirDroid from the Play Store if you have a wireless network. This makes copying files to and from the device super easy.

If you don't back it up / copy it off the phone, especially if it resides in internal memory, you WILL lose it when you install the new ROM. You have been warned.

We need to delete some files off the phone to make room for the custom ROM to run. We will start with deleting bloatware installed by your wonderful wireless provider. 

Start the Root Browser Lite app and navigate into the System / Apps directory. Here you will see a number of APK files. Long press on one and select Delete. Super User will prompt if it should allow this action. If it does not then you are not rooted or forgot to install Super User. 

I removed Avatar files, never did watch that movie and did not care to see it on that screen, the Amazon MP3 player and the MobiTV player which gave me enough room. You may need to delete more or you may need to delete camera images / movies from the DCIM directory. If you have had an SD memory card in your phone the whole time you owned it you probably don't have images or videos stored in internal memory.

Run the RomManager app on your phone. Choose the option Flash Clockwork ROM Recovery. Pick your exact phone from the list then have it download and install itself. If will then user the SuperUser program you installed before to prove it ran properly. SuperUser should pop-up on your device asking for permission to perform a super user operation. If it does not then you did not install the program, which I said you had to, or your phone is not properly rooted. If it does install ask it to reboot into recovery mode.

If you don't reboot into recovery you will need to get into that mode yourself. With the phone powered off, press and hold the power + volume up + volume down buttons as same time until the word Vibrant appears on screen. Release them. If you did this right, and it make take a couple of attempts, your phone will show a text based menu.

Once you see the yellow text based menu we are nearing the land of no going back. We are going to wipe out data on your phone. You will lose contacts not stored in the Google Cloud. You will lose images and videos installed on the internal memory.

ROM Time

Watch this video as it does a great job covering what I explained above (but it does miss steps to verify the root which I provide and never talks about installing SuperUser which caused me no end of trouble). It shows the steps it takes to boot into recovery and to get a new ROM installed. Much easier than my typing it all back in.

Keep in mind:
  1. The phone must be properly rooted to install the ROM
  2. You need to update to Passion / ICS first then to Chimera / Jellybean second
  3. Once the phone is rooted you have done the hard part
  4. Follow all the steps to clear cache etc. for things to work
  5. Enjoy your phone with the super speedy and feature rich Jellybean installed
I hope something I covered here makes your Root 'n ROM life easier. Heck maybe I talked you out of doing it because you must have the speakerphone or maybe you did all the steps but one and I save you a ton of hassle.

Let me know if I missed something critical so I can update the steps.